Now that it is December 7, we are in full holiday mode around here. Over the years we have established several December/Christmas/New Year's traditions. When thinking about holiday traditions for your family, don't try to do everything you read or hear about other families doing. That would be too much! It's fun to look on Pinterest, just remember that comparison can lead to either pride or despair….neither being a good option.
I'll share what our family does. We started simple and small, but over the years of moving, and with the arrival of more children, we have added some new traditions.
1. Thanksgiving: We celebrate Thanksgiving Day at my parents' house with my parents, my two younger brothers (and their families), my grandmother, and sometimes my uncle. My mother usually does all the cooking, which is such a blessing!
2. The Christmas Tree: We buy a live tree from a local nursery either just before or after Thanksgiving Day. Now that I have children in college, no matter when I buy the tree, we wait to decorate it until the girls are home from college. I serve popcorn, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate, and we listen to Christmas music while we are decorating the tree. I always get frustrated while putting on the lights!
3. Christmas Countdowns: We have two different ways of counting the days of December until the 25th. One is putting an felt ornament on a felt tree calendar that my mother made for us when I was a child. She restored this calendar years ago for my children to use, and they love it! The other way is a basket of wrapped Christmas-themed books. I wrap 24 books at the beginning of the month, and they take turns unwrapping one book a day. We read the book each night at bedtime. I have had these same books since Olivia was little! I actually have more than 24 books, so I just choose my favorite 24 to wrap and put the rest in the basket for them to read at their leisure.
4. The Sibling Store: I set up a "store" of gifts that I have bought for my children. Each child shops for his or her sibling from my display. Some years all children buy all of their sibling gifts from me, some years they don't buy any, and some years it's a mix….for example, Clay needs to buy just one gift from my store this year---he has either purchased or made a gift for his other siblings. I began the sibling store many years ago when my children were younger. I did not like taking them around town to shop for their siblings. And often they did not have enough money to buy what they wanted. So I buy a few things for each child (that I know they will like), and I charge a flat rate for each gift. Usually $5 a gift, which is a bargain! They like to spend their money on one another, and I like for them to have appropriate, non-overwhelming choices. Of course, if they want to make their siblings a gift instead of buying it, that's great! After "buying" or making their gifts, they wrap them and put them under the tree.
5. Pajamas: I always give my children a new set of pajamas on Christmas Eve. They all act surprised by what the special Christmas Eve gift is! :) (I know that they know what they are getting!)
Some years I have sewn them all pajamas pants, but most years I purchase them.
6. Baking Goodies: We have our standard recipes that we make each year, and I also try one or two new recipes each year too. I spread this holiday baking over 3 or 4 sessions to keep from being overwhelmed. The kids love helping me! We package some of the goodies in small containers (that I buy 75% off each year after Christmas) and give to each family in our church's congregation. I make other containers of goodies for various other people like my hairdresser, our barber, our mechanic, etc. We also give goodies as favors for the families that attend our Johnson Christmas Party.
7. Cookies: We make sugar cookies every single year for the children to decorate. They always make some special ones for Santa Claus. Some years we make gingerbread men too. And one year I made homemade gingerbread houses for my kids and Lynn and Leanna's kids too to decorate. That was fun, and I may try that again this year.
8. Family Gatherings: We celebrate with my parents and the rest of my family on the Saturday before Christmas. The cousins all draw names and exchange gifts. We take turns hosting this party, and this year it will be at my house.
I host Jimmy's extended family for a appetizer/soup/dessert party one night near Christmas (it all depends on Jimmy's work schedule when I can have this party). This is a fun time for all of his aunts, uncles, and cousins to gather for food and fellowship. Since we consider Lynn and Kelly family, they come to this party too!
On Christmas Eve we go to Jimmy's parents' house to celebrate with his mother, siblings, and their children. It is also Jan's birthday, so we give her birthday presents before the meal, and then we switch to Christmas mode after the meal. We eat lunch together and then exchange gifts. Jenny, Megan, and I do most of the cooking for this event. :) We come home to eat supper (I always leave some sort of soup cooking in the crock pot), and I give the children their special Christmas Eve present. Surprise!
9. Christmas Day: Santa Claus comes. We eat a special breakfast and leisurely open our gifts to one another. We stay in our pajamas all day! I cook a special mid afternoon meal--steak, shrimp, potatoes, and salad. Jimmy visits the hospital and takes a little something to the nurses on his floor that have to work that day. The children play with their new toys and games, and I relax as best I can.
10. The Elf on the Shelf. I almost forgot. We started this elf thing last year just a week before Christmas Day. That is another blog post. (Or I may have blogged about it last year. Let me check).
I think that's all. I send Christmas cards, and I have Christmas dishes that we normally eat on through the month of December. But I haven't gotten them out yet this year!