Most of us remember the holidays, not just because of the presents or festivities that go along with them, but because of special traditions from our childhood. This week, the Mom Squad delves deep into our collective memory banks to let you in on some of ours.
The holidays are definitely my favorite time of year. When Halloween rolls around I become so excited for all of the upcoming events. I grew up with very traditional holiday celebrations but they were always such a highlight of every year and I want to carry some of those traditions on in my family with my children.
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving we got our Christmas tree and decorated it that night listening to Elvis, or Tony Bennett or randomly Christmas in Hollis (nothing says Christmas like Run DMC). And as we’ve moved or gotten married or had children our places of celebration have changed but somehow, no matter whose house we celebrate in, the feeling is always the same. It’s comforting and warm, and fills me with such joy, I want my children to have that same feeling. So this year, we got our tree the day after Thanksgiving with my parents. We decorated the tree that night, and the next morning Evie got up and saw the tree and the look in her eye said it all.
We are building memories with our children and just the thought of that fills me with the same joy. Every morning we listen to the Tony Bennett holiday station on Pandora and Evie is starting to learn Christmas carols. We’re going to have our traditional breakfasts and dinners with our family. We’ll all go to mass together at my niece’s school, just as everyone went to Mass at my Catholic school that I attended. But, my husband and I want to add our own traditions too. Every vacation we take we buy a new ornament for our Christmas tree. On Christmas eve, we all open a new pair of pajamas. Our Elf on the Shelf, Zeke, makes his daily appearance (right now he is hanging from the blinds in the kitchen). A combination of old and new feels just right.
The next step is to get Evie to learn all the words to Christmas in Hollis. Or, maybe not.
I honestly don’t really remember any real holiday traditions growing up. There are specific holidays I remember, sure; Like the Christmas in Arizona where the police shot a burglar in front of our house. Or, dancing the night away on New Year’s Eve at Windows on The World in NYC before it was felled in 9/11. But no real “traditions” come to mind.
The closest thing I can think of, is my Dad’s family Christmas party. Every year, my grandparents, their siblings, and all of my Dad’s eight (yes, EIGHT) brothers and sisters and their kids would congregate for a few hours in one room (and it was a BIG room). That party was probably one of the best holiday memories I have. It was the one time per year that I would get to see my entire family (on my Dad’s side), get presents AND see Santa! You can’t really beat that for a kid.
Unfortunately, I don’t live close enough to my Dad to be able to continue this tradition with my daughter, but the lack of holiday traditions in my family has prompted me to start a few of my own. One thing we do every year since my daughter was born, is make ornaments. As of last year, we’ve also started an annual pilgrimage with Oma (my mom) to see Santa at a farm in Lathrop. There’s real snow, reindeer, pony rides and a petting zoo. Not to mention an awesome Santa for Sabine to sit in awe of. This is in addition to the quintessential cookie baking, of course.
We’ve also incorporated a tradition to pay homage to my husband’s side of the family. My husband is German, and the tradition there is to open presents on Christmas eve. So, we’ve figured out a way to hold true to that tradition while still maintaining the fun of Santa Claus; We allow Sabine to open the presents from family on Christmas eve, and open the presents from Santa Christmas day. It makes our Christmas day much less hectic since we generally spend it traveling, and it gives Sabine twice as many opportunities to open presents. And what kid doesn’t like that?!
While I lament that I don’t really have a lot of great holiday memories from my childhood to reflect on, it’s inspired me to work that much harder to give them to my daughter.
I can’t say that I love the “Holiday Season” as a whole, but I do love parts of it. I love the spirit of community and of giving that so many seem to get this time of year. I love that people feel more inclined to donate and volunteer, or to go to local festivals and events. I love that so many of us go to greater lengths to show others that we care. (I just wish it would last through the rest of the year!) I love taking some of the traditions that we grew up with and making some new ones for ourselves.
One of my favorite traditions from when I was a kid was our annual outing to go get pumpkins for Halloween. I grew up near St. Louis, MO and every year we would make the drive to take a ferry across the river into Illinois. We would go to a small pumpkin patch and the rule was you could pick out which ever one you wanted, but you had to be able to carry it. What a great idea! (Yeah, I admit it. My parents had a few.) It stopped us from getting some crazy huge and expensive pumpkin or whining about the fact that our parents had to say “no”. Afterwards we would go to a park and where we had a picnic and played the rest of the day. So fun! I have some great memories of this.
I want to make memories like this for my kids too. So, one of our traditions is “Christmas Tree Day”. The morning after Thanksgiving we go to Black Road Tree Farm (in the mountains near Los Gatos). We bring our dog and the kids and walk around to find our perfect tree. After it’s been cut and my husband hauls it back up to return the saw, we have the staff take our picture with our new tree. We then go home to put up the tree and the rest of the decorations, and hang the lights on the house.
I think it is also important to teach our kids the importance of community and giving. We don’t have much ourselves these days, but we donate what and when we can. We give not only items, but our time as well. Though my kids are still young, they learn by example and I hope to set a good one for them.
Traditions are an important part of celebrating holidays, especially for children. It can be fun to share some of the traditions you grew up with while creating some new ones. Let the kids help with this too. You will be creating their lasting memories, and maybe even some traditions that they will share with their families some day.
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