By: Catherine L. Pittman © November 2009
Photo Courtesy of James Hawkins, All Free Downloads
Christmas is truly a magical and enchanting time of year, where holiday traditions never fade with time.
It is filled with beautiful sights and sounds: A candle glowing in a frosted window, hanging stockings on a festive mantle with care, hot chocolate, eggnog and hot buttered rums served after an evening of caroling, neighborhoods filled with colorful, twinkling lights. The warm feeling of joy we feel when giving gifts, snowflakes dancing merrily in the air, romantic sleigh rides and sneaking a kiss beneath the mistletoe. These are just a few of the charming time-honored traditions families have to celebrate Christmas and break away from all the hype of the holiday.
Some of my most precious moments in time from my childhood are my memories of our year end holiday festivities. We helped our friends celebrate Hanukah, and they helped us celebrate Christmas. My parents created our own custom traditions and I cherish the memories of to this day. Some have been passed down to the next generation, and we have created a few of our own with our children along the way.
Creating your own special memories will help make your holiday joyful, less stressful, and revive your family's festive spirit, bringing you closer together. Here are some favorites that with a few tweaks can be adopted by your family to make them all your own. They are sure to make your Christmas merry and bright, and chase old Scrooge away!
Deck the Halls
Decorating your home for the holidays doesn't need to fill you with the humbugs. Trimming your Christmas tree, mantle and windows can be a fun family tradition. When I was young, my parents gave their three daughters a pair of special ornaments each year, infusing a tradition that kicked off our holiday festivities, and were given to us when we left the nest. I still have many of the ornaments to this day.
Back then, bazaars and craft shows were not the popular events they are today. You don't have to buy the standard glass globes each year at the local store. Make it a tradition to attend an annual holiday show and purchase unique ornaments, or if you are crafty yourself, have an ornament making party with your children and neighbors. As your children look at the tree from year-to-year, the ornaments of Christmases past will mean more to them and you'll find yourselves sharing stories of each ornament. Look for a holiday event that also supports a local school, charity or holds a food drive. It will help teach your child the gift of giving to others. Change it up and select a theme for the ornaments.
As you deck your halls, don't forget to involve your children in helping with the windows, exterior lights and mantle. While the kids can't hang the outdoor lights, they can help you decide on your "theme" and flip the switch when it's time to unveil this year's theme. Decorate your mantle with boughs of holly and your favorite manger scene, caroler characters, holiday village, snowmen, reindeer or other festive décor. My sister's family began collecting a Christmas village for their mantle, adding a new piece each year. I have a friend who collects train cars for his Christmas train set that they place around the base of their tree each year. They take great pleasure making an annual trek to find unique train cars to add to their collection. My other sister collects nutcrackers that she places throughout her home.
Cookies for Santa & Friends
There's nothing like filling your home with the scent of Christmas cookies and baking. This is a fun activity to involve your kids in, and makes great gifts for co-workers, neighbors, friends, and, of course, Santa! Choose new recipes each year, and maybe select one that you traditionally prepare every year. My mother use to make my dad's favorite icebox cookies every Christmas, as well as her pumpkin bread.
Host a yuletide or caroling party and invite your neighbors and their children. They will enjoy spending time with you and have a cup of eggnog, hot buttered rum or hot chocolate along with your handmade baked goods. Take homemade cookies and bread to the local homeless shelter or nursing home, so they can share in a holiday treat along with their meal.
It's important to teach children the great joy one receives when giving gifts, and not just focus on what Santa will bring. One of the most magical things about Christmas is it is the one time of year mankind tries to put aside their differences and help those less fortunate. With so many families loosing their home and job, it is vital we bring hope and joy to those in need.
One tradition I embarked on when I was a teenager, was participating in the Sub for Santa program. Today, there are many local stores and charities that offer giving trees or other ways to help bring Christmas to those who have no home, have lost a parent or whose family is suffering from a loss of income. Take your child shopping specifically for another child, or donate gently used toys, books and clothing that your child no longer uses. Your little one will find it an uplifting tradition and benefit as much as the child your family will help.
Another tradition our family has done in more recent years: drawing names for the annual holiday shopping. Some call it "Secret Santa." While we are not as large a family as some, it does make holiday gift giving fun to concentrate on one special family member. For large families this is particularly beneficial, as it is far easier on the holiday budget to buy a few gifts for just one person than the entire family. It adds a touch of mystery all wrapped up in love, and colorful paper and bows. You can add a touch of humor too, by creating a theme for one of the gifts that each person must shop for in addition to standard gifts. One year we held a sock exchange along with our regular gifts, and found ourselves quite amused by the variety of funny, funky socks we found for our gift giving. Another year it was pajamas, which really produced a lot of laughter!
Our family always read a holiday story on Christmas Eve, and our parents had us open one special gift that night. Typically, it was our holiday pajamas, though not always! I remember a Christmas teddy bear or two, as well as new holiday storybooks. On Christmas morning, each person opened one gift at a time by going around the room, and we each had to guess what was in the brightly wrapped package. It was always fun to try to guess what the present was before ripping open the paper.
The Sounds of Christmas
Whatever traditions your family decides upon, don't forget the music of the season! One of the most beautiful things about Christmas is the songs and melodies.
Each year, our family would find and add a new holiday album to our collection of music. Over the years, we've found some special songs, some funny, some that are so beautiful they bring tears to the eyes. We often create a compilation of our favorite songs and put them on a CD to play whenever we have guests over during the holiday or give as a gift to friends. These days, you don't necessarily have to buy an entire album to create a great compilation, since you can now download single songs from web sites or full albums.
It seems Scrooge has done away with caroling! These days you don't often see caroling in the neighborhoods, which was one of our favorite holiday traditions. When I was young and involved in Job's Daughters, we often caroled at local nursing homes and hospitals, and in the case of nursing homes, we brought treats. Many folks in nursing homes have no family or their family is far away, and they truly love to have young people around to share the holidays. Host a caroling party with your neighbors and family. You'll find it a wonderful tradition!
As you celebrate the birth of the Son of God this Christmas, add a little spice and magic to your holiday festivities. Traditions all have to start some place, and there is nothing wrong with adding your own touches to time-honored traditions to bring magic into the holiday and make memories for your children that will last a lifetime.
Wishing you and your family a Christmas blessed with the magic of the season… Love, Joy and Peace. Always.
About the Author
Catherine currently resides in Tualatin, Oregon and is the owner, songwriter and main vocalist for her children's music production company, Pitter Patter Productions (www.pitterpatterproductions.com) . The company has specialized in original award-winning music for children from newborn through kindergarten since 1992. We’re living green! Our music is available for download at: CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com/artist/catherinepittman), Amazon.com (search Catherine Pittman in music), and iTunes (search Catherine Pittman). CD’s are still available at www.pitterpatterproductions.com.
Download our new holiday album, Once Upon a Silent Night. All of our albums can be downloaded by the song or the entire album.