Holiday Traditions – Getting Back To What Matters at Christmas

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While shopping the other day, a conversation was struck up between myself and a woman in the check out line. The woman was Christmas shopping for her grandchildren. She was telling me about the dilemmas she was running into purchasing gifts for them. They never liked the gifts that she bought them, the gifts they asked for were too expensive, they always seemed to like the gifts given to them from their other set of grandparents better. This made me sad, not only for this grandmother, but for these children. In these times of over commercialized holidays, has the true meaning of Christmas been completely lost?
This made me think about our daughter. How would we get her to understand that the holidays are not just about how many presents you receive?

Thinking back to my childhood, I can remember making my Christmas list, but I could not tell you one gift that I ever asked for, or if I even got it.

We used to stay at my grandparent’s house on Christmas eve night. They always has a real tree. The tree was always too tall & too wide to fit comfortably in the corner of their dining room, but my grandparents never seemed to notice. My grandmother decorated her tree with the same icicle ornaments & ceramic angels every year. There was a large distressed hutch, that displayed her nativity scene & on Christmas morning, would also display our stockings. Presents & stockings were never set out until Christmas morning, but were always there when I woke up.

Waking up on Christmas morning, I was always filled with anxious anticipation. Walking into my grandparent’s dining room, my ears were filled with the sounds ‘Little Drummer Boy’ & ‘Up on the Housetop’, the same record I had heard for years. The once present barren Christmas tree was now filled with boxes wrapped in shiny paper & topped with curly bows. Peeking over all the presents & taking stock of how many were mine, I was allowed to open one stocking gift, just one, before we went to church. Every year, my stocking was filled with individually wrapped presents & one Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar. I looked forward to that bar every Christmas morning.

The whole family would then put on our Sunday bests & load up the cars to go to Christmas mass. I could barely sit still in the pews. I was so excited to get back home to see what kind of treasures I received this year. Once mass was over, we returned home for a family breakfast. It was always a slow leisurely breakfast. The adults would talk & laugh and I would stare longingly at my gifts. When everyone finished their meal, it was time to clear off the table & do the dishes. There was never a rush or a sense of urgency. The holiday, the food & especially the family were savored, cherished & enjoyed. When we finally got to the presents we all sat together & watched as each person opened their gifts and gave hugs & kisses of appreciation to giver. Like I said before, I can not remember a single gift that I ever opened but I can remember every moment of the day.

Those are the things I want my child to remember. The moments not the material.

My husband & I already had some traditions of our own before we had our daughter. Every year, we would pick a night to put up our Christmas tree together. We would put in the movie ‘Elf”, pour ourselves some egg nog (with a drop or two of rum) & decorate our tree.


Yesterday, our daughter became a part of this tradition…minus the rum of course.

When Daddy brought up the Christmas Tree, Mai’s first reaction was pure excitement. She started screaming immediately, “tree, tree, big tree”. “It is a big tree, Mai Mai.”

We put our tree up in it’s usual corner. When we were ready to turn on the lights, we brought Mai to the front of the tree & made a big, excited production of it. “Mai, do you want to see the pretty lights?”

When the tree lit up, so did my daughter’s face. The innocence & wonder in her face was priceless. “Magic!”, she said. She was right, it was indeed magical.



This year we only used non breakable ornaments so that Mai could decorate it too. She loved it. She dug through the ornament bin, pulling out owls, pine cones & glittery snowflakes, naming them off with each one that she found. She placed them so neatly on the bottom branches & when she wanted to reach higher, she asked Daddy for help.

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I actually got a little teary eyed, watching my little girl decorate the tree like a big girl. After the tree was decorated, mommy hung up the stockings. One for Mai, one for daddy, mommy & Duke.


It was a perfect evening and mommy & daddy still got their egg nog after Mai went to bed.


Here are some Christmas traditions that you could try with your family, because after all Christmas is about much more than just what is under the Christmas tree.


What are some of your family’s traditions?

Up next…It’s a Rice Krispie Treats Christmas

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  1. I love this! It’s all about the moments. I’m not sure what happened to my family but after I went to college, it became about the gifts! Ugh, it drives me nuts every year! Now that I have my own family, we are trying to emphasize family togetherness and build those cherished memories.

  2. I’m just getting to start traditions with my new little family but I plan on sticking with doing lots of crafts that will show how much Ian has grown each year, like hands and feet crafts. I also want to continue on the pj and throw blanket tradition my parents did with me and my sister. At a certain age we finally knew what we were getting on Christmas Eve, we loved it. I hope that I can raise Ian to love the holidays for the family time and not just the gifts like you were talking about. It might be hard because one of his grandmas loves to overspend on christmas, but I’m still going to try.

    1. I love the holiday craft idea. That is a great way to chart his growth. It sounds like you are well on your way to imparting family tradition s into your little one.

  3. I loved reading your post. It took me back to my childhood Christmas’. They were always magical, every moment. And my husband and I are working really hard to make every Christmas special for our kids. And with Christmas being so commercialized these days, and children’s wish lists becoming more expensive, it’s really challenging to keep them focused on the true meaning and spirit and magic of Christmas. You’re doing such a nice job 🙂

  4. Such a beautiful post! Brings back such good memories of my own Christmases as a child! I also love your list of family traditions. We will be doing all of those things except for caroling. If we went caroling, people would probably start crying as it would be horrifying. 🙂

  5. We just decorated our tree last weekend as a family and to see the excitement in both my 3 and 4 year old girls was truly such a wonderful and joyous feeling. I also bake with them and try to do their advent calendars nightly. IT is the little things, but they truly do make such a difference and couldn’t agree more with you post today. Thank you for stopping by my blog again and very happy to stop by yours, too today!! 🙂

  6. I loved your story. It reminded me of my Christmas as a child. We did have much money but Christmas was so enchanting and special. Your daughter is beautiful and will thank you one day for all the memories you created for her.
    Have a lovely Christmas,

  7. Young kids celebrating Christmas are the most pure form with they interested in the present rather than the contents, the thought more than the value. It’s less commercial that way.

  8. Aww. I pity the grandma. I’m sire she bought the gifts from the heart. I think that is challenge for parents today. How to raise grateful children who appreciate the beauty and meaning in simple things. it looks like you are doing it right as a parent. Merry Christmas!

  9. This was such a lovely post! Your tips were really excellent as well, especially the one about donating. And the fact you’d made sure the decorations were not breakable was such a great idea for a child. Really reduces the stress of family experiences shared together.

  10. This is such a beautiful reminder of what’s actually important. I, too, want my son to remember the magic, and not the material. Your daughter is beautiful. Happy holidays to you and your family, and thanks so much for linking up with us.

  11. You’re right that traditions become so much more special when you pass them on to your children. I love decorating the tree with my daughter, playing her The Nutcracker, watching The Grinch, etc.

  12. What beautiful things you described. And I’m so happy that you’re enjoying passing on some of those Christmas traditions down to your daughter. Have a gorgeous time doing it 🙂

  13. Thanks for linking up. I agree, it is the memories that matter, not the stuff. One tradition we have (though we haven’t done it every year), is we choose a family that might need a little help or a friend, and for the 12 days before Christmas, we anonymously leave a little gift on their doorstep.

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