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Our Family Christmas Traditions - the old and the new

There is a viral post going around that says something along the lines of “when you finally realize that the magic of Christmas time as a child really is just a mom who loved you so much” and it couldn’t be anymore true. I vividly remember jumping out of bed on Christmas morning and opening my door to a new set of Christmas pajamas laid out for me to put on before we all made our way downstairs to see what Santa had brought for us the night before. We would run to check to see if the cookies and milk had been touched by Santa, he always made sure to leave a little behind just to show us that he had been there. It’s those little tiny things that add up to make the Christmas season so magical, and so special for children and adults alike. Growing up we had many special traditions from cutting down our own Christmas tree, arts and crafts all month long, to our annual Christmas Eve dinner with all of our extended family. The amount of memories that we made are endless and I am forever thankful that my parent’s were able to make mine and my sibling’s Christmas season so meaningful. 

When Daniel and I first moved in together we started a few family traditions of our own and then added more when Isla was born and a few more when Elliot joined us last year. We like to try new things each year but always have a few core that traditions we like to keep the same. With both of our children still being so young it’s really easy to make the Christmas season magical! Here is our list of Christmas traditions, both big and small that we like to do to make this time of the year extra special. 

Gingerbread Houses

Each Christmas season we have a family and friends gingerbread house competition. We each buy a premade gingerbread house (because who has time to hold the walls while the icing dries…) and bring different edible decorations for everyone to share. Some of us really go ALL out and will take hours decorating our houses, others just use it as an excuse to eat loads of candy haha. It’s the perfect activity for toddlers all the way to adults and lets everyone tap into their own creativity. We usually have some type of charcuterie board to snack on and listen to Christmas music, but don’t get me wrong, we take this very very seriously. When we are finished decorating we vote for the best! Some years we let people from social media be the deciding factor, other years we vote anonymously within the family. It’s always a fun little get together to look forward to each year!

Christmas Tree Farm

This is a special Christmas tradition for our family that goes back as long as I can remember. During the beginning of the Christmas season we always bundle up and make our way to a local Christmas tree farm to search for and cut down our own Christmas tree. We usually get some warm cider or hot chocolate afterwards. It’s a really simple activity but something I’ve always thought was really special and intimate. 

Decorate as a Family

Once we get the tree home it’s time to decorate! We put on Christmas pajamas, turn on the Christmas music, then get started. Isla was really into decorating this year and it was so sweet to see. Every year we let the kids “put” the angel on the tree. I love seeing their eyes light up in amusement!

25 Days of Christmas Stories

We started this tradition for Isla’s first Christmas when she was 6 months old. Every night starting December 1st we sit down and read a Christmas story as a family. Then on the night before Christmas we obviously read “The Night Before Christmas”. It’s an easy tradition to take part it, especially if you have a child with a love for reading. It can be a big investment at first but a good way to stock up is visiting used bookstores, posting in your local buy nothing groups, or asking for books instead of gifts. 

Advent Calendars

This is an other really easy way to make the Christmas season magical and exciting. We do the simple little chocolate ones, then I like to add a fun one in the mix. This year I bought Isla a Polly Pocket one which converts to a house when it’s done! Last year we had a play dough advent calendar. A few other fun ideas I’ve seen are the activity advent calendars where each day you do something new like bake cookies or write a letter for Santa. The options are honestly endless!

Elf on the Shelf

This is an oddly controversial Christmas tradition but we went ahead with it anyway! Our elf comes to hangout and moves to different areas each night, sometimes he’ll bring the kids a little gift or do something funny but that’s the extent of it. We’re not into the whole “naughty or nice” narrative. It’s always a fun game to see where he ended up in the morning!

Tea with Santa

Tea with Santa was a new tradition we started this year and I’m already looking forward to our next one. It was so fun to get dressed up with Isla and having a special mommy and me tea party. Isla felt so big and extra important the entire time. It was overall an amazing experience and was put together so beautifully. 

Ice Skating

This was one of the first traditions that Daniel and I started when we were newly dating teenagers. We would go out to a festive dinner, get bundled up and then ice skate for an hour or so before getting some hot chocolate to end the night. We haven’t always kept up with this one because it’s hard with babies but we did end up taking Isla for her first time last year while my sister watched nearby with Elliot. Isla had a blast and still talks about it to this day! 

See Christmas Lights

Going to see Christmas lights is also one of our favorites because you can make it into a big event or as simple as driving around your neighborhood listening to Christmas music. Here in Charleston there is a huge light show at the James Island County Park. We went a few days ago and had a great time. There are train rides, a carousel, yummy treats, and a meet and greet with Santa Claus. It made for a perfect evening for Isla and Elliot.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve we usually have a big get together with all of our extended family members. We eat huge dinner, play games, and usually have some type of gift exchange. 

After everything settles down we get cookies and milk set out for Santa and usually some carrots for the reindeer. After the kids go to bed Daniel and I get to work putting presents under the tree. Mrs. Claus leaves the kids new Christmas pajamas, a Christmas bell, and a letter in front of their bedroom door. Santa leaves a trail of candy canes to their stockings and a letter typed on North Pole Letterhead. It feels way overboard in the minute but I love looking back on it and seeing how excited they get in the morning. 

Christmas Morning

In the morning we open presents and stockings then have Christmas tree shaped cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We spend the second half of the day with close family. We try to keep Christmas Day simple and centered around the kids because it can get really overwhelming trying to fit so many different things in. 

Giving to Others

Every year we try to do something kind in the spirit of the holiday.  One of our favorite things to do is make stovetop potpourri and deliver it to all of our neighbors so their homes can smell festive on Christmas Day. They're really simple to make. I like to use piping bags because they have a good shape to them, you can also use glass jars or plastic baggies. Next I add cloves, fresh cranberries, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, pine needles, and finish it off with an orange. I then tie it up with a bow and add the gift tag with instructions. Here is a free customizable template that I made for the instrutions.

Little Extras

  • I love to wrap the presents from Santa in a special wrapping paper and then use these personalized gift tags I made. You can either print them on cardstock or stickers.

  • Coffee mug gift exchange: something we love to do with our family and friends is exchange coffee mugs. We usually set a limit of $15. You pick out a mug and fill it with themed goodies and gifts! Then once we have our get together we play thieves Christmas with the mugs. It’s an easy and fun way to exchange gifts without spending a ton of money. 

  • I try to take annual festive photos of the kids to look back on. The Christmas themed ones are usually with candy canes. It’s easy to do and has a really cute outcome!

Some of these traditions may come and go, and some are here to stay for the long haul. Each one truly creates long lasting memories and gives the Christmas season a sense of magic and togetherness.  I hope your holiday season is filled with the magic of cherished traditions and the love of family.

1 Comment

Taylor Minnich
Taylor Minnich
Dec 14, 2023

Your gingerbread house skills are so impressive!! I love all these traditions! I am adding your AMAZING potpourri to my gifts to make. It’s perfect!

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