Holiday Traditions – Out with the old in with the new!

Learning to create new traditions while keeping some of the old ones!

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We all have our own traditions. What does tradition mean to you?  To me, it means spending time together as a family to celebrate the season.  I have three boys ages 18, 14 and 10. When they were younger the traditions were different. As they have grown the traditions change. It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we do it together. This year I found myself trying to hold onto the past while trying to enjoy the present. (pun intended ha!) Having an 18 year old and our youngest being 10 means it’s not always easy to find a happy medium.  With our oldest being in his senior year of high school sometimes I find myself feeling like this could be the end of our journey with him being at home to share in the everyday life. And with our youngest we’re not sure if he still believes in Santa or not and if he does will this be the last year. We don’t ask our boys if they believe or not. They have never asked us if Santa is real, but they did tell us that they know we are Santa. Our response has always been if you believe then that is all that matters because there is nothing wrong with believing in the magic!  For the longest time we used to joke that our oldest was going to go to college still believing. Ha! They have always been great about not telling their younger brother and allowing him to believe. This season I have felt that this could be the last of “Santa”, which make me sad.  I have enjoyed making the holidays “magical” for my boys.  So, instead of focusing on the past I am focusing on creating new traditions.

I always make the time for our traditions. It is easy to get caught up in all that we have to do during the holiday season and before you know it the holidays are over and we didn’t get to do the things that matter the most.  I make sure that our family traditions are scheduled first and if that means we say no to a holiday party or another event, then we do. Time with my boys is what is the most important because you never get this time back.

Our traditions:

Decorate the tree. This is mandatory.  They each have their own box of ornaments that have been given to them by us and other family members. When my oldest was first born he of course was given his first Christmas ornaments. I started the tradition of getting a Hallmark Ornament with the year on it and then I would write on the box that it came in so that they would always have them.  We have also given them other personalized ornaments that are not from the Hallmark Collection. Our family tree is filled with ornaments that they have made themselves and then ornaments that have been given to them . This tradition is my favorite. I love listening to them talk about the ornaments as they hang them on the tree. I love listening to them talk about their own memories as they decorate. It is the highlight of the season.

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Write their wish list. They still write a wish list. They can put whatever they want on it but when it is time to write their letters to Santa they can only choose their top three gifts that they would like Santa to bring. This teaches them that just because it is on a list does not mean they will always get what they want. There is nothing wrong with wishing for things. It also helps them think about what is really important to them without having to tell them you aren’t going to get everything on your list. Yes, they still ALL write letters to Santa. I save those letters and they go in a scrapbook.  I enjoy looking back and reading them.

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Count down calendar. I started the calendar when they were younger. Our calendar has candy canes that you pull out each day as you count down. A couple years ago, I did try something new and instead of just pulling a candy cane, there was a little note attached that had an activity to do such as eat breakfast for dinner, movie night, eat dessert first. The boys have always enjoyed that until this year. Again, no one pulled a single candy cane, not one!  Next year instead of doing a countdown calendar we are going to do random acts of kindness for the 24 days. I am looking forward to it. It will be nice to share in teaching them how to give and think of others and not just themselves. I think this will become a family tradition for years to come as it really isn’t something that you can outgrow.

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Elf.  Not the Elf on the shelf as we know it now. My mother-in-law shared with me a tradition that she did.  Every year on Thanksgiving after Santa arrived during the parade, “elf” would arrive. You never saw the elf.  He would come and stay until Christmas Eve. He was there to watch and make sure that you were being good and if you were, he would leave you a little treat (usually a Hershey kiss) that you would find when you woke up. If they had been bad that day then he would leave nothing. I started the tradition when our oldest was 4 and have been doing it every year since. That is until a couple of years ago when “Elf on the Shelf” came to be. I thought it would be cute to have an actual elf. So we welcomed our Elf who our youngest named D.J. after Derek Jeter!  Did I mention that I have three boys who play year round baseball?  Ha! We let our youngest name him as it was really a new tradition to an existing tradition but it was something a little different for our youngest as our older two boys no longer believed in Santa. At first it was fun to move him around the house and have them wake up wondering where he was going to be, but after time it wore off on my husband and I. It was so much easier when we couldn’t see our elf as we didn’t have to worry about moving him before we went to bed! As no one wants to wake up to have your child asking you why Elf never moved!  It happened more times than I care to count.  I do “believe” that this will be the last year that Elf will be coming back. I don’t even think our youngest even knew he was in the house – he came and went without any mention of him!

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Bake Cookies. Now this is something that I do miss. When they were younger they loved to decorate the cookies and well, today they just like to eat them.  They don’t enjoy baking or any part of decorating so what I have done the past several years is let them each pick a cookie and that is what I make for them. I leave it up to them whether they want to bake with me.

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Picture with Santa. That tradition came to a screeching hault years ago because our youngest would never sit on Santa’s lap. He was afraid of Santa, the Easter Bunny and any other costumed character. He was like that for years. I do have a few “Santa” pictures with all three but not many.

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Gifts. We started several years ago a tradition that we take the boys shopping so they can get a gift for each other. Each boy has to buy a gift for each brother. It is fun to see how they do it and what they choose. They then have to wrap the gifts. On Christmas Eve they get to exchange them. 

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Dinner and Lights. We like to take the boys out to dinner and then go look at lights. When we lived in Virginia, we would take them to a drive though light show. It was so much fun. We would put them in their pj’s and off we would go! We now live in North Carolina and here they don’t have anything like that so we compromise by trying to find different places to look at lights. This year we went to www.lightsontheneuse.com

Food Pantry. We always donate to a food pantry whether the school is collecting items or your local store. During the Buy One Get One Free Sales I like to put some of those items to the side and that is what I donate. It doesn’t cost much extra to do it this way and over time you can build a nice little stash that you can feel good knowing it is going to help someone.

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As we say good-bye to some of our “younger” traditions we will be making new ones.  Instead of focusing on ourselves we are going to focus on giving by doing acts of kindness. We all want our children to be kind, giving, thoughtful people and it is easy to tell them that they should do these things but they will truly never understand how meaningful it is to give until they experience it for themselves. I want to be a good role model by showing mine.

Our new traditions that we are going to do in addition to our existing ones:

Serve Thanksgiving dinner to those less fortunate. I waited too long this year to get on a volunteer list. Everything was already full. Next year, I look forward to participating in sharing a new tradition with my boys. We do not have family nearby so we aren’t always with family at Thanksgiving . I think it would be a great experience for all of us to spend the day helping others.

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Blessing Bags.  I saw this idea online and fell in love with this idea! These bags are for the homeless that we see on the streets. I hate seeing them standing there holding a sign for money, food or anything. In these bags you can put whatever it is that you want, they are just big zip loc bags filled with necessity type of items that are kept in your car. You hand them out when the situation arises. This is an easy way to feel good about helping someone.  We will be putting these together over our Holiday Break. We were supposed to have done these over Thanksgiving but I had gotten sick and was not up to it.

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