This post is part of the 2013 Holiday Blog Hop.
To celebrate the holiday season, there are some things we do every year.
- We always make my mom’s cornbread stuffing** for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. There’s nothing like it.
- We always make this amazingly good and healthy pumpkin pie – and whipped cream for the top (no, ours isn’t completely vegan) – and we eat it for breakfast at least once.
- We always put up our Christmas tree and stockings right after Thanksgiving.
- We always do an Advent calendar and each year I want to have something other than candy to put in it, but don’t plan far enough ahead to figure out anything else.
- We always let the girls open one small gift on Christmas Eve, a tradition I’ve carried on from my own childhood.
- Keith and I always stay up into the wee hours the night before Christmas, getting everything ready. (I’m sure this year will be no exception.)
This year, our first Christmas in our new home and our first holiday season as a family of five, we have started some new traditions and improved upon others:
- There is an extra stocking hanging by the fireplace for our beloved Aurelia.
- We got our first live tree since having kids. It’s beautiful.
- I learned a new pie recipe, my Grandma’s scrumptious chocolate pie**. Learning this recipe, one so cherished in our family, provided an easy way to reach across miles and years and connect with my dear, sweet, spunky Grandma and bring an ole family tradition into our home. Mine isn’t quite as good as Grandma’s yet, but it’s on it’s way.
- I finally planned just slightly ahead and bought the Keeping Christmas Cozy packet to use in our Advent Calendar instead of candy. The lack of candy in the calendar cut way down on the arguments over sweets and helped us work some fun holiday activities into our days by allowing me to plan ahead for just one or two a day (and also do some switching as needed). We’ve made orange pomander balls, cut out paper snowflakes, written letters to Santa and decorated the tree and still look forward to making cinnamon play dough, candy cane-shaped pancakes and stringing a popcorn and cranberry garland. Great discussions have been started from the conversation starters included in the packet. It’s a wonderfully simple, inexpensive helper, a way to organize festive activities that make the season special, wrapped in a nice little package that even a sleep-deprived mama can pull off. (Bonus: I can use it next year, too!)
- We found a new favorite holiday light show. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s GardenFest is gorgeous and kid friendly, with the whole of the garden covered in twinkling lights and lovely garden-themed Christmas trees (such as a bee themed tree complete with hives!) and appearances by Santa and a Butterfly Fairy.
- We made our own wreath this year from trimmings off the holly trees that stand beautifully in our yard, as well as some free cuttings from the Christmas trees at the hardware store.
- Perhaps the most important new tradition, though, is one we’ve encouraged the girls to do: give their own, handmade gifts to eachother. They’ve done paintings before for Daddy or grandparents, but have never given to each other before and this year, Aria especially was ready to make something more complicated, so she handmade a cardboard dollhouse for Ani and bought (with some money we gave her for gifts) some gems to decorate it. Ani’s a bit tougher to explain the giving concept to, but we’re working on it. Additionally, both girls made pine one glitter ornaments to give as gifts.
None of these new traditions is complicated or even out of the ordinary. They are small touches that many families will repeat this holiday season, in their own way. But it’s these details and the merriment that comes with them that create memories that will last, that form traditions of pies or lights or stringing garland that get passed on to the next generation. The Christmases of my childhood were filled with these details. They didn’t always go perfectly and some things changed from year to year, but the ones that worked for our family stayed and became imbued with the spirit of the season. The off years were good for stories later or were forgotten. As I strive to create for my children the magical holidays I remember growing up with, I am realizing, too, that everything doesn’t have to be perfect every year. It’s also ok to have help. There is a lot of pressure to have Pinterest-worthy holidays, but the girls will remember the fun activities tucked into the calendar, the feeling and wonderful scent created by pushing cloves into an orange or kneading cinnamon dough, the twinkling of the lights, not whether I was organized enough this year – or any year – to come up with all the activities myself. The experience, the time together as a family and a more peaceful mama are what will be remembered, not the need for perfection. This, too, is what I hope to pass on – that my girls don’t need to be perfect, that the magic is in the details, sure, but those details will change as life changes and some years will go better than others, and all will become part of the magical holiday fabric that will be remembered for years to come…and that is good.
**If you’d like these delicious family recipes to become a new tradition in your family, check back on the 23rd for my last post in the Holiday Blog Hop – Last Minute Vegetarian Holiday Recipes.