Guess what my nine-year-old son and I did over Veterans’ Day weekend? We decorated our home for Christmas! Yes, it is a bit early but it’s a lot of work so why not get all of the decorations up early so we can enjoy them for even longer? As we worked to decorate our home for this special time of year, I found myself so grateful for some of the traditions we started when our son was very young. One tradition we started on his first Christmas when he was just 9 months old. Uncle Todd and Aunt Leslie gave him a Cougar football nutcracker. Since my husband and I both graduated from WSU, we were excited to add this holiday decoration to our home. The next year, when Tyrel was nearly two, I helped him choose another nutcracker. He chose an Army nutcracker. By the time his third Christmas came around, he reminded me that we needed to pick out a new nutcracker. And so this tradition has continued – every year we look for a new nutcracker. So far his collection consists of a Cougar football player, soldier, golfer, police officer, Santa, drummer, snowman, firefighter, horse rider, and fisherman. We add a new one to his collection each year and record the year on the bottom of the nutcracker.
Another tradition we started early on is that I bought a set of 18 wooden ornaments at a craft store when he was very young. Each color-your-own ornament has a place for a small photo. I colored the first few ornaments during his early years. But since his fourth Christmas, he’s been coloring his own ornaments – one each year – and then we place a recent photo of him in the ornament. Now we have 10 of these ornaments adorning our tree. Each year, he has fun selecting which one he’ll color and then we love looking at each one in order as we place them on the tree. Each ornament carries special memories of that year.
Another tradition we have done nearly every year since he was in preschool is that we make a gingerbread creation of some kind. It started with a gingerbread house and then in the following years it became a gingerbread train, gingerbread carousel and gingerbread nativity scene. Last year we spent Christmas at Disney World and we didn’t do a gingerbread creation but when I asked my son if he wanted to do another gingerbread creation this year, he shared his idea of building a gingerbread dog house. This is an all-day project that we probably won’t get to until the week before Christmas but I look forward to that special day and the new memories that will be built around this special tradition.
Another Christmas tradition that we make sure to incorporate into our celebration is to give to others. Whether it’s putting together a special gift box for Operation Christmas Child, donating to Rebound of Whatcom County’s Community Toy Store (this awesome organization provides local parents a chance to experience the joy and dignity of personally providing for their children by being invited to a store that is stocked with brand new toys and clothing gift cards that are resold for at least 70% below the retail cost), or donating food to our church’s annual food drive; we make sure that we take some time to think of others who are less fortunate than us.
It kind of amazes me how many traditions we have around this time of year! I’ll share one more. Starting after Thanksgiving, we read at least one Christmas book each night. When our son was younger we wrapped the books so he could unwrap a book each night. This was great practice for him to rehearse how to open a gift in a polite, thankful way…and it was a lot of fun. I make sure that we have a lot of books that address what Christmas is really about. Many of these books lead to some very spiritual discussions. For our family, Christmas is the foundation of our Christian beliefs so we make sure to emphasize the “reason for the season” each and every day and this includes opening The Holy Bible and reading straight from the Word of God. Many of our readings end with us looking closely at one of the many nativity scenes we have set up around our home.
So what traditions do you remember having as a child? What traditions do you do with your children? I bet we could all share some great ideas!
Two of our gingerbread creations.
Tyrel’s first color-your-own ornament colored by Mommy.