Happy December! It's officially the most wonderful time of the year!
I love everything about Christmas. The month of December is always full of joy and tradition. I started my Christmas traditions post on Thanksgiving Eve. What began as a list of 12 quickly turned into 25, and I just kept adding to it over the past week! Some traditions are carried over from our own childhood and we adopted other traditions along the way.
Decorate the Christmas Tree Night
We kick off the Christmas season by putting up our Christmas Tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Christmas pajamas and Christmas music are a must!
Grant unwraps each ornament one by one and hands it to the person it belongs to or randomly chooses a person if it's a family ornament, and that person hangs it on the tree. It can be a lengthy process but it makes it so much more special. The kids are always so excited to rediscover their favorite ornaments!
When we are done decorating the tree, one special child gets to top the tree with our star. We keep a list in the box with the date/child who put the star on the tree and we rotate through our kids to keep it fair. This year it was Dylan's turn!
The Christmas Pickle
When my dad was a child, his parents hid a glass pickle ornament in their tree. The first child to find it got a present. Some say it's a German tradition but that seems to be a myth. Either way, it's a fun tradition! My dad carried on the tradition when I was a child, and my parents bought us a pickle ornament the year Dylan was born. We now have two glass pickle ornaments that we hide in our tree and the kids immediately rush to our decorated tree to try to find them first!
Christmas Parade and Town Light-Up Night
Each year, we go to a parade and light up night in Grant's hometown. They always have hot chocolate, drinks and treats before the parade, then Santa arrives in a sleigh at the end of the parade and lights up the town. The kids are always so excited about their first visit with Santa!
Elf on the Shelf
This is a first for us this year! When Elf on the Shelf first became popular, Dylan was starting to question things, so the timing was off. When he stopped questioning (if you catch my drift), Lexie started. As of a few days ago, her questions stopped, so we can finally have an Elf come to our home. He arrives this morning and Lily is incredibly excited!!! And keep your eye out for an extra special elf who will be making an appearance tomorrow, too! ;)
Family Movie Night: Christmas Edition
If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that weekly Family Movie Night is our thing. During the holiday season, we try to add more days to the mix. There's just so much to watch! Some of our favorites are Polar Express, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, The Santa Clause, Santa Claus The Movie, Rudolph, Frosty, The Grinch, A Christmas Carol, Mickey's Christmas Carol, Claymation Christmas, Garfield's Christmas, Emmet Otter and the Jugband Christmas, Muppets Christmas Carol...and more! PHEW. I'm certain I left out some favorites!
25 Books of Christmas
Many people wrap Christmas books and place them in a special basket for the kids to open one each night and read. I don't wrap our books. I just place them all in our Holiday Book Crate and let the kids read freely. We just choose one each night to read together and end it with The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve and a book about Jesus on Christmas night. And to be perfectly honest, we have way more than 25 books! This is just the November installment. The rest will be placed in the crate later today!
Christmas Countdown Calendars
Growing up, I loved my Christmas Countdown Calendar. The closer that little mouse got to the end, the more excited I became! My family has two Christmas Countdown Calendars. One is Santa with a long beard and the candy cane gets moved down each day and the other is a snowman with a snowflake. The kids love to take turns moving the candy cane and snowflake each day!
A Night with Santa
Every year, we take our kids to visit Santa in his little house in my hometown. I remember visiting Santa there, my dad was Santa (or rather HELPED Santa) several years and we started this tradition for our little family when Dylan was 2 weeks old.
We make a night of it. First we visit Santa, then we get pizza at Pizza Hut, and we end the evening by walking through a light display in town. We look forward to this night each year!
It's a must to make Gingerbread Houses each year! Grant and I are NOT fans of this tradition. Up until last year, we did all the work. But the kids love it, so we do it! Thankfully, Lexie and Dylan could do this on their own last year so it's a bit easier these days!
Another favorite tradition is the night we all pile into the car in our pajamas. We cover up with blankets, sip hot chocolate and drive past all the coolest houses while listening to Christmas music. So simple and so much fun!
There used to be an amazing drive through light display in Pittsburgh that we went to every year. When they stopped doing it, we were so upset! We went several years without one, then last year, a new display came to the area. It wasn't the same but it was REALLY good! We can't wait to drive through the lights again this year and stop at McDonald's for hot chocolate and ice cream!
Christmas just wouldn't be the same without Christmas cookies! The kids and I have been making and decorating cut out sugar cookies since Dylan was a toddler. We love to make a bunch and deliver them to our favorite people!
It's our tradition to add two family ornaments to our tree each year! The first one is from our vacation spot that year and the second is a personalized family ornament with the year on it. We're acquiring quite a collection!
I'm a sucker for keepsakes, so I have the kids make a homemade ornament each year. My favorites have been our thumprint Rudolph ornaments and our handprint snowmen ornaments!
Special Ornaments from Grandparents
Each year, Grant's mom gives each kid a special ornament based on what they currently love or what stage they are currently in. My parents have also done this. Although it's going to be tough to part with their ornaments, the plan is to give them every ornament from each year of their life when they get their own home.
One of my favorite traditions is Sugarplum Saturday. I get together with my mom and my sisters and we spend the afternoon baking and laughing. At the end of the day, we divvy up the goodies between us!
Yearly Christmas Photo
Like so many others, I take a Christmas picture of my kids each year for our card. It's fun to look back at all of our Christmas cards and see how much our family has grown!
Christmas Shopping Date Night
Grant hates Christmas shopping so I started a fun tradition. I get a sitter and we spend the day doing our Christmas shopping and end it with dinner. It's a great compromise and he doesn't complain...too much!
There's a store about an hour away that has the most amazing themed Christmas Tree displays. After we make our way through, I feel the urge to buy every decoration in sight. Well played, Kraynak's, well played. We usually head over to the nearby Chocolate Kingdom at the World's Largest Candy Store. Needless to say, it's an expensive day.
Teaching our kids how to be giving is very important to us. In order to do that, we have our kids buy gifts for each other each year. The older kids do their shopping at their school's holiday shops and I take the younger ones to the store. It's never anything big but they get SO excited about giving their siblings (and their parents) the gifts they chose on Christmas morning. It's honestly my favorite part of the day!
Annual Christmas Party
When Dylan was a toddler, our friend started the tradition of having an annual Christmas party and gift exchange. We looked forward to it each year! The group has decreased drastically over the past few years and it's definitely not the same, but I will always think fondly of this tradition!
Every year, each of our kids get a special video from Portable North Pole and an email from Santa. I save the video and print out the emails so we have keepsakes! It's such a fun and exciting tradition for them!
Bedroom Christmas Trees
Although we already have several Christmas Trees in our home, the kids love having trees in their bedrooms. There is one in the boys' room and one in the girls' room and they get to decorate their trees however they want! Every night, we turn on their tree and they use them as nightlights all season long!
Season of Giving
We try to give as much as we can during the holiday season! Some of our favorite things to do: take supplies to our local pet shelter, pack a box for Operation Christmas Child and choose a child to shop for off of a giving tree.
All Things Christmas
During the month of December, we try to wear Christmas clothing or colors each day and Christmas pajamas each night. We drink our coffee, hot chocolate and tea out of our favorite Christmas mugs. We even eat our meals and put our drinks in special Christmas china and cups. It just adds an extra festive touch to the season!
Concerts and Class Parties
Now that we have kids in school, our month is packed with more Christmas fun! Each child has a class party, Lily has a Polar Express day and Dylan has a band, chorus and orchestra concert in the middle of December. The kids think school in December is so exciting!
Every year the kids make a batch of reindeer food and store it in a special container until Christmas Eve. It's just oatmeal and edible glitter and it gets sprinkled all over our front lawn on Christmas Eve so the reindeer get a treat!
Christmas Eve Box
One of our favorite traditions is giving each kid a Christmas Eve Box. Inside the box is a new pair of Christmas pjs to wear that night, a small toy and a snack. Mommy and Daddy get new pajamas, too!
Christmas Eve Traditions
Every Christmas Eve, we gather with my family for dinner. After church ends, we spend the evening with Grant's family at his Nannie's house. We eat a ton of food, the kids open their Christmas Eve boxes, we exchange some gifts and the kids change into their new pajamas. We make the short drive home late at night, sprinkle the reindeer food outside, set out cookies and milk, put the Santa key on the front door, and rush to bed so Santa can visit our home!
Christmas Morning Traditions
Christmas morning is very relaxed in our home. The kids usually sleep in a bit then rush in to wake us up. We drink coffee or tea and listen to Christmas music while each person gets to open a gift one at a time. The entire process takes over an hour but it's organized and not the least bit chaotic, and every person gets a turn in the spotlight. After the kids open their gifts one at a time, they exchange gifts with each other, then give us the gifts they bought us. Grant and I open a few boxes for them so they're occupied and have our own gift exchange while they play!
Before we rush off for our Christmas Day visits with relatives, my parents come over for brunch. We exchange all of our gifts then sit down for a big brunch of eggs, bacon, toast and cinnamon rolls. They have been coming over since Dylan was a baby and it's one of my favorite parts of Christmas Day!
Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas
We leave up our Christmas Decoration until the 12th Day of Christmas. It was a tradition for my dad's family, he carried it over to his own family and now we do the same. Many people mistakenly believe that the 12th day of Christmas is on Christmas Day, but that's actually the FIRST day of Christmas. For us, the Christmas season ends on the 12th day of Christmas, which is January 5th.
Traditions I Want To Start:
- Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day like my father's family did. It's on December 6th. The kids leave out their shoes on Saint Nicholas Eve and Saint Nicholas fills them with coins and treats that night.
- Ride the Polar Express. I always want to do this and the tickets always sell out before I can purchase them. ONE day I will succeed!
- Take my girls to the Nutcracker. I went to the Nutcracker when I was a child and I would love to take my girls!
- See the lights in the city. We never make it to light up night in Pittsburgh, but the lights are gorgeous and we never take the kids to see them. I want to make this a priority.
- Go ice skating at the Ice Rink at PPG Place in Downtown Pittsburgh. It would be so much fun to do, especially while the lights are up!
- Take the kids to a live nativity. We just might make this one happen this year!
- Make it a point to go to The Boar's Head Festival each year. I performed in this Christmas festival from the time I was 6 until I was 18. We took the kids 2 years ago, and they loved it, but we haven't gone since. These are done in several churches throughout the country.
- Go caroling. We have never taken our kids caroling but I bet they would love it!
- Cut our own Christmas Tree. Fake is easier but I love this tradition. It would be fun to have a small one in our kitchen!
- Midnight Service. I LOVED the midnight service when I was a child but taking 4 kids to a midnight service just isn't going to happen. Hopefully when they are older!
- Take the kids to see the orchestra and choir perform in Pittsburgh. We often listen to classical music in the car so I bet they would love it!