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Sometimes I balk at traditions. I’m not a fan of doing things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them even though it doesn’t make sense and nobody is happy about it. But, I love traditions that are simple and enjoyable. This is never more evident than through the Christmas season. And simple is needed most this time of year since there are so many other demands placed on our time like shopping, wrapping, kids’ programs, family gatherings, school parties and baking.
This will be my 10th Christmas as a mom. These traditions have evolved through the years. Just like the birthday traditions I told you about, these are simple, fun and build great memories.
Countdown to Christmas
Though my 9-year-old understands the concept of time now, my 5-year-old doesn’t as much. He’s good with smaller amounts of time, but knowing how many days are left before Christmas is helpful for him. Plus it’s just fun to keep track together. I have a FREE Countdown to Christmas printable that my own family uses. For each day of the month, you can put a sticker over the number or X out the number — whatever you prefer. My kiddos love stickers, so we are going the sticker route. Each number is star shaped, so hitting up the Dollar Tree for some star stickers works super well for this. We usually do our countdown in the evening after dinner but before bedtime. We alternate which kiddo puts on the sticker each night, and then on the 25th they put it on together.
Wrapped Christmas books
This is another tradition we started early on and LOVE around my house. We love books, and we really love to unwrap gifts. Thanks to programs like Scholastic book club, gifts from family and my own finds, we have enough Christmas books to last us from December 1 through 24. Now we have a few extras, but in the early days, I also included some general winter books as well. You can even use library books as long as you keep track of which are library books and need to be returned.
The week before December starts, I pull out our Christmas books and get 24 of them wrapped. It works perfectly if you have an even number of kids so they can rotate through who opens a book each night, because everyone wants to open them! It also is great for toddlers who really want to open wrapped presents they see appearing under the Christmas tree or other places. They get a chance to open a gift! This is one we do near bedtime since we then read the book for bedtime. We combine this tradition with the next one, so each book has a Bible verse attached to it.
Daily Bible verses
For us this works well paired with the books. I print out and cut into squares Bible verses that take us through the Christmas story, which I have for you as a FREE Advent Verses for Children printable. I fold and number each one and attach it to a book. Then the kids find the right number for the right day to open. What I love most about this is that it makes sure every day we are taking at least a couple of minutes to talk about the real reason for the Christmas season. And each evening, before we read the verse, we review what has happened in the story up until that point. It is a great way to reiterate or teach the Christmas story to kiddos. If you don’t do the books, you can just go through the verses on the page and mark them out as you read them. You could even cut them into squares and put them in an Advent calendar you already have. Do whatever works best for your family!
Back in 2012 my parents got us this cool North Pole Countdown Christmas ornament from Hallmark. Each day starting December 1, you turn the radio dial to hear a 60-second update from the North Pole. It’s cute, funny and clever. The kids enjoy it, so we do that usually when we do the other Christmas activities, but sometimes we do it in the morning. It just depends on the day.
Christmas light tour
I love seeing Christmas lights decorating houses and so do my kiddos. As a kid, my parents would drive around and show us Christmas lights throughout the city. Even once I was an adult, my mom and I continued doing that and often included my grandmas as well. Now that I have kids, we definitely keep up this tradition. Usually we do this a couple of times throughout the Christmas season. We will go to the more formal, organized displays and we will also just drive around places we’ve heard about where people have decorated their houses well. For us, we keep it simple and just do it whenever we have a chance. I know some families do things like go in their PJs while sipping Thermoses of hot chocolate. That’s totally fine, too. That just doesn’t seem to work out for us (plus I’m the only member of my family who really likes hot chocolate!).
Cookie decorating party
I am the cookie baker in my family and have been since high school. I love making Christmas cookies. When my daughter was 3, I decided it would be fun to involve our families in decorating cookies with us. So one evening near Christmas, I invite over my parents and my in-laws, and we decorate sugar cookies with colored icing, candy and sprinkles. The last couple of years I’ve only made two or three dozen sugar cookies, so it doesn’t take us long. The kids have fun and our families enjoy visiting. We usually order pizza for dinner and make an evening of it.
And if you’re not a cookie baker or don’t have time, buy pre-made sugar cookie dough and roll out some shapes. You could even just make all circles to decorate with store-bought icing. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be fun!
Like I said, I’m the cookie baker in the family. One of my favorite things to do has been on Christmas Eve morning to eat a couple of those homemade cookies for breakfast with a nice, cold glass of milk in my living room with only the Christmas tree lights on. Once my kids were old enough, they joined me in this tradition. In fact, I didn’t give it all that much thought until my daughter was 5 or 6 and brought it up to me at the beginning of December how much she looked forward to our cookie breakfast. It was one of her favorite things about Christmas. I’ve learned that the smallest traditions can bring us together and make the best memories; this is definitely one of those traditions!
Christmas Eve PJs
My kids like to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Usually we open gifts with their grandparents on Christmas Eve and save the gifts among the four of us for Christmas morning. Regardless, they still love getting to open a gift at home on Christmas Eve before we head out. Since I have always loved having new pajamas for Christmas (and still do!), I combined the Christmas Eve gift with new PJs, so they open new PJs on Christmas Eve. Since they are old enough to be onto my ploy now, sometimes they can also convince us to pick out one more gift to open as well. They don’t tend to be as excited for new PJs as I am!
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