My Favorite Christmas Traditions that are carried on at my house year after year.
Christmastime at our house is one of my favorite times of the year. We keep our calendar fairly clear so we have lots of time to do the things that matter to us. These are the things that my children are going to remember when they look back at their holidays as children. Not what they got, or how many events they went to, but these things – the meaningful ones. The traditions that we have done as a family year after year.
I like to make the holidays special, and to me that means being together as a family and keeping the traditions we have started alive. The preparation and carrying out of these things makes me love the season and look forward to it, I don’t feel like it is something that I have to do or a burden – but a true joy. I love this time of year.
Holiday books – On December 1st, the holiday books make their way upstairs and into the basket. Every year since William’s first Christmas, I have bought a book for each child and one for the house. I pick a book that reflects what stage they are at, and what interests they had that year. Inside, I write them a note and include the year.
The intention is that when they have families of their own, their books will go with them and they will read them to their children. The house book will stay with us and we will read them to our grandchildren. We used to read the books to them, and now they read them to each other.
Picking out the Christmas tree – While I do love the holiday season, I don’t like to have a long season. I will never put my tree up in November. Typically we get our tree the first weekend of December. We make an evening out of it. We usually grab an early dinner or hit up the Starbucks for hot chocolates and then make our way to the tree farm.
Last year we *thought* we picked a great tree and were so happy with it until we brought it home. It had a huge chunk missing out of the back. It wasn’t tucked into a corner, so every time you walked into the house you saw our weird looking tree. I considered getting a new one, but it made us laugh too hard.
Making gingerbread houses – Full disclosure, I don’t bake my own houses anymore. I used to, but it’s a lot of work to make 3+ houses each year. (Although I am considering making one this year because I got this book and I’m obsessed.) What I do is buy kits, lots of extra candies and make my own royal icing. You can check out how I do it here. The kids LOVE making their houses and this is probably their favorite tradition.
Potato Latkes – Not necessarily a Christmas tradition, but I grew up in a house that celebrated both the Jewish and Christian holidays. We make potato latkes every year and light a menorah. Hannukah starts on Sunday so we will probably be eating latkes while putting up our Christmas tree (it’s about tradition, not religion). I love mine with applesauce and sour cream. Sunday cannot come soon enough.
Chocolate Roll – I can’t even begin to imagine how many chocolate rolls my grandmother, mom, sister, and cousins have made over the years. Thousands. My mom became a little bit famous among at our schools because she would always deliver a chocolate roll to each of our teachers.
This cake is very easy to make, and really easy to make ahead. (My mom fills and freezes hers and frosts them as she needs them.) I serve this for Christmas Eve dessert.
Christmas Cards – I love everything about this tradition. I love taking our pictures (or having Blue Lily do it, they have done it 4 years in a row and I already booked for next year), creating our cards, and of course, getting them.
A few years ago I started having the kids help me address our cards and now I look forward to that part too. We turn on some holiday music and get to work. You know what they say – many hands make light work. I also love that every year, I need to buy more cards than the year before. Moving as much as we do, I love keeping up with old and new friends this way.
Decorating cookies with the kids – I bake the sugar cookies and the glaze and let the kids do their thing. It makes a mess (it helps to give each kid their own sheet pan to work off of) but as long as you know that going into it, let them go to town. Stock up on sprinkles and holiday adornments. These are the cookies they leave for Santa.
Cinnamon Rolls – It would not be Christmas morning at our house without cinnamon rolls. I make and assemble these Christmas Eve morning and leave them in the fridge overnight to rise. I also make the frosting then too. We have a strict 7am Christmas morning rule, and the first one up (usually William at 5am) has to take the rolls and frosting out of the fridge to come to room temperature. I bake them while we open presents. Serve with champagne and orange juice.
Enjoying the peace and quiet – After Santa comes and does his magic, I like to come downstairs and sit on the couch to enjoy the peace and quiet of my house. Everyone is asleep and tucked into their beds. Everything is clean and ready for the morning. The tree is sparkling and I take it all in. It’s magical.