Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Christmas Traditions

For the first time in our five years of married life, we are spending Christmas away from our families.  We're really going to miss grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and snow, but are embracing the opportunity to start our own family traditions.  I have been reading "The Heart of a Family: Searching America for New Traditions that Fulfill Us."
I want to do a post about traditions more broadly (maybe next week?), but for today I'll share some of the Christmas traditions we do as a family, and a few examples from the book I thought were meaningful.  Some of them could do this year, some you might want to file away for another year.
  • Dinner for the Holy Family--This tradition comes from my upbringing. We ate a meal that represented different characters in the Nativity.  Salad with edible flowers and pomegranates (Mary), angel hair pasta with mushrooms and whipped cream (angels with earth and clouds), milk and honey (the baby Jesus), olive soup (olive press/tree/branch), pita bread with goat and sheep cheese (shepherds), sparkling cider (Jesus again), and dates for the three kings.  If you want any specific recipes, let me know.
  • Christmas Tree for Animals--This idea comes from the lovely book Night Tree.  We're pretty excited to start this tradition this year.  On Christmas Eve, after our Dinner for the Holy Family, we're going to take pinecones with peanutbutter and birdseed, popcorn or cheerios chains, and other edible snacks into the forest to decorate an evergreen for the animals.  Then we'll sing Christmas songs and drink hot chocolate.
  • Rest Home Sing-in--We got together with some friends in our ward and with only same-day notice went in and sang Christmas songs and told Christmas jokes.  There were just a few people listening, but it was still really fun and did a lot to bring in the Christmas spirit.
  • Siblings Gifts--My boys plan to give each other gifts from the toys they already have, or make things by hand if they don't want to give something that's theirs.  That will help cut down on toys, and teach gift-giving.
  • Advent wreath--This tradition, as well as all of the following traditions I'm going to write about, came from the book I referenced above.  Apparently, many other churches do advent wreaths.  It's an evergreen wreath with four candles, and each week of December, an additional candle is lit.  They don't stay burning all the time, but in the evenings the right number of candles are lit while scriptures are read and prayers said.  Candles do so much to set a holy tone and help us slow down in this busy season!
  • Unwrapping Books--I think a lot of people do this, but I thought it was a great idea and I wish I had heard of it earlier.  Wrap 24 Christmas books up and put them under the tree (some can be library books if you don't have enough).  Every evening leading up to Christmas, a book can be opened and read.
  • Unwrapping Nativity Pieces--Along the same lines, some families unwrap a piece of the nativity every day, and the baby Jesus last of all on Christmas eve.
  • Happy Birthday, Jesus--Making a birthday cake and singing to the baby Jesus has never made more sense than it does now that I have a three-year-old who understands and loves birthdays.  Doing that celebration in honor of our Savior would certainly help the kids remember what we're celebrating. We plan to do this accompanied with scriptures and hymns.
  • St. Nicholas Day--Some people do St. Nicholas Day (Dec 6) instead of Santa, so he still gets a nod, but he's out of the picture early and he only brings one gift.  One family had the great idea of receiving from St. Nicholas some kind of craft material that they could use the rest of the month to make sibling gifts.
  • Sleeping under the Christmas Tree Christmas Eve
  • Family Prayers- I also liked the idea of the whole family knealing together, and each individual taking a turn to pray, first in gratitude for a blessing from the previous year, and then about something in the coming year. 
What Christmas traditions did you enjoy growing up?  What traditions are you starting now?


  1. One tradition that my family has done, and I've a variation on your holy dinner and the traditional nativity play. We have our "Journey to Bethlehem" dinner on Christmas Eve, where we eat a mediterranean style meal that is super simple. We eat it as sort of a candle-lit picnic (fun but spiritual) in our bathrobes and talk about how the shepherds might have felt, etc. Our meal typically includes goat cheese, pitas, a clementine and some dates.

  2. I love the Christmas tree for animals idea! And I have always loved how your boys give presents from their own collections, instead of things you bought for them to give away. We don't really have any Christmas traditions yet, but I look forward to a tree next year!

  3. The only tradition you forgot was The Great Christmas Morning Wrestling Tournament.