I have been thinking about Christmas traditions a lot recently, especially with the anticipation of starting our own family at the end of next month. What will our son’s first Christmas be like with us? What will he learn about Christmas? What kind of traditions do we want to have in our own new family? What can we take from both of our families, and what can we create ourselves?
When you get married, Christmas becomes a little more complicated. For us, we rotate between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year with both of our families. However, leading up to Christmas we got to have a few traditions of our own that we wanted to do together (even if we were poor). Just putting this plugin for young, poor, married couples out there like us: you can still have a fun Christmas when you are poor. I bought a bunch of cheap decorations from Target in the dollar buckets in the front. I made a Christmas tree on the wall of our one bedroom apartment out of ribbon, paper ornaments, and paper clips. I’ll always remember our first Christmas together.
I wanted to highlight some of my favorite Christmas traditions I had growing up and a few we have decided we want to create ourselves. I’ve divided them into the traditions leading up to Christmas, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day traditions. Feel free to comment and share some of your Christmas traditions with us as well! We would love to hear your ideas and implement them into our future little family.
LEADING UP TO CHRISTMAS:
Putting up Mistletoe in the doorway (Our New Tradition)
I did this for our first Christmas together, and I’m pretty sure I want to do keep doing it forever.
Watching/ participating in the Church’s yearly Christmas video
This year, the LDS church’s Christmas video is titled, “Light the World”. The video itself helps us to remember what the season is really about. The video also invites each person who watches it to participate in the daily activities leading up to Christmas. There are 25 days of Christmas that all teach us how to be more Christ-like. If you’d like to learn more about the Christmas initiative or see other Christmas videos produced by the church, check out christmas.mormon.org.
Going to our ward Christmas party
In the month of December, our church congregation for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a Christmas party. We have a big dinner, the whole gym is decorated and candy is on every table. Santa Clause usually has an appearance, which, for all the children is the highlight of the night. We also have the children sing songs about Jesus Christ. It was always something I looked forward to as a child, and still is a special night for me.
Decorating the Christmas tree
Every Christmas we turn on the Christmas music so loud we can hardly hear one another speak. We dance around the Christmas tree and bring boxes out of decorations. Most of the decorations are ones that we made in elementary school that my parents have still kept and hang every year. We used to have a toy train that went around the base of the Christmas tree and it was a part of our traditions that it would have to break every year once Dad fixed it. It was fun for the first night and then broken the rest of the month. Below are pictures I took last year of the two new babies in our family trying to help us with the ornaments.
Delivering gifts to our neighbors
Every Christmas my Mom prepared what felt like over 50 gifts for our neighbors. We would drive around for a few nights out of the week and deliver them. As we got older, we would split up into teams and deliver as many of them as we could in one night. It was practically a competition.
Christmas card & letter
Every year we have a Christmas card that we send out with a picture we either took a few months before when we were all together as a family or a few weeks before we mailed it out. This is our Christmas card picture for this year. The older we get, the harder it is to find a time to take a picture as an entire family. My Mom always writes a letter to go with our Christmas card explaining all the major events of the year. It’s been a fun keepsake to look back and remember all the things that happened in different years of our lives.
Due to the incredible largeness of my family, there’s not enough room under the tree for all of our gifts (refer to the picture above if you need to see how many people were in our living room last Christmas). There also isn’t enough time for “Santa Clause” to wrap all of those gifts or to keep them a secret from everyone. The best way we came up with in our family was to have every child pick a spot in the house where Santa would deliver their presents. We (to this day) have to use our creativity and make a sign with our name on it and color it nicely for Santa. Here’s a picture of Taylor’s spot from last year.
Funny story about spots: (background info, I have 6 brothers (which means pranks)) My older brother Justin moved my younger brother Bryce’s spot in the toilet seat. He thought Bryce would enjoy getting all of his presents in the bathroom. The next year, Justin put my older brother Mitchell’s spot on the ceiling so Santa wouldn’t be able to give him presents. However, Santa stacked all of Mitchell’s presents till it touched the ceiling.
Each sibling is assigned another surprise sibling. On Christmas Eve we trade gifts and it forces us to think about what the other sibling wants rather than what only we want.
My little sister and I are incredibly close and tell each other everything. Every year I’ll tell her who I got and ask her who she got. I’ve never gotten her, but she gets me quite frequently. She will look at me and laugh and refuse to tell me. Then I know that it’s me. There have been a lot of years I’ve been able to tell my secret Santa exactly what I want.
Reading and acting out the nativity
On Christmas Eve we all read the Bible in Luke chapter 2. As my Mom read, each of us got dressed up like a character in the Nativity story. My Dad was always the donkey that carried Mary and Joseph. I was almost always Mary because I’m the oldest girl. I would use my teddy bear as the baby Jesus. The wise men, angels, and shepherds were dispersed throughout my family. I have such fond memories of my Dad carrying my brother and me on his back all the way to Bethlehem.
Setting out cookies
And don’t forget the carrots for the Reindeer! A few years ago we also started checking out the Santa tracker on google. On Christmas Eve, you can see where Santa Clause is in the world and make sure your kids get to bed on time! It was a huge motivator for my little brother who still believed at the time to get to bed asap.
Christmas video and morning line up
In my family, we usually wake up Mom and Dad around 5 in the morning because we can’t wait any later to get our Christmas presents. I now realize how much they would have liked to sleep a little bit, but they never complained.
We would line up from oldest to youngest starting at the back of the stairs to the front. The youngest always got to go down the stairs first, or at least, that was the idea. The oldest kids somehow got ahead of all us younger kids, in the end, no matter what the order. My dad would make a video of all of us lined up and have us all tell him our age, what grade in school, and something else about us. We dreaded the time it took for all of us to go through and tell Dad about our lives. We just wanted our presents! I don’t know if I will do this with our future children, knowing the agony it caused, but it was a sweet memory looking back.
Reading Moroni Chapter 10 from the Book of Mormon
We read this chapter on Christmas to remind us, not only of the physical gifts that we have been given that day but the spiritual gifts that God has given us.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.
This one is the best when there are missionaries in your family out. This is a picture my parents took while they were skyping me on my mission. We had 3 missionaries out at once in our family one Christmas. I think those Christmas’s I looked forward to seeing my brothers more than I did my presents.