The memories of my childhood Christmases in the Appalachians play in my mind like living snapshots. Sing “Jingle Bells” with cousins. Looking in the sky for “Rudolph’s nose” or signs of Santa’s sleigh. The children’s nursery plays in our crowded country church. Christmas bluegrass music with some of the best breeders you’ve ever heard. Fruit baskets, gift bags, homemade candies and banana pudding…. These have shaped my memories and traditions for a lifetime.
In all transparency, it is not only the idyllic moments that I cherish but the missteps too! One of my favorites is from my father’s childhood. Her Sunday school class was to present the featured poem for the Christmas service. Since they were each holding a letter, they went in reverse order and spelled out “RATS”.
What about the times the Christmas tree falls or the meal is burnt? Maybe you open your grandpa’s long underwear on Christmas morning while your grandpa opens your new action figure? Or the angel falls from the Christmas chariot? (Don’t worry. No angel was harmed in the making of this memory.) Our traditions, imperfect and all, are growing greater than the sum of their parts. They become unforgettable memories and some of the best stories when mixed with a little time and nostalgia. In many ways, it’s our traditions that celebrate.
Here are 15 simple ideas that will inspire occasions to make memories for your family:
1. Find Christmas-themed books from the library to read at bedtime.
2. Host Christmas movie nights with popcorn and hot chocolate.
3. Host a family sleepover near the Christmas tree.
4. Make a basket of Christmas treats to surprise someone.
5. Create a Christmas playlist to listen to in the car.
6. Cut out paper snowflakes to hang on your window.
7. Make Christmas coloring pages.
8. Make a paper chain to count until Christmas.
9. Make a gingerbread house.
10. Go Sing.
11. Try new recipes.
12. Play board games and solve puzzles.
13. Make ornaments.
14. Read Matthew 1-2.
15. Read Luke 1-2.
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles… we are creators of memory. This is a high calling, not only to shape traditions, but also to shape the childhood of the next generation. As the world rushes to make, go and buy, let’s slow down and embrace family more than ever. Let’s make the most of what this time of year has to offer in simple terms of learning, crafting, reading, offering and eating. Let’s rediscover the joy of being together and savor the moments. The house is not four walls but the relationships that compose them. May our homes be bold and bright this season as we create new vacation traditions our families will cherish.
What are the most memorable holiday traditions from your childhood? Do you remember things that went wrong? What do you want your kids to take away from your vacation together?