As a new mom I get to start family traditions that will hopefully last for years. I'm sure that these traditions will be dynamic, changing over time as our family changes and grows, but for now these are the traditions we've started, or plan to start soon.
Since Jesus is the "reason for the season" We will do our best to remember that at home. I plan to make an advent calendar for next Christmas that ends with Mary and Joseph in the stable, then on Christmas Eve we will add baby Jesus to the manger. On Christmas morning we will snuggle in bed together, before opening presents, and read the story of Jesus' birth as it is told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. I hope my kids will know that the reason we celebrate Christmas is because of the incarnation. It's all just a big birthday celebration for Jesus.
Also, we want our kids to know that God sent his son to us as a gift, even though we are sinful. I don't plan to pull the "be good or Santa won't bring you presents" card. I want our kids to know that we give them gifts becasue we love them, not because they merit them, just like God sent Jesus because of his love for his people, not because we were good or deserving.
I love Christmas music. I love the hymns, the classics, and a lot of the hip new songs too. Listening to Christmas music will definitely be a part of our tradition. From when we bust out the decorations the day after Thanksgiving, through the 12 days of the Christmas season we will not only sing Christmas songs at church, but also in the car when we drive around looking at lights or traveling to see family and in our house as we bake, clean, and decorate. Hopefully Haley will have more musical talent than Zach and I, but even if not, we will make a point of singing Christmas songs together, especially on Christmas day and Christmas Eve. After all we are called to make a joyful noise.
I love Christmas movies. We will always watch a few Christmas movies as the day approaches- to stir up our imaginations and get in the Christmas mood. My favorite that will probably be repeated every year (although not with the kids) is Love Actually.
On the day before Christmas we will bake cookies together to leave out for Santa, with his chocolate milk of
course. We will eat a delicious meal: breakfast for dinner, yumm! Then as night falls we will open
one gift each, our Christmas pajamas, and read the polar express together. Hopefully one day we'll do this sitting by the fire while drinking hot chocolate. I also hope we will each have an ornament, decorating our pajama packages, to add to the tree. (Im really excited about the ornament my friend Lynda sent for Haley this Christmas)
Next year I will make us all stockings. hopefully kitted ones, but that may be a bit over ambitious. We will hang them with care, and eat the delicious candy that fills them on Christmas morning. Each one will probably also contain another little surprise.
This year I just used a lot of my socks to substitute for stockings for most of my family. I made everyone corner bookmarks (tutorial to come later) and felt silly wrapping them, so they made the perfect stocking stuffers instead. Plus There was an actual fire place, which would have just seemed bare without some sort of stockings on Christmas Eve.
I love how Zach's family goes around in a circle to open gifts in turn. It gives the giver a chance to see the receivers reaction, and gives the receiver a chance to be appreciative. It can be time consuming, but instead of a race to open all the presents in an anti-climatic storm of wrapping paper and bows, each gift is carefully considered, as they were when they were purchased or made.
This year everyone took turns helping Haley unwrap her presents
I would also like our gifts to be gathered under a tree we picked for ourselves at a tree farm. This is luckily pretty convenient while living in the mountains. We went tree cutting with some close family friends last year and it was a blast. Unfortunately this year things did not go quite as planed, but Haley still had her first Christmas tree at her grandpa's house. Even if it was a bit unconventional. I'm excited to take her to the tree farm to pick our family tree next year, after all the tree is the cornerstone of my Christmas decorations. The house seemed a bit bare without one.
Many families face the santa delima, in fact several Moms dicussed their take on it over at mckmama's blog. I grew up believing in Santa, big time believing, wore the T-shirt, saw the sleigh fly by the moon believing. I want Haley to have the opportunity to enjoy that same magic of believing that I did, because it is one of my fondest memories of childhood. I plan on reading Santa stories, watching Santa movies and putting out milk and cookies for the big guy (probably carrots for the reindeer too).
That said I have heard horror stories of kids figuring out Santa wasn't real. For me it was a process over the years, I held on to the notion of Santa long after I knew all the presents under the tree actually came from my mom. But some kids who have that moment of revelation feel betrayed by their parents and lose trust. Others abandon faith in more important things, thinking if Santa's not real, who's to say Jesus isn't made up too. I do not want that to happen. I also, on principal, do not want to lie to my daughter.
Hopefully Haley will enjoy being in on the big secret. Hopefully she will appreciate that we tell her the truth. We will tell our kids that santa is make believe. We will also tell her that there are other kids who believe he is real, and ask her not to spoil the surprise for them. We will also tell her that there is nothing wrong with an active imagination (in fact it is encouraged), so we can have fun pretending Santa is real. We can discuss the tradition of Santa in other cultures and talk about St. Nicholas, and other stories and traditions that lead to modern Santa myths. We can have fun imagining how Santa would get to all the houses, or how he would deliver presents in homes where there is no fire place. We can speculate as to what makes the reindeer fly, and pretend that the one unwrapped, unlabeled gift under the tree each Christmas morning is from Santa. This year Haley got a toy from 'Santa' that has tactile fish and fun music.
Basically I would much rather Haley know the truth about Santa and be one of the kids who chooses to believe anyway, just because it's fun. I would like her to know that her parents will always be truthful with her. So, if she asks who the unwrapped gift is from, we will tell her that it's from us, and then remind her that we can pretend it was made by the elves in the North Pole, because I have fun pretending to be Santa too.
A few other ideas I would like to incorporate in some way are...
Giving 3 gifts to mirror the 3 gifts the wise men gave Jesus
Giving specific gifts, something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.