Traditions are what make the holiday season magical. As they continue year after year, they solidify family bonds and remind us that this time of year is more than gifts and pretty lights. This is the season we remember that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves; we are part of a family.
We have a few traditions in our house, and most of them grew out of necessity or accident. Looking back, it doesn’t really matter how a tradition starts; it just needs to continue.
Several years ago, Adley wanted to help me trim the tree. Since she was so little, she could only reach up to the third branch, and all of her ornaments were clustered. I ooh-ed and aww-ed at what a beautiful job she did, but the small (very small) bit of OCD that I have cringed. That’s when we started our first tradition.
The kids help me trim the tree, and after they go to bed, Santa’s elves come and decorate. It’s like Christmas morning when they wake up and see how beautiful the house looks. This is also when Marty, our elf on the shelf, arrives.
Yes, we joined the millions who participate in this little “Santa is watching” tradition. Each night, Marty reports back to Santa on how well (or poorly) the children behaved. In the morning, the children race to find what kind of trouble Marty has gotten himself into. He has led a convoy with the toy cars, made snow angels on powdered sugar, shared hot cocoa with Barbie, and even drank all the syrup one night.
Ornaments are another tradition in our family. I have countless Hallmark ornaments on my tree thanks to my step-mom who continued this tradition her mother started. Every year, my kids each get an ornament. When they grow up and move away, they will have plenty of ornaments to decorate their first tree.
Another popular tradition we have is the Christmas Eve pajamas. This tradition was born out of the desire to make sure everyone looked cute for Christmas morning photos. For years, the kids each opened a new pair of pajamas and then headed to bed to await Santa Claus. This year we’ll be turning it into a bigger production. The children will find a box under the tree that says, “Open Me on Christmas Eve”. Inside will be new pajamas for everyone, a Christmas movie, and hot cocoa.
One of my favorite traditions is the ride to look at Christmas lights. We pick up Grandma, load up on hot cocoa and holiday CDs and hit the road. Each year we pick a different neighborhood and spend a good amount of time mesmerized by the beauty of the twinkling lights.
This year, I will start a new tradition when we pack all the Christmas goodies away. Each of us will write a hope for the coming year on a slip of paper and put it in our stocking. Next Christmas morning, when we dig in to see what Santa left us, we can read our hopes and see if they came true.
Traditions aren’t just something to do in an already hectic season. To me, they are the glue of our family. They are what we make memories from, and memories are what ultimately make a family legacy. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I hope it is these traditions that will make my children want to come home for the holidays when they are grown with families of their own.
Cat Koehler is married with two children. She works full time. Read her Mondays on momaha.com
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Tell us about your holiday traditions in the comments below!