Last year, an older friend of mine gave me a gift: a lovely book to chronicle our children’s lives. I immediately whipped out a pen. Soon I began filling the pages with tales of our family’s vacations and all of the children’s firsts. Then I turned to the holiday traditions section of the book….and paused. And I thought. Then I put my pen down and tucked the book away.
I absolutely stopped cold because my mind went blank. WHAT family traditions? I’ve been with my husband for 14 years, married for 8 of those years. When we married, I acquired a quality then-teenaged stepson who had become accustomed to spending time at both his mom’s house and our house during the holidays. Despite our easy relationship with his mom and her family, there had been so much back and forth during holiday time that there had been no real constant.
Then, we expanded our family a little over four years ago with the birth of our twins. A blissful thing, but suddenly, everything felt even more shaken up.
I’ve now personally settled into more of a routine. No longer flying by the seat of my pants (entirely), I have had a bit more time for reflection.
It’s time to establish our OWN family traditions.
I located a terrific article loaded with ideas for us. Anna Ranson did a ton of legwork for us by gathering ideas from her Facebook friends and compiled them all right here: http://theimaginationtree.com/2013/12/50-family-christmas-traditions-magical-ideas
Love the family interviews as well as having the children purchase gifts for children in need.
Armed with some awesome new ideas, I think the best way to proceed is to take inventory of what we are doing:
- Elf on the Shelf. A relatively new addition to our home, our elf entered
our lives 2 years ago. As is the custom (and per the instructions within the Elf on the Shelf Bible), our children named the elf. What happens when you charge this task to newly 2-year-old twins? When those children’s means of communication is a mix of nonsensical words, sprinkled with a little twin-speak and a smattering of screaming, you get the name “Da-Da Dabot.” Our little, uh…Middle Eastern?…Elf Friend. Anyway, Da-Da Dabot is cool and all, but do I imagine myself – 10 years from now when my youngest are in their teens – teetering tip-toed while attempting to place the Daring Da-Da in his new perilous place? Unlikely….
OK, what else do we have?
- The Christmas Funk. No, I don’t mean GOOD funk, like grooving to Christmas tunes. I mean The Funk as in creeping crud that afflicts one or more Petersons every dadgum year. Oh, we just looooove to spread our Christmas Funk around. This is a Christmas tradition that we must abolish ASAP.
Don’t get me wrong: our family has done some pretty fun stuff. Such as:
- Nutcracker tickets for the second year in a row. (I thought my daughter was going to levitate from all the excited arm-flipping that was going on.)
- Christmas TV specials. We will eagerly gather in the family room to watch our favorite Christmas shows together, although most of the enthusiasm comes from yours truly. As long as I can remember, my mom, dad, sister and I would watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and each family member would have the same assigned dance. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine the scene in which each character is supposedly practicing for the Christmas play. Director Charlie Brown comes close to a nervous breakdown. Poor dude completely loses control of his cast and everyone busts their own moves while Schroeder tears up his baby grand. (Wait, this is vaguely reminiscent of a day in my life as a twin mom….)
Yeah, I think the Petersons can rock the dance scene. Hey, we got another one!
The Petersons have also begun having the children dictate messages to Santa while I (the Scribe) take these love notes down verbatim. I’ve made a special effort not to ask leading questions, which adds to the fun and unpredictability aspect.
I believe it’s also important to reach FAR back into the family’s figurative history books to give new life to traditions that may have inadvertently gone by the wayside.
My husband, almost 9 years my senior, sadly has already had to say goodbye to both of his parents. Our 4-year-old twins have not had the pleasure of having these special grandparents in their earthly lives. For this reason especially, I love the idea of renewing some of the traditions that he and his siblings enjoyed as children.
As Jed did as a little one, we’ll have pajamas wrapped up on Christmas Eve, ready for our kids to excitedly break into the packages. Then Daddy, Big Brother Matt and I will tuck in our tots at the end of the day, donned in their new PJs, so visions of sugar plums can dance in their heads.
My family would always spend Christmas Eve at the church we grew up in, sometimes with my sister or me participating in the children’s services. We would head home to set out cookies for Santa and shake the presents under the tree. Right before bed, we would cuddle up with our daddy while he read The Night Before Christmas, splendidly illustrated by the late Tasha Tudor. Then we were off to bed where I would more than likely have smuggled Christmas cookies waiting for me under my pillow.
Now here I am many years later, stretched out on my living room couch. Surrounded by my beloved furry sons, I hear the faint sounds of Christmas music playing in the other room and just enjoyed my last sip of Chardonnay for the evening. The hectic day of racing around is now tempered by the sight of the gleaming Christmas tree in front of me. Our tree proudly displays photos of our children, tall and small, and ornamental gifts to mark the arrival of our twins 4 years ago.
As I write, I soak up the nostalgia and realize that maybe our family traditions are mostly already in place, ready to be celebrated and continued for years to come.
I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a season filled with happy memories and traditions of your own.
If you have any unique/quirky/fun Christmas traditions of your own, I would love to hear from you!