Tradition is something that is handed-down. Passed on. A pattern of behavior. Something that we do more than once.
Tradition is what keeps the holidays from being overly stressful for me. We have a number of traditions that we do every year during the holidays. It brings us closer together. It brings us joy. It helps us remember our shared past and look forward to our future. They are what makes us family. And they are FUN!
Every year we make cookies. We love cookies and, of course, Santa needs his cookies on Christmas Eve. I grew up with decorated sugar cookies and bizcochitos. In the past, the girls and I have always made and decorated sugar cookies. This year, we added the bizcochitos but left out the sugar cookies. E liked them so much, we actually made them twice! And L asked for chocolate chip cookies with both milk chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. That is what we did. And it was fun. (And we are still enjoying them after sticking some of them in the freezer before our trip.) They also decorated gingerbread men as part of the Christmas activities at the Mayborn Museum.
Suckers are another long-standing tradition in my family. My grandmother began making suckers when my mom was a child and they have been in our family since then. We make a cinnamon sucker, with smarties for eyes and food coloring mouths and noses. It is a learning process for the kids (you know – safety is a biggie when working with 300 degree liquids) but we all look forward to it every year.
Every year we put up a Christmas tree that is decorated with ornaments that are special to us in some way or another. My one wish is for a live tree but that is something that I will just have to enjoy when we visit my parents. With kiddos and a husband with asthma and allergies, a live tree is just too much to ask for a month or more inside. So artificial it is. (And I have learned to like it since it is MUCH cheaper to not have to buy a tree every year.)
Each ornament on our tree has a story and as we decorate the tree each year, those stories get told and retold, bringing our family closer together and teaching them their history.
Every year we make a point of making a new ornament and most years, we make a whole bunch. This year, the girls made angels at the Mayborn Museum when they did Christmas in the Village (a turn of the century 1900s village). They created their own ornaments, just because they wanted to, out of paper.
We love to sing. Christmas carols are constantly hear around our house during the holiday season. If you could only see my CD collection of holiday music… I have quit buying them unless I find something REALLY good because I have so many. We put them on and sing and dance and just enjoy the time together. Also, we have a number of songbooks and piano music, so I’ll sit down at the piano and play. The family will gather around, or dance around, or sit on the couch, and sing together. We choose favorites and just sing.
If we get the chance, we go caroling and share music with others. This year, we were able to join a group from our neighborhood to go caroling. We walked around our neighborhood singing to our neighbors. We knocked on a few doors and sang for them. We just walked the streets singing some, too. We carried some yummy hot chocolate and just had fun being together.
Luminarios are a New Mexico tradition. Something I grew up with. You’ve probably seen them, even if you don’t know the name. They are paper bags with a candle inside. We put out paper bags. We put some sand in the bottom to hold them. And then we place a flameless tea light inside. We turn them on a dusk on Christmas Eve and let them burn through the night.
My middle child loves this tradition. We missed it this year, so the picture is actually from last year, and I am sorry we did because she was really looking forward to it! There is always next year, though.
Books are a fixture in our home and so, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without them playing a special role. Our books tradition takes on two personalities.
First, at the end of November, I pick 25 holiday books and wrap them. You can read more about this year’s books in this post.
Second, all the other books that are not wrapped up are placed in a basket for the girls to read. And read they do. You can see the titles of the books that ended up in this basket in this post.
Another fun thing we try to do every year is visit the Mayborn Museum for their display “All Aboard the Christmas Express.”
This is a display put together by local model train enthusiasts. They set up all sorts of model trains and run them all day long. For a month! We love to go see all the trains and how they have changed their set up for this year. And find the new parts. And the Christmas stuff (we can always count on at least one special Christmas train to be on the tracks). And it is just fun! We always try to have a little scavenger hunt for the girls to see what interesting little things they can find, like how many bears do you see or can you find the train car with the Mickey Mouse present on it. This year, we were blessed to be able to take a friend and her son with us to go see the trains. The girls really enjoyed taking the little boy around. It is just lots of fun!
There are more traditions in our family. Life is built around traditions. These are some that came to mind, are important to us, and help to define the holiday season. Because they bring joy and togetherness and history, they are not a chore for us. They do not add stress to the holiday. They are a pleasure and they bring us all closer together. At Home.