For our daughter Princess, the holiday season is very difficult. It is filled with very painful traumatic memories and PTSD episodes. Our family traditions help to heal her heart. They bring comfort to her, knowing that they are specific to our family. They are filled with joy, happiness, and most importantly, safety. Each year we continue our Christmas traditions, she becomes a little bit better during the holiday season. For this I am thankful.
As we've started our Christmas traditions already this year, I couldn't resist sharing them with you. In return, I would LOVE for you to share one of your favorite Christmas traditions as a comment. I think it's so much fun learning about what others do during this fabulous season!
1. Christmas Dates with Mommy
Each year, I take the kiddos out individually to do their Christmas shopping. It's tradition in our house that they each are given money to buy gifts for each one of their siblings, Mommy, & Daddy. When we started, they were each given $1-$3 per person on their list. This year they were able to spend $10 on each person.
The kiddos get so excited about these dates. Prior to their special day they ask siblings for ideas. When they're unsure what to give Mommy or Daddy, they ask about our interests. The process is so precious to watch, as the kiddos are learning the joy that comes from giving to others.
This year our dates started out with a meal, but this isn't always the case. Each kiddo got to choose where they went to eat. Then the shopping began. We shopped until the kiddos finished up everyone on their lists. At the end of the night we ate a special treat to celebrate our successes.
When we first started this tradition I was worried that the kiddos were too little to understand it. I was so wrong. The younger they are, the more specific they are when choosing a gift for their siblings. Sunshine went out on her first Christmas Date with Mommy this year at 2 years old and had the time of her life. We try to do these dates early in the season so the stores aren't so mobbed with people and there are more choices.
Sibling gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve after dinner.
2. Christmas Ornaments
On Christmas Eve, after the kiddos have changed into their pajamas and brushed their teeth, we gather around the Christmas tree and open one special gift. It's our new ornament for the Christmas tree. The ornament each child is given represents a passion, hobby, or interest from the year. In a way, this is how I document the kiddos' growth. Decorating the tree each Christmas season is quite emotional because of all of the memories attached to each ornament. Jason and I also purchase an ornament for each other that we open at the same time as the kiddos. I must say, Jason is fabulous at finding me the perfect ornament.
When it comes to decorating our tree, I only use ornaments that are attached to memories. Starting on our honeymoon, Jason and I have purchased an ornament for every vacation we've ever been on together. As our family has grown, we've continued to do this. Each place we visit, I pick one up. This is the only souvenir I buy. Each year we add new ornaments to the tree and reflect back on the memories we have made as family.
3. Christmas Movie Countdown
On our first Christmas Eve together, Jason insisted that we had to watch a Christmas movie. One of his favorite traditions from growing up, was counting down the days until Christmas with movies. Each year Jason and I purchase a new Christmas movie and add it to our countdown collection. After the kiddos go to bed, we cuddle on the couch, admiring the Christmas tree lights, and watch one, finishing with our favorite on Christmas night. We also purchase a new children's Christmas movie for the kids. They're not quite ready for the actual countdown aspect of the tradition, but they love getting a new Christmas movie each year. I'm guessing next year, Dinomite will be ready to join us for the real countdown.
4. The Story of the Nutcracker
I have always loved the story of the nutcracker. When in college I always tried to make a point to go and see the ballet. As I started my own family, I knew I wanted to make the story a special part of our holiday.
Each year we dedicate a week of learning time to the study of the story of the nutcracker and the music from the ballet. To see last year's unit, click HERE. The kiddos have never been old enough to go and watch the real ballet in person, but we've been able to find fabulous performances online on youtube, that we watch in parts each day, matching what we're reading in the actual story book.
This year, while on our Christmas date, Dinomite asked me if I would like to go with him to see the real Nutcracker Ballet. I was so excited at his request and just purchased our tickets on Monday. Bulldozer and Princess will follow shortly behind I'm sure in the years to come. I love being able to pass down my love for ballet and the story of the nutcracker to my children.
5. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Great literature has definitely become a huge part of our holiday traditions. An Eddy Family Christmas wouldn't be the same without reading A Christmas Carol. The version of the book varies, depending on the ages of the kiddos at the time, but the story is still the same. Last year, we even dedicated a week of learning time to the book. Click HERE, if you'd like to see what we did.
When finished reading the story, I love to go to a nearby town where they have a Dickens Christmas. People, dressed in character, are roaming the streets visiting and mingling. They play their parts well, with accents and all. There are quartets of musical instruments playing Christmas Carols on almost every corner. Carolers are everywhere. Horse drawn wagon rides are provided for free. All of the local shops are open filled with the holiday aromas. This year will be the first year we take the kiddos to the event. I can't wait!
6. Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Countdown
We have always tried to perform random acts of kindness at Christmas time, but doing the countdown was new last year. It was a HUGE hit and was one of the very first things the kiddos mentioned doing this year. For more information about our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, click HERE.
7. Christmas for the Animals
Close to Christmas, we gather with grandparents at their home for dinner, and then bundle everyone up and head into the forest at night. All of us are carrying bags and boxes full of special items. Once we find the perfect tree, we decorate it with edible items for all of the animals in the forest, we've prepared. Before heading back inside, we gather around. If the weather isn't too cold and/or windy we build a bon fire and sing Christmas Carols. After carols we head inside for hot cocoa and desserts.
The first year we did this, Grandpa R and Grandma T gave the kiddos their own little head lamp lights to wear in the forest so they wouldn't be afraid of the dark.
This tradition was inspired by the children's book, Night Tree by Eve Bunting.
8. The Nighttime Holiday Parade
A few days after Thanksgiving, our city hosts a Nighttime Holiday Parade. All of the floats are decorated in lights. The kiddos love going to parades. Since it's a guaranteed successful event for the kiddos, we invite friends and extended family to join us. After the parade we head back to our home for hot cocoa, hot apple cider, and desserts. It's such a great kick off to the holiday season.
9. Happy Holidays to our Neighbors
When Jason and I were first married, I listened to a woman speak about a family tradition they had. Each Christmas season they would bake treats for ALL of their neighbors. No matter who they were, or how scary they may be, their family would go together and deliver these treats. The woman talked of the relationships and friendships formed as a result of this simple act. I knew I wanted to do the same with my family. So, year after year, we've done this. When we couldn't make treats, I would bake loaves of bread or give simple Christmas ornaments. The kiddos joined in from the minute they were born and look forward to it every year. I can honestly say, the tradition has worked miracles for us in our neighborhood. It's not the greatest one in town. Friendships have been made and we're always greeted with a smile on the street. Our card always includes a picture of our family and our Christmas letter. I do believe we're up to 12-15 plates of treats now for people on our block.
10. Holiday Wish lists
The first Christmas after Bulldozer's adhesive allergy was discovered was rough. Not only was the act of unwrapping gifts life threatening for him, but the toys themselves posed a threat to his health. So many toys have stickers on them. If there weren't stickers, then the toy packaging was dangerous. After many tears of frustration, I came up with a bunch of ideas that would help Bulldozer be safe during the holidays. (Still this is very hard. I celebrate every Christmas season he doesn't have a reaction to either gifts of foods.) One of those ideas was putting together a holiday wish list for each of the kiddos for grandparents and others interested in giving gifts.. The wish lists included toys and other items the kiddos wanted, ones that were safe to have in our home with Bulldozer's crazy adhesive allergy. Most of our extended family were very supportive and appreciative of the lists. Years later, all of them embrace these lists and can't wait to receive them. They have helped so much when accommodating sensory needs, autistic tendencies and so much more.
The master list is kept on my personal family blog. Each item links to the store where I found the item the cheapest, so it's easy to purchase. Grandparents all receive a paper copy of the list as well. As they purchase items off the lists, they'll let me know, and I send out a quick e-mail or facebook message, letting everyone know the item has been taken. Some grandparents do shop off the list, and that's completely fine with us, as long as the items are safe for Bulldozer.
Now that the kiddos are older, they make their own lists. It's a HUGE event for them to window shop for items to put on their wish list. Some years we've gone to a toy store with our camera, and taken a picture of our kiddos holding the items they want, so we remember who wants what. Other times they look through magazines. Dinomite loves shopping on Amazon. Lol. The lists are updated on a regular basis and used for birthdays too. Now that they make their own lists, I also find them extremely helpful when I shop!
11. Giving the Gift of Christmas to a Family in Need
Each year we've been able, we have selected a family in need to shop for at Christmas time. We purchase gifts for each family member, include treats, and at times, other items. On Christmas Eve Night, we dress in black, deliver the packages on the family's doorstep, and run to hide before anyone sees us. We have been "caught" only once, but the family chose to play along and accept the gifts. This year, we're including the kiddos in the process of selecting a family. We'll be making our final decision on Monday night and work from there to gather gifts.
12. Christmas Eve Dinner
Our family has made the decision to stay at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. All extended family functions occur before or after those days. Christmas Eve day the kiddos and I spend our time preparing our Christmas Eve Dinner. If Jason doesn't have to work, he joins us. Our big holiday dinner with dessert is served that night, followed by the exchanging of sibling gifts, ornaments, and our Christmas delivery to a family in need. Jason and I clean up the kitchen as we wait for the kiddos to fall asleep, and then get everything ready for Christmas morning. On Christmas day, I don't cook or bake at all. Instead we all spend the day relaxing, playing, eating left overs and finger foods. This has been the best tradition yet, as it takes all of the stress out of Christmas Day!
I would LOVE to hear about some of your favorite holiday traditions! Please don't hesitate to share!
I would LOVE to hear about some of your favorite holiday traditions! Please don't hesitate to share!