Crafts,  Family Fun,  Food

Christmas Traditions for the Family

Traditions are an important part of the Christmas season.  Most of us have Christmas traditions that have been passed down throughout the years. Some of us have started some of our own.

Having a child has made traditions more important to me than ever before.

From decorating cookies with Grandma to trimming the tree, traditions are what makes Christmastime so special. Below are some of my favorite Christmas traditions.

The Aqusition of the Christmas Tree

This was alway one of my very favorite Christmas traditions.

When I was a child, we would all pile into the front of Dad’s blue Chevy pickup and head out to the Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree as a family. I’ll never forget it. We would bundle up, head to toe in assorted winter accessories and prepare to quest for the perfect tree. After arriving at the farm, we would arm ourselves with a saw and take a wagon ride through the woods. All four of us would walk together, inspecting each specimen for it’s worthiness.

We wanted it not just to be symmetrical, but also to be as large as possible.

Once we agreed upon the perfect tree, Dad would cut it down and we would head back to the warming lodge. Inside, we would enjoy a bit of entertainment from a real live Raggity Ann and Andy and music from a player piano.  There was hot cider and doughnuts and we sat and warmed up before heading back home.

It’s memories like these that make me want to continue these Christmas traditions for P.

Decorating the Tree

Christmas tradition of decorating the tree with collected ornaments

Everyone has their own idea of how (and when) a tree should be decorated. I like to get our tree as quickly after Thanksgiving as possible and decorate it as soon as the boughs settle.

Our tree has always been a hodge podge of colorful lights, candy canes, handmade garlands and ornaments collected from throughout the years.

It is always decorated as a family with Christmas cartoons playing in the background and snacks and something warm to drink.  My ornaments are amongst my most valued possessions. They have been collected over my entire life and many of them are antiques that have been handed down. This year we added some homemade ornaments to our tree.

Our Christmas tree has always been clad with a homestrung popcorn garland and topped with a colorful tinsel star. My parents made the garland we had when I was a kid and my husband and I made ours on our first Christmas as husband and wife.

When I was growing up, my grandmother would give me a new ornament every year to add to our tree.

This allowed me to have a collection of ornaments to take with me when I moved out of the house and decorated my own Christmas tree. I am so glad she did that for me and it lead me to continue this special Christmas tradition with P.

Christmas Baking

Toddler making chocolate covered ritz crackers with York patties, Christmas cookie family traditions
Christmas Baking, December 2018

When I was a child, every December we would head over to Grandma’s house to make Christmas cookies.

I really don’t think it’d be Christmas without sugar cookies.

We’d put on an apron and get to work rolling out the dough and cutting out whatever shapes we’d like from her vast assortment of cookie cutters. After the cookies were baked and cooled, we would meticulously decorated them with colored icing and sprinkles. This is another of my favorite Christmas traditions and one that I’m enjoying continuing with P. Next week we will be headed to the great up north to “G’ma and Papa’s house.” While we are there, we will be doing a great deal of Christmas baking.

There are other cookies and treats that I love making for Christmas as well. Salted caramels and my special spicy ginger cookies are two things that are sure to grace the holiday spread. Maybe someday I’ll share my cookie recipe. But for now, it’s a secret.

Here is a recipe for the caramels. I like to add a sprinkle of coarsely ground sea salt on mine. They are SO good!

Homemade sea salt caramels - A favorite Christmas tradition

Wrapping the Presents

Over the past two Christmases, I have had P make tags for all of our gifts. It’s been a fun way to involve her in the process. I like to think of crafts to keep her busy during the cold winter months. Making tags has been a fun activity to add to our list of Christmas traditions. She has really enjoyed showing off her handywork to everyone and she’s had fun developing some fine motor skills as she decorates.

* Visit this post to see the Christmas tags P made this year.

Setting the Table

Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect Christmas table looks like.

Growing up, our table was set up long in front of the fireplace and right by the tree. My mom would dress the table in tablecloths and set it with crystal glasswear and real china and silver at every place setting. There were candles and centerpieces every year. This was another one of our Christmas traditions. It took two tables pushed together to fit us all but everyone sat together for a grand Christmas feast.

The silver was polished. The linens were pressed. Everything was perfect.

At my house today, we sit around the same dining room table that I did as a child – a table that was once my grandmother’s.  I don’t have the same fancy place settings as my mother used but I set out my red, green and white fiesta settings, vintage dishes and glasses with holly berries. We use linen napkins and have a table runner and everything is set to be a bit nicer than the everyday meal.

The Holiday Feast

What is included in the perfect Christmas meal is something that is not always agreed upon by everyone.

My idea of a proper Christmas meal is a ham, road potatoes (only the most amazing cheesy potatoes of all time! *Recipe below,*) rolls and lots of extras!

Common sides included green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, broccoli salad and some sort of strangly delicious jello dish. My favorite weird holiday jello concoction includes a layer of pretzels, a sweet cream cheese filling and strawberries. You can find the recipe here. Don’t knock it till you try it. It’s amazing!

Of course throughout the day, there would be MANY snacks! The house would be filled with things like Chex mix, mixed nuts, cheese balls, sausages, crackers, cheese, fruits and veggies. When I was a kid we ALWAYS had a Christmas punch made from soda and cran/raspberry juice. After the meal, we would continue our feast with a selection of pies, cookies and homemade Christmas candies.

Road Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2lb bag frozen hash browns
  • 1t salt
  • 1/4t pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2c chopped onion
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream soup of choice)
  • 2c sour cr
  • 12oz shredded cheddar cheese (or blend)
  • 1c French’s onions

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients besides French’s onions together. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to one hour. Top with French’s onions the last 15 minutes.

* I have used low-fat ingredients with EXCELLENT results.

* Measurements are approximate. You can’t really mess this up.

ENJOY!

Unwrapping the Gifts

Christmas tradition of home wrapped presents

Christmas traditions vary on when and how this is done. I like to do stockings and presents with immediate family on Christmas morning. Waking up before the sun to gather around the tree with hot coco and sweet breakfast rolls or coffee cake is another of my very favorite Christmas traditions. I love the time spent before the bustle of the day starts.

Presents with extended family comes after dinner. My family would always joke that presents were to be opened after the dinner table was cleared, the dishes were washed and the adults all had coffee.

They loved to see us crazy with excitement as we waited to open our gifts.

We would all take turns from eldest to youngest or the other way around, giving each gift our undivided attention before moving on to the next.

My husband’s family appoints a “Santa” to hand out the gifts to everyone. It is his job to control the flow of the unwrapping.

However it’s done, every family is sure to have rules about the opening of the presents.

These are just a few of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions. What are some of yours? Do you have a different idea about how things should be done? I’d love to hear about your special Christmas traditions. Comment below to share some of your favorite ways to celebrate during Christmastime.

 

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