As the holiday season approached the year that my daughter was born, I started considering family traditions. I wondered (and still sometimes do) how to keep the balance between traditions I grew up with as a child, and how to begin new traditions.
Once I decided that I wanted to incorporate new traditions, I was really clueless about what types of traditions to begin, and how to start them in the most natural way. After doing a little thinking and searching online, I designed a blend of traditions that really works for our family.
Here it is….
Every year in early December, we get the ladies of the family together for one, giant day of Christmas cookie baking. The day starts early, around nine, and lasts until late afternoon. Each participant brings all ingredients for 2-3 types of cookies and we spend the day baking and baking and baking. In the end we all swap cookie types so that we go home with tons of different cookies.
To Start A Cookie Bake Tradition:
The person with the biggest kitchen or the most ovens should be deemed host of the event. Kitchen size and/or additional work space is really crucial. Everyone will be working to prepare cookies simultaneously, so space is needed to accommodate all guests you invite. Another option is to rotate hosts year after year.
Decide who will attend. Will it just be immediate family? Will it be one side of the family and not the other? Both? Will it be a group of friends? Are kids invited? Make sure to set boundaries so that the day doesn’t turn into a chaotic free-for-all. Trust me on this one. Limits have to be set in order to make the most of the day of baking. If you have a larger family or circle of friends and cannot draw the line as to who should and shouldn’t be invited, consider having two Cookie Bakes with different groups of people.
Ask about Allergies. Consult with guests to see if any of them (or their spouses or their children) have allergies to things like wheat, nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, etc. It would be a shame for someone to complete the entire baking day and not be able to trade cookie varieties because of an allergy. Find out ahead of time so that everything else can run smoothly and your guests feel accommodated.
Prepare ahead of time. All cookie recipes should be chosen before the Cookie Bake so that ingredients can be gathered and brought on the day of. Every participant should bring cookie pans, mixing bowls, and measuring spoons and cups. If your recipes include any specialized processes such as chopping cranberries in a food processor, bring that baby along too!
If you are making cookies that need to be frosted, it is easier to have those already baked and then just frost them on the day of the event. Another option is to have frosting pre-made.
Focus on fun the day of the event. Yes, the goal is to bake cookies, but if you turn the process into a tedious and robotic production line, you’ll have missed the point. The only true structure you’ll need is someone in charge of the oven and the timer. This person may be one with simple recipes, or maybe someone who isn’t preparing her own cookies at all. The oven gal is in charge of putting in and taking out cookies, and keeping track of oven temperatures as well as baking time. This person can also help appoint people to wash dishes throughout the day. With that in place, the remaining guests can mix up their recipe ingredients and focus on having fun.
Christmas Eve Box
I remember beggggging my parents to open just one gift on Christmas Eve. After YEARS of this, they finally started to give in when I was just about college bound. Because of this, I knew that I wanted to begin a Christmas Eve tradition with my own family, so I implemented The Christmas Eve Box. Before bed on Christmas Eve, my daughter opens this special gift box containing items selected for her by my husband and I. There is no Santa-business about this. It is just a sweet selection of things to her, from us.
To Start A Christmas Eve Box Tradition:
Find a box to use year after year. I have seen sturdy, decorative boxes the past couple of years at places like Target or Michaels. Your box should be fairly large; about 12in.x 12in. x 6 in. You can fill it with any number of things; the following are some suggestions that we have included year after year.
Pick out pajamas. Who doesn’t love Christmas PJs? Get a fun pair of pajamas for your little one and pile them in the box. Bonus points if they match their siblings’ jammies. (Or go the extra mile and get matching pajamas for the whole family!)
Go wild with fuzzy socks. You thought I was crazy about Christmas PJs? Well I get even more loopy when envisioning a new pair of fuzzy socks. I always enjoyed getting a pair of these from my grandma on Christmas, so I do my best to pass that joy along to my daughter. You can switch it up with other fun character socks for boys, or toe socks for something unique, or maybe even boot socks for an older girl.
Select an ornament that highlights your child’s year. If you decorate a Christmas tree each year then you probably already know how sentimental ornaments can be. This has been something that my husband and I have enjoyed picking out together each year. We go back and forth about multiple ornament choices until we narrow it down to one, perfect one.
When I moved out of my parents’ house, my mom gave me all of the ornaments from my childhood. Now I place them on my own tree each year along with the ornaments my husband has from his childhood. As my daughter grows, I hope to be able to share with her what each one represents.
Include a handwritten note. As other gifts may get grown out of, a letter to your child can be saved and read over and over again, forever. Reflect on the year your little one has had, describe how special she is to you, include Bible verses of encouragement, or write an original prayer of thankfulness for them. The content of this letter will vary for each child, at each stage of life, but the love expressed by the thoughtfulness of it will endure for long after the gift is received.
Homemade Breakfast On Christmas Morning
As I type this I can smell my mom’s Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls. Yum! Okay, now focus…. It was sometimes painful to wait the extra few minutes for breakfast to be ready, but the end result was so worth it. There’s something about food that just brings the family that much closer. I loved rushing downstairs on Christmas morning, diving into the goodies in my stocking hung by the fireplace, and then gathering around the table for a delicious, homemade breakfast. This is a tradition I had to continue with my own family.
To Start A Homemade Breakfast On Christmas Morning Tradition:
Prepare a menu. Consider what type of breakfast your family would prefer. For me, sugar should be the number one flavor profile (ha!), but for my husband, anything and everything MEAT is preferred. Since I’m the cook, I have the final say, obviously, but I do aim to please, so I try and find a dish that everyone will enjoy. Once you have considered a few recipes, you can decide if you want to make the same dish each year or if you want to make something different every time. My mom typically stuck to the cinnamon rolls, whereas I like to switch it up and go for whatever I’m in the mood for that year.
Who is in charge? In other words, who is waking up extra early to prepare the breakfast feast?
Plan ahead. Whatever the plans are for Christmas day, a nice family breakfast can always fit in the schedule. Figure out the optimal time to dine, and then map out baking time and/or food prep time to get an idea of how and when the meal preparation will take place. Also, read the entire recipe. I have only half-glanced at recipes too many times and have ended up missing big details like “refrigerate overnight.”
Now I know you might be getting worried. Maybe you are not an early riser and you loathe the thought of waking up even earlier than your kids who will be searching for Santa’s footprints at 4a.m. Or, maybe you are not too sure of your kitchen skills and don’t want the pressure of providing the family meal on Christmas morning because of the fear that it won’t quite turn out. Don’t fret. I’ve got you covered with these two words: Crock. Pot. You can throw everything in your Crock Pot and have a delicious and nutritious meal by morning. Here are a few of my favorite breakfast recipes that use the slow cooker: There’s my Breakfast Casserole, Hearty Oatmeal (you can stir in some Sunbutter and/or maple syrup), or this Cinnamon Roll-inspired dish.
Even if you wind up with a bowl of cereal, dining around the table with your family is the perfect opportunity for creating sweet memories this holiday season.
Christmas Day Movie
Confession: This isn’t actually a tradition of ours…yet. I hope to introduce a Christmas Day Movie this year. I know several families who make it a point to hang out together on Christmas day and watch movies, and I’ll admit that for most of my life I thought those families were weird. I am not a movie person (like, at all!) so that’s probably why this plan to watch a movie struck me as strange. But the older I get, the more visions I have of a cozy little family lounging around together –in matching Christmas PJs, watching a movie, and enjoying being together.
How To Start A Christmas Day Movie Tradition
Block off some time to be together. No matter the activity, the important part is the togetherness with family and friends. Christmas schedules get a little hectic between visiting family members near and far, church services, baking, present opening, etc. so planning ahead can help you soak up family time the day of.
If you are not a fan of movies, other ideas could be: board games, interactive or team video games, or playing outside together.
Be on the look out for my Holiday Cookie Roundup Post next week – tons of delicious recipes!
What traditions do you have for the holidays? Share them with me in the comments section ❤