Here are a few of my favorite Holiday Traditions:
Thanksgiving — Get a big white tablecloth and have everyone use fabric markers to write or draw a picture of a few things they’re thankful for each year. Then, every time you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, you get to read the things people have written in years past. I wish I were the genius who thought of this one.
“You Are Special” Day — For a date night a few months ago, Dan and I made a “you are special” dinner plate. The plate gets pulled out when someone either does something really special (gets a great test score, shows heroic kindness, has a birthday, learns how to balance their 2 year old brother on their nose like a seal) or needs some special love and attention. It’s a big deal to use the “you are special plate.”
It’s only been used one time in our house, Mega Corp bonus time this year. DY Dad got a decent bonus and we got to chuck it on the mortgage. Can you hear the ping sound it made as it dropped in the bucket? Yeah, neither could we.
Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day — In Canada, there’s something special, almost sacred about November 11th. It is a solemn day of remembrance and respect for those who give their lives for our freedom. Up there it is called Remembrance Day and it occurs on the same day as Veteran’s Day here in the US. Everyone wears a red poppy on their lapel for about a week leading up to the Holiday. Schools hold solemn assemblies and everyone with a uniform wears it. I remember wearing my Brownie and Girl Guide uniform to school.
At 11:11am, people all across the country observe a moment of silence. I still maintain this tradition with my kids and recite the poem In Flanders Fields, with my thumbs tucked in every November 11th. (When we stood at attention or had to do any recitation in my elementary school, they told us to do it with arms at our sides and our thumbs tucked into our hands. I think this was to keep us from poking each other or picking our noses, but I still do it today when I recite poetry.)
Christmas — My favorite tradition growing up was putting hay in the manger. My mom told us the story of the first Christmas and then she put out a small empty wooden manger near the Christmas tree. Every time we did a secret good deed, we could put one piece of hay in the manger. On Christmas morning, “Baby Jesus” (usually a well-swaddled baldish cabbage-patch kid) would appear in the manger if there was enough hay for Him to rest comfortably there.
I can still remember my mom encouraging us to keep up the kind deeds, “You don’t want that sweet baby to clunk his little head on the bottom of an empty manger, do you?”
We had so much fun doing kind things for each other and then waiting until no one was looking to deposit our one piece of hay. The manger was always full by Christmas Eve.
Tip Day Tuesday — This is a tradition where you get to share your thoughts and ideas so everyone else can steal them. Please observe it. 🙂
DYM, Tip Day Tuesday is becoming a much-loved tradition for me!
We have started a new tradition in our family this year, and it has been lovely so far (this web site will explain it better than I can):
I think the tablecloth idea is brilliant–we will be doing that next year!
We do the “hay in the manger” thing too. In fact, we just fixed our manger on Sunday by taking it all apart and putting it together so it won’t wobble and fall apart if you touch it. My hubby made it with sticks about 14 years ago when our oldest daughter was 3 years old and it has moved with us from house to house, state to state! Our baby Jesus was purchased from “Pic and Save” for $.99 all those years ago too!
I’ve never heard of the manger and hay thing–I like that idea very much! As for our traditions, we haven’t come up with many since I haven’t often spent a lot of time at home for the holidays in the last decade (being a former baker). But one thing we do is always have pierogies for Christmas Eve dinner. They are made from my Polish grandmother’s recipe and my daughter helps me make them. This is a really special time for us together in the kitchen, and I like to think that she’ll do this with her own kids someday. (And I’ll get to help!) Unless you’re also Polish, I guess this isn’t an easy tip to steal, but I think it’s a great idea to make foods from whatever culture you come from as part of your holiday tradition.
My parents started the tradition and my sister and I carry it out in our homes. The first ornament on the tree is the first ornament that we bought as husband and wife on our first Christmas. Everyone gathers around and we (the hubs and I) hang it together and share a little kiss. After that it’s decorating mayhem because they just want us to get it over with so they can get to the fun part- at least that was my feeling as a child. As a grown-up, though, it has come to symbolize much more and is a tender tradition.
I absolutely love all of your tips today!! Once my DH and I have children, I definitely will be stealing your manger idea – that is such an incredible idea. Keep up the great writing!
Regina Clare Jane says
Loved this post, DYM! As I am so old now (wink) I find it hard to remember things about growing up, but one tradition we had for Christmas was to have two Christmas trees! One in the living room- an aluminum tree with green glass balls on it (hey, don’t laugh- those aluminum trees are making a comeback!) and the second tree- a live one- in the dining room. I don’t know why we had two trees but they were fun just the same. Interesting how Santa only dropped off our presents under the REAL tree!
Squishy Burrito says
My in-laws on Christmas Eve all lie on their backs take a cranberry each and whoever can keep their cranberry in the air the longest while blowing it wins.
If you aren’t too inundated with Santa stuff they also do a fun thing with elves. Every Christmas Eve when they go to bed they find on their bed an unwrapped set up pajamas to wear. The’re elves pajamas.
One family tradition that everyone seemed to like in our family was for birthdays. The birthday person was absolutely special. They got to pick the dinner menu along with the type of cake they would have. A birthday person does not have to do a single, solitary chore on their day. (This was a big deal in our house.)
For Christmas, we always had home made rootbeer on Christmas eve and cans of smoked oysters in the stockings. (I know that the majority of the world would think that was gross, but our kids loved them. They were only allowed to ask Santa for 2 things – in an effort to keep the greed to a minimum – and often asked for extra oysters as their second thing.)
Julia Y.R. says
really great ideas… can you be my mom?
I knew a family that always celebrates March 4th! (march forth). It is always fun to have any reason to celebrate!
A Christmas treadition that I dearly miss from my childhood is going out to see the luminarias or farolitos on Christmas Eve. Unlike the standard electric lights, a luminaria is really ony good for one night. It’s a paper bag with a candle in it and sand to hold the whole thing down. Old Town down in Albq. is my all time favorite.
I love going to a fun family movie together on Christmas Eve. I also love decorating the house together. My friend decorates the house and puts up the tree, but they decorate it together after Thanksgiving dinner. I’m out of the comments. I must fly back to my mania of photo-editing.
My husband’s family always picks one person or family to do a service project for at Christmastime. They’ll all go together and shovel an elderly man’s sidewalk and driveway, or give gifts to a family in need. It’s a really good reminder of the spirit of the season.
oooooooooh i love the table cloth idea. i am so going to do that!
This is a fairly recent tradition – and not as charitable as our mitten tree at church (don’t want anyone to think we are TOO giving)…
I have a huge roll of white butcher paper… for the past few years we take a 12 foot length of paper, write a bratty-style note to Santa and then make a list of things we’d like to have. The thing is, the things we put on the list are waaaaay over the top –
a particular jet fighter plane, a 50 foot Swan sailboat, an exotic car and then sprinkled in are things we truly would like to have and just may receive…a return trip to our favorite island house, a new guitar, a lovely but expensive coat…
so, on the one hand it is a fantasy list and we all oooh and aaah over it, and on the other hand one of us may just be surprised and receive something wonderful —
Wow! The idea of filling a manger with hay gained through secret deeds is so AWESOME! I’m gonna have to take that one.
During the Christmas season, my dad always reads “A Christmas Carol” to us, usually finishing up on Christmas Eve. This tradition has grown to include my grandfather as well, and now it’s tradition for him to stop the narration at certain points and talk about what a wonderful writer Dickens was. (“Can’t you just smell the sage?”) And of course there are the lines that we all recite together (“I had my doubts about the quantity of flour”) and generally a good time is had by all.
I always enjoyed this because in my family, my mom is the designated story-reader, except for A Christmas Carol, and I love to listen to the way my dad reads it. I personally think he should record it and sell it so everyone else can enjoy his interpretation, but that’s just me.
That thankful tablecloth idea is great.
The Daring One says
These tips are all so great. Thank you so much for sharing.
I love all the traditions of cooking together, making the kids witness parental kissage, the jammies, March Forth!, the lights, the service, the decorations. I’m writing these all down.
I had a friend who read A Christmas Carol with her kids last year, even though they were only 4 and 1 to get the tradition started.
Keep em coming. They can be for any holiday.
I love BlackBird’s post a while back about her crazy impossible wish list. You should check it out.
On Christmas Eve, Dad reads “‘Twas the night before Christmas,” and he reads it in a British accent which is incredibly magical. We each open one present, and then Dad reads Luke 2. Mom cries every time.
On Christmas morning we open our stockings, then Mom makes a big breakfast with biscuits and chocolate gravy and real gravy and pancakes in the shape of teddy bears (compliments of Pampered Chef pancake molds) and our initials in pancakes and pretty much anything else we ask for at breakfast. After that, we open the presents oldest to youngest or youngest to oldest, whichever they decide that year. I’m still in the middle b/c I’m older than my sister, and older than her little boy. So either way I just wait til someone says “It’s your turn Liz!”
I’m really excited about Christmas this year because we will be with all of the above people for the first time on Christmas for several years, and I know that makes my parents happy.
That is a great poem- and hiliarious that you keep your thumbs tucked lol!
We always have a traditional set salad called “Prise Salad”, for Christmas and Thanksgiving. The recipe was giving to my parents for a wedding gift by a prominent family. It’s definitley an “aquired” taste. 🙂 Also, for birthdays the birthday person gets to choose his special breakfast and dinner, and we always pick presents from a sack (instead of wrapping). Unusual, eh? Sure love everyone else’s ideas.
The Daring One says
Yes, the Prise Salad is definitely an acquired taste. I’m “working” on it. 🙂 All of your cooking is delicious Pam.
i totally dig the “you are special” plate – my daughter and i always paint at ceramics and that is brilliant.
(i found you through elena – sorry for all you had to endure, looks like you are holding up well under all the strain 🙂
On Christmas Eve we always act out the Nativity scene. Someone (usually Dad) is the Narrator and reads the story from the Bible. The rest of us find costumes (bath robes make excellent sheppard costumes) and act out what Dad is reading. We sing the appropriate Christmas carols as we get to them (‘We Three Kings’ when the wisemen are introduced, etc). Depending on the amount of people, we sometimes have to double up on parts. Its a cherished tradition in our household.
I love the manger idea.
My favorite childhood traditions wereCHristmas ever family carol sings, mainly the hymns by candle light, and then my grand father would read all of “Willy and Annie’s Prayer” I don’t remember who wrote that poem, but I can tell you exactly what book it’s in and turn to it in a few seconds when I go to their house. He always broke down and cried when it got to the part were they prayed for their daddy.