We’re back with another installment of Real Talk Real Moms, and this month we’re talking all about holidays! Having children adds such an incredibly wonderful element to the holidays, and has caused Joe and I to think about what traditions we want to start (or continue) with our family, and how we’re going to balance each of our family obligations in light of now having our little family to grow and nurture! Over the past 3 years, here are a few things we’ve somewhat figured out:
Alternating Holidays With Our Own Families
Since we live too far away from my family to visit for every holiday, we’ll be down here with Joe’s family for Thanksgiving, and then go up to NJ with my family for Christmas. And then the next year we’ll do the opposite.
When we’re up in NJ, not only do we see my mom and siblings (and their spouses & children), we also usually get to see my extended family: the girls’ great grandparents, my great aunt and uncle, etc. It’s such a beautiful time of food, conversation, stories, songs, beautiful memories being passed down. I absolutely love spending part of the holidays with our extended families and sharing in their traditions. I think it’s important for children to know they’re part of a larger family, and to hear stories from the older generations. To sit at the table amongst their elderly relatives and just listen. And to eat from their great grandmother’s kitchen.
Growing up, my dad always wanted to take us to the movies on Christmas morning, which ended up being such a fun family tradition. We’d basically be the only ones in the theater, and we’d see whatever cheesy Christmas movie came out that year. And if we didn’t go to the movies for whatever reason, we always watched The Santa Claus with Tim Alan. My siblings and I can recite the entire movie, and although Joe doesn’t quite see the magic, my children will soon be introduced to this wonder!
Starting Our Own Traditions at Home
Because we love tradition and value what’s been passed down to us, we’ve begun our own holiday traditions. Simple traditions that are usually always seasonal. We go apple picking at our local orchard as soon as the apples are ready for picking and the big PYO sign appears. And then a few weeks later, we drive out to Bluemont, VA for pumpkin picking and apple cider donuts. And as soon as Thanksgiving is over, we load up in the car and cut down our favorite tree at Snickers Gap Tree Farm. When the girls to go bed that night, Joe and I put the tree in the stand and light it! And then, sometime that weekend, we’ll all decorate it together with hot chocolate and popcorn (or cookies, or both) in hand. We keep our ornaments in old shoe boxes under the eaves in the attic just like my Nana and mom.
In 1996, we lived with my grandparents for 1 year, and we were able to help them decorate their tree. One of my favorite memories was unpacking delicate ornaments that my grandmother had made from toilet paper rolls almost 40 years prior. They were simple and beautiful and taught me so much about my grandmother’s desire to create a beautiful and welcoming home.
For the past two years, I’ve continued the Christmas cookie tradition passed on to me from my mom and Nana. The girls simply love decorating the cutout cookies, and I make the two all-time favorite cookies: Russian drops and oatmeal lace. Sometimes we’ll get together and make extra cookies with friends and family, but I always want to make time to bake Christmas cookies with my girls at home!
On Christmas Eve, we give our girls a new pair of pajamas. I simply LOVE this tradition, and hope the girls do too when they’re a bit older to remember. On the years that we’re home in VA on Christmas morning, we make it a point to stay home on Christmas morning. We let the girls open their gifts slowly, taking turns. And we try to encourage them to actually talk about their gifts and look at them before looking beyond what’s in their hand to see what’s left under the tree. And then we eat a yummy breakfast here. We get dressed and drive out to Joe’s parents’ house in West Virginia where the rest of the family is gathered, and we spend the remainder of the day there. It was really important to us that we start our own Christmas Eve and morning traditions at our own home (but then also celebrate the holiday together with family)! I love that Joe and I are 100% on the same page here!
Gifts in A Big Family
Joe and I both have large families (he’s second of eight, and I’m second of seven) We could (but don’t) go into debt buying everyone in our two families gifts. A few things we’ve decided to implement over the years…we don’t obsess over finding everyone something. Throughout the year, we keep our eyes open, and if something jumps out at us for someone in our two families, we talk about it, and then make the purchase (or don’t)! We usually try to get most of the girls Christmas gifts one year, and then most of the guys gifts the next year. Now we’re talking about just gifting to the kids in our families, since there are 14 grandkids on Joe’s side and 9 on mine!
Santa Or No Santa
I’m really thankful that Joe and I are on the same page for mostly everything parenting related. We haven’t told our girls that SANTA ISN’T REAL (in fact, they probably do think he’s real: they see him everywhere). But we also let them know specifically that we (or family/friends) have given them their gifts. And to them, Santa is a jolly old man who waves at them at daddy’s work party and at the mall. As they’re a bit older, we’ll explain St. Nicholas.
For a few years as a kid, my parents did tell us Santa Claus was real. On Christmas Eve one year, there was a knock at the door. My sister and I were so terrified that it was Santa that we hid behind the couch. I don’t even remember who it was, but clearly I didn’t know enough about Santa, since he comes through chimneys.
Over the past 3 years, I’ve wanted to start the tradition of an Advent Calendar, but haven’t done that yet. Maybe this year will be the year. I would also love to start reading the story of Jesus’ birth, now that the girls are older and will sit through at least some Bible reading. And one day, if we ever have space for a piano in our home, I’d love to sing Christmas carols in our home! I also would love to bring the kids caroling through our neighborhood (I have fond memories of doing this as a teen with friends), and possibly even singing at nursing homes. And now that Zoe is 3 1/2, we’ll start teaching her about giving, and perhaps have her pick a few toys to give to other children.
We’ve only been parents for 3 1/2 years, and I’m sure we have lots more to learn about the holidays, more to discover about what traditions we’ll continue with our family, and how to navigate the holidays when boyfriends enter the equation (wait, no, never). But that’s what we’ve learned over the past few years! I’d love to hear your thoughts; how do you do the holidays with children?
Don’t forget to check out the other mamas participating in today’s HOLIDAY post. As always, I can’t wait to read how everyone’s interpreted this topic, and how they’re charting the holiday waters.
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