Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holiday Traditions with Bloom guest Jeanine

Today we welcome Jeanine from Serving Pink Lemonade, where she and her sister, Amy, post oodles of fun activities you can do with your children. We are tickled to have Jeanine here today!

First I’d like to say I’m so excited for the chance to post hear at Bloom! Thanks ladies!

I grew up in a house full of tradition, especially around the Holidays. Even after being married and having children of our own, my sisters and I have clung to many of the traditions begun by our parents. I’ve tried to come up with a reason of why that is and I think it comes from, in part, the fact that we moved frequently as children. Family and traditions were constants in our lives. No matter where or what the circumstances were, we could always count on these traditions. It reminds me of Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof when he declares, “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as, as... as a fiddler on the roof!”

Of course, some traditions have to be adjusted according to the ages of your children and some just don’t work for you after some time and yet others will stand the test of time.

Today I’d love to share some of my favorite traditions. Many are traditions I grew up with while others I created with my boys. Some I observed happen in friends’ homes and thought were noteworthy. (Sometimes I take those and tweak for my own!)


**Last week Anne shared with us her Gratitude chain. I love the idea of physically seeing a representation of our blessings—and taking time to remember them. In college we had a grateful list (that got so long it covered 2 doors!) on which we wrote what we were grateful for. I still have a copy of it in my journal. When my oldest was two-years-old we started a “grateful jar.” At the beginning of November we pull out our jar and start filling it. We keep slips of paper near the jar and daily (unless we forget) we draw a picture of something we’re grateful for. Pictures mean more than words to little ones so it’s a good way for them to express their gratitude in a visual way.

**Last year we wrote thank you’s to family, friends, teachers, etc. Since our oldest wasn’t in school yet he drew pictures and dictated to us a letter for his teachers at church. I’d like to make this a Thanksgiving tradition in our home.

**As we grew older and moved near my mom’s family we had big Thanksgiving gatherings at our home with all of the aunts and uncles and cousins. With that many people you can just imagine the chaos! Before dinner would start and the prayer was said, my dad would always find some kind of Thanksgiving message for my grandpa (who was the patriarch—and a theater major) to read aloud. Even though the message wasn’t the same every year, it was tradition to gather around and listen to my grandpa.


**For as far back as I can remember we had a little wooden manger with a bundle of straw tie up near it. For every good deed we did we were allowed to put a straw in the manger. "Originating in France, this custom has children contributing wisps of straw to the manger each night. Each wisp represents that day's prayers or good deeds. The point, of course, is to creating soft bedding for the coming Christ Child with these soulish gifts. (The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould, p. 22)"

**Kids (and adults!) love advent calendars. I've included the links to several you could make here, here, and here.

**What fills your stocking could be a tradition… in my husband’s family it was full to the top with candy. My parents weren’t big candy eaters so we always found practical things like floss or razors (when we were teens) but one thing we could always count on was an orange in the toe, a banana hanging out the top, and a big jar of dry roasted peanuts stuffed inside.

**Going to look at Christmas lights all bundled in your jammies and listening to Christmas music. My husband and I always pack a thermos or two of hot chocolate or apple cider for ourselves (our kids aren’t old enough to be trusted yet with hot beverages in the car.)

**Read holiday stories by the fireplace. My Dad used to read us The Forgotten Carols (over the course of several days). If you have little ones, read your favorite Christmas picture books. When my boys are older I’d love to read A Christmas Carol with them.

**Be a “Secret Santa” for someone in need. I remember as a girl the rush of bringing a big box of food and gifts to the door, ringing the bell, and running as fast as my feet could carry me.

**Leave treats for Santa (and don’t forget a carrot for the reindeer!) with a note. Remember to have Santa write a quick reply! We did this even after we stopped “believing” and still anticipated what “Santa” would write back.

**Tell the Christmas story on Christmas Eve (act it out if you’d like!). Christmas was always so much fun with opening presents and having family over that we always took time to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas the night before. This was also when we had our nice Christmas dinner.

**I have a friend who takes a family picture in their new Christmas jammies in front of the Christmas tree every year… it’s fun to see how their family changes from year to year.

**Holiday baking. It’s just not Christmas without certain special treats. My favorites are Oatmeal Carmelitas.

**A friend of mine has pillowcases for every holiday—her kids love it!

**You could collect ornaments from places you vacation. Or if you move often collect them from every place you live.

**Another friend would wake up on Christmas morning with soot on her nose—a tell-tale sign that Santa had stopped by.

**Sometime when I was in elementary school my parents decided we needed to focus more on giving than receiving. To achieve this, we started my favorite tradition. When divvying up the gifts on Christmas morning, in addition to the gifts from mom and dad or grandparents, our pile also includes the gifts that we are giving. When it is our turn we get to pick a gift to give someone. It’s so much fun to decide who gets to open a gift and see their reaction when they open it.

**Have a special Christmas breakfast. It can be anything as long as you do it year after year. In our family we had cinnamon rolls, eggnog, and oranges.

New Year’s:

**Have a “Noon” Year’s Eve party. When I was in 8th grade New Year’s Eve fell on a Saturday. My parents didn’t want us staying up past midnight with early morning church the next day so we celebrated at 12:00 p.m. instead of 12:00 a.m. This might even be a good idea if you have little kids and don’t want them up all night (regardless of what day it falls!)

As you can see, even the smallest things can become traditions if you do them consistently. (One year, when I was in college, I was shopping with my mom for last minute Christmas things. As we were talking I discovered that she wasn’t planning on putting peanuts in our stockings that year. I could hardly believe my ears! After expressing my disbelief she had me run to get a few jars. I’m sure she never would have guessed that something so seemingly insignificant could have made any kind of impact on our Christmas.)

I hope this gives you some ideas. I’d love to hear yours!


lori said...

I loved this, Jeanine!! Such meaningful, fun ideas! You are the perfect person to post about wonderful traditions! Love you!

Abbie said...

This is making me really excited for the holidays! (which I was dreading last night when I was making my list of things I need to do before Thanksgiving. being Santa, the packer of luggage, and the coordinator of EVERYTHING is fun, right?) Thanks!

Nicole said...

I love traditions for holidays too!

Also, one suggestion on the collecting ornaments from where you live or visit: Sometimes the selection of actual ornaments is kind of sparce/lame. One thing we've started doing is collecting keychains as ornaments instead--there's usually a better selection of things...and they're also usually much cheaper. :)

Bloom said...

I love collecting ornaments as souvenirs, because you always want some sort of memento, but don't want junk cluttering up the house. Ornament for Christmas tree? Perfect!

So many great ideas, Jeanine. Thank you! Like Abbie, this jumpstarted my holiday spirit!

Megan said...

It makes me want to do it all! I have been in the holiday mood for a while. I want to involve so many of these things for my little family, but will have to say its a bit overwhelming no matter how amazing the ideas are. But thank you for sharing your love of traditions. I'm trying to figure out what I can do because most of the traditions that make holidays for me, I can't do them anymore but you make me want to try!

Joan said...

I think the "Noon" year's party is such a darling idea for young kids.
Thanks for sharing your traditions with us :)

Rachael said...

Two of my favorites:

My dad always buys chocolate-covered raisins and leaves little piles of them all over the house to signify reindeer droppings. A little gross, but also hysterically funny to small children. And plus we would always have so much fun daring each other to eat it.

We always do a big hors d'ouevres spread for dinner on either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, depending on when everyone is home from college. We go totally all-out; everyone chimes in with suggestions of their favorites and then we spend literally all day cooking. We look forward to it all year, we all love cooking and it's so fun to have an excuse to make everyone's favorites all at once. Plus it's pretty much the coolest dinner ever!

Bloom said...

I'm feeling festive inside, too! Thanks for sharing so many fun and meaningful ideas, Jeanine (and everyone else in comments - loved them all).

one tradition that we just started last year was to have PJ Elf come on Christmas Eve. He just rings the doorbell real sneaky-like and when the kids go to the door to see who it was - there are new pajamas on the porch! How mysterious, right? Henry loved it to bits last year. In fact, today he said to me, "mom do you think PJ Elf will be able to find us at our new house this year?" (we recently moved)
I assured him that PJ would indeed find us :)