This will be the first year that Lily (who is two and a half years old) somewhat understands the celebrations that happen at the end of the year. This has forced us to really think about what kind of traditions we want to share with our children. Kyle and I both grew up celebrating Christmas, as we both have catholic backgrounds (although we are no longer religious). He grew up believing that Santa Claus brought his gifts, while I believed that Baby Jesus did– a normal substitute in South America. Although it was pretty fun while we believed it, we both agreed that we felt very stupid and foolish for believing it for as long as we did.
So, as controversial and against-the-norm as it is, we have decided we will not be telling them that Santa Claus (or Baby Jesus) are real. It was not an easy decision, mostly because of the extra responsibility that comes with educating our children that other families might have differing beliefs around the subject. Undoubtedly, our society is set up to support parents that want to teach their kids that Santa is real, leaving families that do not wish to participate in an awkward position. Ultimately we felt it was more important to be truthful to our children than to ride the Santa Claus wave (and make our lives easier).
We are confident we can create a fun, happy holiday celebration without religion or without making them believe a fictional story is reality. We are supportive of any tradition that raises kind, compassionate, beautiful human beings. Therefore, we do not judge anyone who has views different than ours, and we know that whatever you decide to practice in your home, is truly the best for your family.
We will gladly explain the story of Santa Claus like we would any other story to our girls. We will still put up a Christmas tree, read books about Christmas characters, play pretend games, talk about all Christmas/Hanukkah traditions, and of course explain that some people like to dress up like their favorite Christmas characters. Our intention is to be as discrete as possible, so we don’t put our fellow parents in an awkward situation, while also being very honest to our daughters.
With that said, Christmas is about more than just Santa Claus. To us, it’s about celebrating our family bond and the joy of giving to others.
So, whether you agree or disagree with our stance on Santa, here are some awesome holiday traditions we are planning on doing this year:
- Bring out Elf on the Shelf- As you can assume from my intro, we will not be doing the traditional Elf on the Shelf either. But she (yes, our elf’s name is Elfia and she’s a latina Elf) will sleep on the tree every night but will show up doing goofy things in the morning. Our children will know that Mami & Daddy are behind her mischief but it will still be fun to guess what Elfia is up to next.
- Advent Calendar- This tradition originated with the German Lutherans in the 1800’s and it symbolizes the 24 days leading up to Christmas Day. It has been modernized, and even us non-believers have adopted it as something fun to do during the holidays. We like it because it’s not only a way to countdown to the big day, but you can also fill it with treats, small trinkets, and notes with fun things to do.
- This is the one we got from Target. I inserted notes with fun things to do each day, some big (like a trip to a Christmas Tree Farm) and some small (like a dance party in the living room). But there are zillions of kinds out there, pick the one that suits your family dynamic best. Some even come pre-filled with candy and trinkets.
- I love this Adult Version. It’s an advent calendar of wines! We didn’t order it this year but would love to try it next year.
- Volunteer as a family- We love the idea of giving back every day of the year, but most especially during the holidays, which can be hard on some folks that aren’t as fortunate. When we lost our son, it was very hard to experience every holiday without him. So, I remind myself that as happy as the holidays are, there can be a lot of silent pain behind it as well.
- Find a local toy or food drive and go shopping for it together.
- As the kids get older, there are some organizations that allow helpers as young as 13.
- Clear out toys/clothes to make room for incoming gifts. Donate them to your favorite charity. This is a great way to teach your children how to share their toys/clothes with children and families that need it more.
- Bake cookies/treats to keep or give away-This also make great gifts for neighbors, friends, family and teachers.
- My kids are just 1 & 2, with very short attention spans. So, to save time I do most of the work myself and bring them in on the easier parts (and more fun, of course) of the process– such as mixing, scooping, decorating and bagging. Be prepared for them to consume a lot of their materials 😆
- Make homemade presents (mugs, ornaments, Christmas cards)-Wooden Ornaments– These can be painted, covered in glitter, colored with markers, etc. A blank canvas and great gift to share with family.
- Acrylic Fillable Ornaments- Fill these up with pom poms, or leaves or whatever theme you have going on this year. Our kids love doing anything DIY.
- For DIY holiday Xmas Cards- here’s a few ideas I gathered:
- Ceramic Coasters- you can stick or paint anything on these and then paint a layer of clear coating to seal your timeless work of art.
- Paintable Mug- The best handmade gift that can be used all year round.
- Make gingerbread house-Here is a recipe for a homemade version. I still have yet to try this myself but would like to someday. It seems time-consuming but could be fun to tackle as a family when the kids are older, plus you get to pick your own candy.
- Gingerbread house kits are available everywhere, even Amazon. Pick one that best serves your needs.
- Make homemade decorations-Wall Felt Tree– this is super fun for kids to do (and undo, and redo over and over).
- Pinterest Ideas here.
- Make a list of gifts you want to get each other and wrapping our gifts together-I know I’ll not only love any gift my child thoughtfully picked out for me, and so will their friends and family. But I will especially love how they wrap it for me.
- Visit a Christmas Tree Farm- We have a fake tree because our space is limited and I personally hate cleaning those pine needles for months after Christmas is over. But going to a Christmas Tree farm is magical not matter what, even if you don’t intend on coming home with one.
- Attend a local parade or Christmas Tree lighting celebration- We live in the ‘burbs, so our most convenient one is at an outdoor mall. One of my favorite parts about Christmas are the beautiful lights that adorn our community.
- Go ice skating- Our closest one is at the same outdoor mall. Although, our kids are a little too young to ice-skate, it is pretty awesome people watching so we take them anyway.
- Make & eat lasagna (or other special meal of choice) for Christmas Eve dinner- Because my husband is Italian and I shamelessly love lasagna. It’s a great way for the kids to help layer the layers goodness. Of course, whatever dinner is special in your home (even take-out can be a treat!) is also a great tradition.
- Make hot chocolate with marshmallows & cinnamon rolls on Christmas day- We as we open presents. Be aware that your children might have sugar high all day (and therefore refuse to nap- this happened to us last year). But who cares, because it’s Christmas, right?
- Wear matching Pajamas- This is the first time we are doing this. As corny as it is, I love seeing pictures of our friends and family wearing matching jammies on Christmas morning. This year my in-laws are joining us and they will have to participate (sorry Harry & Pat!).
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
❤Be Healthy Mami
4 thoughts on “Our Family Holiday Traditions”
Cinnamon buns Christmas morning is the best! I have an epic recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls that I make every Christmas. My favorite traditions are making ornaments, decorating the tree, drinking “eggnoggin”, watching holiday specials and movies, Christmas dinner at our house, and all the beautiful lights everywhere. St Nicholas was a real person and his birthday is December 6th. There are some great stories about him and why he became well known that speak to the true spirit of the Winter season. Shorter days, less food, and sickness required that people shared what they had with one another so that everyone had the best chance of surviving the darkness and cold. We have an advent wreath too! We made our own beeswax candles this year at Leo’s school. Candle dipping might be my new favorite holiday tradition🌲🕯🥰
Thank you for sharing your favorite traditions Tara ❤ I’ll be sure to look up the story of St Nicholas, sounds like a beautiful message to share with the girls. I hear Candle-dipping is VERY time consuming, but Im sure it’s fun to share with Leo and the family. As always, love you & thank you for reading.
That was a compelling read! Not at all what I expected and pretty thought provoking. Your stance on Christmas seems very courageous and I commend your family decision to go against the grain. Even though we stand in the complete opposite end of the spectrum, chruch (midnight mass is pretty magical), Santa, reading books about both stories… this year Toph & Kane had a little advent calendar, Toph at the chocolate and we stuffed dried cherries in it for Kane. But next I want to DIY one with treats, RAC, and activity based cards to really provoke that spirit of giving, Christmas and thanks. Hope for read some post holiday exurbs! Or omg… new year resolutions?? I’m terrible at those!! Xoxox
I’m definitely taking note of all the stuff that didn’t work this year, we were definitely too early on the advent calendar in our house (that, or I made it way more complicated, less exciting for a 2 year old)= already learnings for next year. I don’t do resolutions because (like the the majority of humanity) I can’t see to keep them. However, I like setting long term goals and short term goals. They change and evolve as I change and evolve, so I don’t feel as guilty when I don’t see them through.
As always, thank you so much for reading and for YOUR thoughtful comment. Love you!