The Christmas season holds many special memories for me over the past 40+ years. As a child, it was my most favorite time of the year, not because of the gifts (well…maybe just a little) but because of the traditions. You see, as an only child it could be a bit lonely. I didn’t have any siblings to play with, talk to, or argue with. However, I did have many cousins, who doubled as my siblings. Every year we looked forward to Christmas at Granny’s. It was an entire day & evening of fun-filled events with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and Granny! Her little house was jammed packed with people, food, good stories, laughs, small gifts but most of all…full of love! Being the extrovert that I am, the hustle and bustle of Christmas at Granny’s propelled me into the extreme thralls of “Holiday Bliss”. I cherish those memories. However, as time marched on and family dynamics changed, so did the traditions of Christmas. I found myself with my own little family and the opportunity to create new memories and traditions.
When my children were little, we had very traditional traditions. We would bake cookies for Santa and leave note with a glass of milk on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning we would wake up super early, gather around the tree to read about the birth of Jesus and open up our presents. It was fun and easy. As my children grew into adults, I wanted break away from the normal traditions and create “non-traditional” traditions. It helped us to keep our perspective, reduce stress and most of all….have fun! I wanted to share some of the different things we have done throughout the years to continue our “non-traditional” tradition.
- “Pancake Paradise & Beverage Bar”- We gather on Christmas morning and prepare pancakes with a bar of gourmet toppings (chocolate chips, strawberry, chocolate drizzle, whip cream, maple syrup, cinnamon sugar, etc) and compliment it with a beverage bar where you create your own beverage… Anything from Cran-apple Mimosas to Gourmet Godiva chocolate cocoa with peanut butter bliss. We have a gift exchange for all.
- “Stuff the Stocking”- Rather than purchase a gift for everyone in the family, we each draw a name and keep it secret. We set a limit of $30 or less and stuff the stocking with unique items that best describe the person we are buying for. We each take turns of revealing items in our stocking and guessing who the “Secret Santa” is.
- “White Elephant Exchange”- We each draw a name and keep it secret. We set a limit of $10 and the rule is you have to purchase your gift from a thrift shop/second hand store and the gift has to meaningful for the person you are buying it for. *I had my oldest daughter’s name one year and she LOVED Barney growing up. I found a miniature singing Barney at Goodwill and a few VHS Barney tapes all for less than $10! She loved it and it was fun!
- “Dinner & Donations”- We gather together on Christmas evening for a dinner where we each prepare a dish to compliment the “dinner theme” we pre- determined. One year it was an Italian theme with homemade pizza, breadsticks, lasagna, spaghetti, salad and dessert. We selected a charity to make donations to rather than purchase gifts for each other. We played games , Christmas music and watched Christmas movies (of course we took tons of selfies, too)
- “Christmas in a Box” (or bag)- Typically on Thanksgiving we will determine what we are doing for Christmas. This particular year we decided to create a theme of “family” and make Christmas Boxes that promoted family. What better way to promote family time than a movie box. I decorated a cardboard box with wrapping paper and filled it with DVD’s, movie tickets, bags of microwave popcorn, various boxes of candy and a 2 liter of soda.
- “Door Prize”- We prepared a traditional Christmas dinner with ham, turkey and all of the fixings. I purchased a gift card to a local merchant for the “door prize”. Rather than purchase gifts for each other that year, we each contributed $5 towards the “door prize”. We placed everyone’s name into a drawing and drew out one lucky winner for the “door prize”. Another year we had a slight variation. Rather than purchasing a gift card, we each placed our initials on a $5 bill and placed it into a hat. Whomever’ s $5 bill was drawn, won the entire hat (and money).
Regardless of traditions, my hope is that each of will have the opportunity to take a moment out of your busy schedules to spend time with those that matter most to you this Holiday Season! Merry Christmas…Feliz Navidad… Mele Kalikimaka… Feliz Natal!