For many Christmas time is a season of traditions. In our family we have a bunch of traditions we like to incorporate into the festive season that I think are worth sharing. If you get any ideas from our traditions feel free to add them to your own and I would love to hear about your traditions and possibly add them to our line up!
1. Christmas Tree Hunting: every year we try to drive into the mountains and cut our tree. You can read about this year’s adventure on my Christmas Tree Hunting in Western Washington blog!
2. Christmas Shopping in Seattle: This was actually a tradition that we used to do every year when Belinda and I were smaller. Somehow along the way we all got busy and this was a tradition that fell through the cracks. But this year, we reinstated the tradition and Belinda, Kate, mom and I all met in Settle, stayed overnight at the Sheraton hotel and spent two days in Seattle soaking up the magic of Christmas in the city. We went shopping, visited the Christmas village train display, ate awesome food at PF Changs, The Melting Pot and Bennyhanas, checked out the amazing Gingerbread houses made by local chefs, admired the pretty space needle and went on the new farris wheel which was a first time for all of us. We all had a great time and all agreed that this tradition is worth bringing back!
3. Christmas Baking: Every year my aunts and I get together for our annual Christmas cookie Extravaganaza. We use handed down recipes from Nanny and make enough cookies to feed a small army – which is exactly what we are considering Nanny and Poppi had 8 children. This year I couldn’t make the baking extravaganza so I was on my own for cookie making. This year I made chocolate covered pretzels and peanut butter and coconut bonbons.
4. Christmas Eve Dinner: One of the best things about getting married is that you are introduced to a whole new set of Christmas traditions. One of my favorite traditions of my husband, Ross’, family Christmas season is their Christmas Eve celebration. Ross comes from a family full of teachers and over achievers and organization is their specialty. Compared to my family where we are lucky to organize a sign up sheet for food (its usually a free for all) it is refreshing when one of Ross’ aunts send us our annual Christmas Eve itinerary and homework. Each year the celebration rotates between homes which are perfectly decorated for the season. The hostess decides what they serve for food and what sort of activities we will do as a family, but of course they have their traditions that are year to year staples like Christmas caroling around the piano, story telling and the Christmas dessert exchange. The part I most appreciate is the emphasis on being together and celebrating traditions rather than gifts and fancy feasts. Even the scroogiest of scrooges can’t help but be merry at these celebrations. Below is this years invitation so you can get a feeling for exactly what kind of planning and love goes into this event and just may give you some ideas for your own family get together. Reprinted with permission from Aunt Cheri!
Our traditional Christmas Eve Party is one of the few times we are able to gather together as an extended family. It also is a time of year that can be filled with additional holiday stress. The changes we made last year seemed to make our time together even more enjoyable…it was relaxing, fun and memorable! Following are details that will help everyone with their planning and how to help with the festivities:
- Appetizers: Every family brings one of their favorites. It seems we all enjoy visiting and snacking on different varieties of hors d’oeuvres more than having a big meal.
- Main Dinner: We will order a variety of meaty deli sandwiches for everyone. Each family pays $5.00 per adult (no money is collected for children).
- Desserts: Every family brings one platter of their favorite delights to share. Make us forget the calorie counting!
- Beverages: Please bring whatever quenches your thirst.
We embrace an old fashioned Christmas through simple traditions.
- The Tom Mason Family: They are responsible for bringing another fun Christmas game appropriate for all ages.
- Ross and Venise: The Christmas Story they prepared last year was a classic and we ask that they repeat this again.
- All other adults: When you enter the party a sign-up sheet listing Christmas songs from our songbooks will be available. Please select one or two songs. Before the end of the party, your responsibility is to make sure you get the group singing those particular songs. The ringing of the Christmas bell announces the impromptu singing. Gentle Reminder: You do not need to have a singing voice in order to do this…just get us started. [Symbol]
- Surprise Performances/Activities: As always, anyone wishing to add something unexpected from the heart is just extra frosting on the gingerbread cookie!
For Children: Parents bring one gift for their own child to open (optional). This may be more important for the younger children. Each child (includes anyone from birth to a senior in high school) will have a Christmas Box placed on the steps with their name on it. Anonymous goodies, money and/or gifts from elves may be placed in the boxes throughout the night. At the end of the party the children take this box home and open up their treasures. The children attending this year are: Brandon, Chase, Michael and Jason
Adults: There are no expectations for adults to exchange gifts. No pressure. If someone wants to give, then we just accept our gifts with love.
5. Nativity Set and baby Jesus: And lastly, a family tradition that is one of my favorites celebrates the real reason for the season! Each year we put together a nativity set. When I celebrated my first Christmas in my first house I asked my grandpa Val to make me a nativity set as he is a master woodworker. He agreed and created the coolest nativity set I have seen made of old shingles we removed from my house. It is now the highlight of my mantel. Each year I set up the manger scene with hay and my nativity set my grandma Nancy bought me, but I always leave baby Jesus out. Sometimes when people are admiring my nativity set people ask where baby Jesus is, and my response is always that he hasn’t been born yet. Then on Christmas morning before we open presents we put baby Jesus in the manger. This serves as a good reminder that it’s not about the presents but about remembering all the God has done for us. This is a tradition my Nanny showed me as a kid. Every year when I came over to her house on Christmas I would always check and make sure that Jesus had indeed been born and was in the manger and of course Nanny never forgot! I love this tradition specifically because it brings back memories of celebrating Christmas with my grandparents and highlights the true meaning on Christmas.