Family Traditions - Need Ideas Creating One (Starting Christmas) - Mothering Forums
Stay at Home Parents > Family Traditions - Need Ideas Creating One (Starting Christmas)
Mamaluu's Avatar Mamaluu 04:32 PM 11-12-2010

We're a young family just starting out (child #1 is 16-month old, #2 is due in Dec). Both mine and my husband's family live far away and we don't see them for years at a time.  Going through child-bearing years & baby stages all on our own with no family support is difficult.  Not having any family around during holidays and occasions make us feel even more lonely.  It's unfortunate that we don't have the extended family around, but while we're starting our own family, I'd like to start creating traditions for our own small family so our children can have them.  How do you go about creating these traditions and what are some ideas to start with?  Could you share some of your family traditions please?  (such as, what you do on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, Easter, Memorial day, etc).

I can almost envision having these traditions and getting all your kids involved & excited, but in my imagination that would be with older kids who'd do craft, help cook, do activities, etc. What do you do with a 16 month old and an infant (and in all those years when kids are so young they don't know anything)?  There doesn't seem to be much to do - how do you still have some traditions and festivity so you can still feel like you are part of the holiday celebration and no so lonely for not having family to celebrate it with? (By the way, we really don't have any close friends here either).

Another questions for the more immediate term is specifically about this Christmas. With the due date of mid-Dec, we don't know if baby#2 will be here on Christmas yet or not. But with the unknown, I still would really like to have a very warm Christmas this year with our own little family.  I'd like for it to be warm, festive, and memorable. Especially, it's going to be the first year that our oldest one will actually know a bit of what's going on, and I'd really like to create a special Christmas for him as his first "real Christmas" (his actual first Christmas he was only an infant so it didn't really count). What can I do to plan for Christmas this year (regardless if baby#2 is here or not)?  What kinds of things do you suggest we do to feel more a part of the holiday instead of just-another-postpartum-sleep-deprived day? (or, possibly, just-another-day-waiting-for-baby-to-arrive)

mommariffic's Avatar mommariffic 06:45 PM 11-12-2010

For a younger toddler:

Christmas sensory bin -- put in tweezers/scooping cups and pom poms, pine cones, red/green beans, snow men cookie cutters etc..

Peppermint play-doh -- again using cookie cutters for the holidays?

Holiday "scents" -- we did this with our daughter. I used cotton balls and did cinnamon/peppermint/cloves and let her smell each one


Our family traditions:

For Christmas we do a lot of home-centered stuff. We decorate and make homemade decorations [stringing popcorn can be great! drying fruit for garlands is fun too and things children can help with..] Lots of baking cookies and crafts, having holiday parties, making gifts etc. I do a lot of this on my own but try to make it fun for DD [who's 3..]  We live right outside Manhattan so there's a lot of wonderful free holiday things we can attend to, so I try to make a small list of them to do.  Christmas Eve we normally hang stockings leave out cookies, watch a holiday movie and have a light easy dinner. Christmas is about opening presents, and eating lots of delicious yummy things!


New Years - I can never stay up until midnight. We normally do a lot of seafood/cheeses and eat as a family and let the kiddo have sparking cider before bed. On New Years Day we may have a large dinner [I think this year DH wants to cook some fancy 4 course meal for friends..]


Easter - we are not religious so we celebrate the coming of spring. We do an egg hunt, plant seeds, talk about growth, do a spring scavenger hunt.



I'm pooped so this is all I have so far : )

PNCTink's Avatar PNCTink 07:49 AM 11-13-2010

We don't have any family within four hours of us, so I can sympathize. It can be really difficult during the holiday season, but there are perks too. For Christmas we start the season on Black Friday. We go out and cut down our Christmas tree (which usually takes us a couple of hours) and then we come home to decorate. We put on our Christmas music and we spend the next two or three days putting up all of our decorations. We have more family movie nights where we snuggle under a blanket on the couch and watch various Christmas movies, I make popcorn, etc. We do quite a bit of baking (DD really loves to bake). We have a counter on our kitchen where I can be on one side while she's on a stool on the other side. I give her her own batch of dough, cookie cutters, and rolling pin (we found a small one in Macy's two years ago) and she could spend two hours playing with that dough. We make cookies for our neighbors. We go Christmas caroling in our neighborhood with the neighbors across the street and their church members. I make quite a few gifts and DD will watch me (sometimes I can give her her own to work on, but she's 3). DH's family always had pork sandwiches for dinner on Christmas Eve, but we've chosen hot meatloaf sandwiches for our dinner. Last year I made pjs for our family and I am going to do the same this year. I just ordered the fabric. Christmas day we just lounge around in our pjs for most of the day, I make a ham dinner, and we've called our family members. This year we're planning to Skype with them all. Skype has made it a bit easier for us to connect with our families and our kids really love it. Dh's parents bought their camera just before us, and we sent one to my mother. I can't say enough great things about it.


New year's eve isn't really big for us. I always fall asleep before midnight, but I think as the kids get older we may have a neighborhood party.


DH, DS, and I all have birthdays in a three week period just after the holidays. I bake a cake (DD helps) and we have that person's favorite meal for dinner that night. DH tries to take the days off from work so we can do something special too.


I think making decorations is fun, so we do decorate for Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. For V-Day DH brings myself and DD a single rose, and last year he brought a stuffed animal for DS. St. Patty's day we travel to NY for the big parade in my hometown.


We're not particularly religous either, so for Easters so far we've just done baskets. I also focus on spring with DD.


We acknowledge May Day and Cinco de Mayo, but don't celebrate. DH is English so the world stops when the World Cup is on. Then there's nothing else for us until Halloween. We decorate and I make costumes. DD LOVES handing out goodies to ToTers and this was the first year we went out too. Guy Fawkes night in England the ILs set off fireworks and this year we were able to "join" them via Skype.


Usually DH works on Thanksgiving, but I do dinner for when he comes home. I remember watching the Macy's parade as a kid so I may put that on this year since the DC are a bit older.


As you can see, Christmas is our big family traditions holiday. DH could be Santa Claus, he just loves the spirit of Christmas so much and it's infectious. I hope I've helped. :)

Mamaluu's Avatar Mamaluu 04:03 AM 11-16-2010

Thanks for the responses so far.  It's great to hear what others do.

So how and when did these traditions become traditions usually?  Do they not become traditions until the kids are older or did you start since day one?

Would love hearing more about what other families do and advice on starting our own traditions with young babies.


PNCTink's Avatar PNCTink 11:25 AM 11-16-2010

Originally Posted by Mamaluu View Post

Thanks for the responses so far.  It's great to hear what others do.

So how and when did these traditions become traditions usually?  Do they not become traditions until the kids are older or did you start since day one?


Some of ours came from things our families did while we were growing up and some were things we'd spoken about doing once we had a family. The things we had spoken about wanting to do we started when our DD was just a baby and we've added some things as she's gotten older.

LoveLife's Avatar LoveLife 08:23 PM 11-19-2010

We're in the same boat, but I'm due in February with #2 and DS just turned 2 in October, so he's a bit older.  What I've tried to do is just make the holidays warm and festive, things that bring good memories for me or DH.  DH has a particularly hard time with this because EVERY holiday was a big extended family event for him, while for me, my Dad was in the Marines so we spent lots of holidays just me, my brother and parents.


Last year, DS was only 14 months, so really I just did a lot of stuff myself and tried to include him.  Like I sat him on the counter next me to while I made Christmas cookies.  He has a blast playing the flour and squishing the dough.  Baking is now one of our favorite things to do together.  I play lots of Christmas music, it lifts my spirits.  We went to the zoo, which was having a light festival (we'll go again this year- they're having an ice rink at the zoo!  In Tennessee no less!)  We also did something similar with the sensory bin as PP, just had a basket of pinecones, acorns, chestnuts, just seasonal things and let him play in it.


Oh, I always make homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve and stick them in the fridge, then Christmas morning when we do gifts, I just pop them in the oven and a wonderful smell fills the house while we open gifts. 


This year I'm planning to do more with DS, we're getting him a small Christmas tree and making all the decorations to add to it over the first few weeks of December, snowlfake ornaments, dried fruit garland, etc.  I think he's going to love it and I'm really excited about it because it will give us a lot to do together.  I was planning to do an Activity Advent Calendar, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get everything together in time.


For Easter, we take a lot of nature walks in the spring, we'll do an Easter Egg Hunt this year (last year he didn't really get it).  He again, hung out while I colored eggs which was fun.  We do church as usual and then have another couple over for dinner.


The summer holidays, we go camping.  This year it was too hot to do the 4th, but Memorial and Labor Day weekends were great.  We hike, swim, and sit around the fire at night.  DS loved the tent and just being in nature.  Plus getting away from the house makes it less lonely for us.


Thanksgiving, my parents usually try to come down.  So we do the big turkey dinner, etc and crash on the couch in the afternoon.  Not sure how that's going to work with DS this year.  LOL.


I think most of what makes traditions is just being deliberate about things and taking the time to connect.  If I'm rushing to get Christmas cookies made just because its a tradition, then we end up taking no time to connect over the process of making cookies, ya know?  I guess with little ones I'm trying to start traditions now, knowing they will be added to and adapted as time goes on.  Also, I'd like to try to bring things from my & DH's families that are important to us and pass them on (although my family has more traditions than DH, so it feels a bit lopsided).  We'll see how it ends up.


Good luck with your new baby and the start of family traditions!

inky leeuhhh's Avatar inky leeuhhh 10:54 PM 11-27-2010

brought this thread back from the dead, lol. as far as spending holidays with an infant, i would focus on making your own memories of that first holiday. take a lot of pictures and snuggle that baby! the first few years go by so fast. just enjoy them! i spent a lot of time trying to do everything to make the holidays perfect for dd1 the first couple years, and now looking back i realize all she wanted was to spend time with me.


 we are sort of a newly formed family as well (i was a single mom up until a couple years ago, and then we went through a bumpy adjustment period), and still trying to work out our holiday traditions. so far it seems like we will sort of be flip- flopping family time during the holidays, trying to get time with different sides of the family. last year we put the tree up and did decorations the weekend after thanksgiving weekend, so we will probably do that this year. we like to make a fire in the fireplace, have hot cocoa, listen to holiday music, and decorate the tree. we also love to snuggle and watch movies with hot cider and popcorn. we have some little felt gnomes that like to bring dds little surprises throughout the year. most of the year i let the little brown gnomes leave them little things, like a note or a picture or a seashell. during the holidays our little green and red christmas gnomes come out, and they will leave fun holiday stuff like ingredients to make cookies, warm comfy socks, holiday stickers. last night the gnomes snuck out into the living room with a soft blanket and a dvd for dd to watch when she woke up, along with a mug for hot chocolate and a bowl for oatmeal. she always gets so excited over that stuff! she is six- dd2 is still too young so it just goes over her head at this point. lol. oh, we also have another silly thanksgiving tradition. the weds before thanksgiving we have a little easy version of a thanksgiving dinner with just our family. nothing fancy- just a turkey breast and some pre packaged stuffing, mashed potatoes, and easy sides. i don't know why i started doing that- i think i just liked having our "just us" holiday time. plus that way we get to eat thanksgiving dinner twice :ox .birthdays i let the girls go crazy and bake their own cakes. i always take a picture and they can do whatever they want to their cake. its always pretty interesting!


good luck and have fun making your own holiday traditions and memories!

Mamaluu's Avatar Mamaluu 05:23 AM 11-29-2010


Originally Posted by LoveLife View Post
I was planning to do an Activity Advent Calendar, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get everything together in time.




I think most of what makes traditions is just being deliberate about things and taking the time to connect.  If I'm rushing to get Christmas cookies made just because its a tradition, then we end up taking no time to connect over the process of making cookies, ya know?

Thanks for the replies.  I agree with your last comment about the making sure that you don't get lost in the busy-ness of creating festivity and lose the original intent of having these traditions.  That's the kind of thing I can see happening to me - being too busy & stressed out about "getting ready" for the holiday and losing some enjoyment.   But what I'm doing now (which is basically nothing for holiday planning) is also not a good one!  After all, I'd like to feel warm and festive.


Please keep the ideas coming as holiday approaches.  It really helps to hear what others do for their holidays to bounce ideas.

kayabrink's Avatar kayabrink 07:47 PM 12-02-2010

We do a family advent calendar, which is my way of keeping on track with the things I want/ need to get done for the holidays. For example, I want to send cards to family. So, one of the activites on our advent calendar is "make cards for family". My ds is now seven, so he's capable of assisting or making in his own right, but I used to just put out paper and red/green/gold crayons and let him scribble away. Another day is, 'Get out the christmas books and put them in a basket in the living room' (I hide these books the rest of the time to make them more special at christmas). About once a week, the advent gives us a "bake cookies" message. That might not be fun if your 9+ months pregggo, or have a two day old.  One day is, "make a gingerbread house". With ds at 7 and dd at 1, I'm going to do a full on homebaked one, but you could do a mini g.b. house using storebought graham crackers for walls, and icing for glue.

Try to think of small but important things- maybe you want to have christmas dinner, maybe not- we do it on Xmas eve because dh is French, and that's the important meal day for them. Xmas day is just about kids opening gifts.

It was important for us to define our gift-giving policies- e.g.Are you going to "do" santa (that sounds wrong)- we do, but some here don't. do all gifts come from Santa (this is the case in France) or do some come from him and some from family members? Do gifts go under the tree before Xmas day (this was the case in my house as a kid) or not? I used to love having some presents to shake around trying to determine what they were (don't put any breakables). Also, on christmas eve, we let the kids open one present, of our choosing. Something fun but calm that we can do together that night- board game, book, dvd...

I always let ds put unbreakable ornements on the tree, and let him make some ornements (at 13 mo, I cut a shape of construction paper, let him 'draw' on it with a glue stick, then threw sprinkles on it. It this attractive? No. Did it please him and have some festive elements to it? Yes.)

Also think about how you define christmas. Dh's family went to midnight mass EVERY year. Dh and I are both atheists, however, so we don't do that.

Just for this year, if I were in your shoes, I'd just decorate my living room  (tree, window lights, christmas books, bowl of xmas candy, candy canes, storebought gingerbread) and hang out in there with the kid(s), reading books on the couch and listneing to carols. Just me. I spent four weeks on the couch after dd was born, only getting up to ferry ds to/from school.

When you think of Christmas when you were little , what do you remember? Do that.

sdm1024's Avatar sdm1024 04:43 AM 12-05-2010

Hmmm....making Christmas cookies, and letting the older child use some leftover dough as playdough. Get colored sugars/sprinkles and have the 16 month old decorate by shaking the sprinkles on top.


We have a Thanksgiving's large and made of felt. Each day is a pocket. We write down what we are thankful for throughout the month and then read them aloud over Thanksgiving dessert. We found one for Christmas, but it was at Pottery Barn Kids and I wasn't willing to part with $70 for it. If you are good with sewing I bet you could make one.


We do a Christmas decorating day, usually the first or second weekend of Dec with the tree, homemade hot chocolate, mulled cider, cookies and either have Christmas movies or music on while decorating. A couple of town here have Christmas parades, "Victorian walks etc.


Our big holiday dinner is on Christmas eve as gather for an informal, but tasty night of food, games, and hanging out. On Christmas day we open gifts and just hang around the house, or visit friends/family.