1. BAKE COOKIES TOGETHER - The taste of the cookie dough, the smells in the house and the tasty final result always make it worthwhile. Sure you could do without the mess but you will instilling a love of cooking and cookies all at the same time! Pass some on to friends and extended family and you will certainly bring some holiday cheer to that person.
My mother bakes so many different kinds of cookies every year and hands out trays of the grand assortment. Each of us has our favorites that get eaten right away. Sometimes it is a classic peanut blossom cookie but for others it may be her ginger cookies or my personally favorite the peanut chews.
2. HOMEMADE SECRET SANTA - For years, we did not exchange gifts with the extended family (ie nieces and nephews, cousins, etc). It was just too large of a crowd. Last year we decided to start a homemade secret santa gift exchange. If you were interested in participating your name goes into the hat. Every one then picks a name out of the hat. The one rule is that the present has to be homemade. We had all sorts of gifts last year from homemade hot cocoa mix to paper weights to paintings. It was so fun to see what everyone created for each other and to see some people were much more talented that we thought.
3. CUTTING DOWN THE CHRISTMAS TREE - This is definitely one of my most favorite activities although each year it becomes harder to find the time (which is sad...). When I was a child, we would go and shop for a fresh Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. I was the youngest of 7 and money was tight so my dad wanted to get a good deal on a tree. I think part of the fun was just for him to haggle with the tree guy to knock a few bucks off the cost of the tree. I have great memories of going with my dad. For many years it was just him and I who would go together to pick out the perfect tree.
Now going with my husband and 6 kids I still find it very comforting although we don't go on Christmas Eve. There is nothing like watching my husband teach the children how to cut the tree down and the youngest ones yelling "timber". I have many great pictures of the kids helping to carry/drag the tree back to the car. And lots of funny memories of how bad we tie the tree to the top of the car (hint: don't follow us we seriously stink at tying the tree down).
4. CHRISTMAS GAMES/SONGS - When we all get together at my sister's house on Christmas day we try to participate in a group game. For the last two years we have played the Name Game (the directions for this game will have to be in another blog post so stay tuned). One year I created a family scavenger hunt for the kids. There were quiz questions about family members and the kids had to solve who was who. This year we will try the Christmas Doodle Find game and see who will hold the record for the shortest amount of time to find all the Christmas pictures. I also plan on making a Christmas time line. Not sure how I will do this yet.
As the day starts to wind down, we all gather in the living room to sing Christmas carols. The last song is the 12 Days of Christmas where my parents (79 and 80 years old) are the Two Turtle Doves. I have been doing this as long as I can remember and I am 45 years old so that is one long Christmas tradition. Except for the one year I missed when I was on bedrest when pregnant with our oldest daughter.
5. CHRISTMAS PAGEANT - For at least the past 8 years the children have participated in the Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve. It is so beautiful each year to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas at mass listening to the children sing.
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?