Last night, Husband and I sat in the living room with our Christmas lights twinkling and our tree all lit up. Not many other lights were on in the house, just the bright colorful lights of the season, lit up our place. He on one couch with Olive, I on the other couch, with Jersey – of course – we watched Rafaella romp around the living room entertaining herself: looking at the tree, trying to grab the tree, picking up shoes, trying to lick the shoes (kids are gross that way), pulling the blanket off the ottoman, wrapping herself in the blanket like something out of the Nativity Scene. It was one of those small moments that you realize is a big moment and moves you in a BIG way. We started talking about Christmas Future and Mike, in his wise and wonderful soulful way said, “These will be our traditions, huh?” Yeah. I thought. They will be. And I can’t wait.
Traditions are what make Christmas; what build memories.
I have so many memories of my own Christmases that dreaming of building memories with Rafaella and her soon to be baby brother, as a new family, makes me all – grinch after realizing what Christmas really is – warm inside
I’ve started compiling my own ideas and ideas from bloggers and Pinterest – my go to for all things Wow! What an amaze idea – that I think would make for fun and warm and memorable and most importantly, togetherly Christmas and holiday traditions; things that make me watery eyed and corny excited. I hope you can get some ideas for your own traditions and share them with me.
#1 – Christmas in NYC
When Husband and I first started dating, for our first Christmas season, we both took the same day off of work and went into New York City, the best city in the world that we are lucky to have close by, to do all things Christmas… as only NYC can do. Little did we know that we were starting a tradition without even knowing it. Every year after that we would take off a day from school and hop on a train to Manhattan to window browse the perfectly adorned NYC windows, visit Macy’s, eat soup, drink lots of hot chocolate, of course see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and end in the peace and solitude of beautiful Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I don’t know where we will live in the future but I hope that we could make it back to NYC, my favorite city, every year, for my favorite time of year. And if the kids have to play hooky and be taken out of school for this yearly tradition, I have a feeling they’ll love it even more.
#2 – Mini-Van Express
Passed down from one blogger to another, I found this idea on Pinterest. The idea is that as the kids take baths, put on their pajamas and get ready for bed, you prepare your car, however you’d like, for the excursion: make popcorn, hot chocolate, decorate your car (I”ve done this before and LOVE getting into a Christmas car), get your Christmas station or CD ready, get dressed as a train conductor, etc. When the kids get to their room, they find a Mini-Van Express Ticket waiting for them which they will use to “board” the Mini-Van. When they get to the car in their PJs, the conductor, hole punches their ticket and off you go. From here, you could take this a few different ways. You might do the same thing every year or maybe you change it up every year but here are some ideas on where to take your Mini-Van Express:
🍷Drive around your neighborhood or other neighborhoods ooh-ing and ahhh-ing at the decorations. My family used to do this and I LOVED it!
🍷 Look in your area for other places that are decorated. In NJ, off Exit 116 (what? everything in NJ has an “exit”) the PNC Arts Center which normally holds concerts used to decorate their huge parking lot in a Christmas Lights Spectacular. You would drive the parking lot with your family through a magical world of Christmas lights and festivity.
🍷 Find a local outdoor skating rink and take the kiddies ice-skating in your pajamas (how cute would that be?)
#3 – 25 Books of Christmas
Having been an English teacher and married to another school teacher, who had his own collection of children’s books before I was ever in the picture, this one is a great idea for us! For each day in December, wrap a Christmas book and leave it under the tree. Then every night, the kids unwrap one book and we sit around the tree and read it together. Christmas Eve; however, would always end with the traditional “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” I also might throw in a little variation to the 25 Books of Christmas by adding to an already established tradition. For the last few years, Husband and I have had a weekly tradition Friday nights. After putting both babes to sleep at 7:00 pm, we order pizza and put on a movie, but each Friday in December, instead of a book, we unwrap a Christmas movie and watch it on the big screen with the kiddos (and then another one just for us)
Christmas Movie Ideas:
- Miracle on 34th Street (old and new version)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Scrooged (noooooo PEEKING! – haha – great movie, totally underrated)
- The Grinch (definitely cartoon version)
- The Family Man
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Love Actually (when they’re older)
- The Polar Express
- Home Alone
- Prep & Landing (I caught this Disney Christmas movie on TV a few years ago… solid)
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
#4 – Christmas Night
This great idea was originally for Christmas Eve. The box included new pajamas, popcorn, hot chocolate, and a movie to watch on Christmas Eve before getting ready for Santa’s arrival but as any good Cuban knows, Noche Buena is celebrated with a lot of food, drink, and noise so being peaceful an watching a movie just wouldn’t work on December 24. Instead, I am opting to do this on Christmas Night. I love Christmas night. It might be my favorite night of the year. There is something so peaceful and heartwarming about sitting around after the hustle and bustle of the season is behind you, but still with you. After buying and wrapping and ribboning, and trips to crowded malls and making your visits, and opening all of the presents, Christmas night brings about that peacefulness allowing you to sit in front of the tree or TV and eat leftovers and reflect on the beauty that is December 25th. How special would it be at this moment to have one last “family” present that no one is expecting?
You could wrap individual presents for each person or (as this picture shows) wrap one big box, layered with gifts for each family member. Your box can include whatever you’d like but I like the idea of making it a family event.
- New pajamas
- Christmas Movie or Christmas Book(s)
- Hot Chocolate
- Caramel Popcorn
- Cookie Dough to bake cookies
- Blanket, slippers, or something cozy for movie watching
- One last trinket specific to each person
#5 – Balloon Countdown
This would be incredible for New Year’s, but I think it would work well for any countdown: Christmas, New Year’s, birthday, anniversaries – the possibilities are endless! The picture is pretty self-explanatory but you would have ballons for every hour that you are counting down. This countdown would work seemlessly with our loud Cuban Noche Buenas. You don’t need anything inside the balloons since popping a balloon every hour would build its own anticipation and be a treat in itself, but if you choose to, you could put a slip of paper in each balloon with an activity to do or a memory from the year or a little present or money.
#6 – Christmas Fun List
I love Thanksgiving because, for me, it signals the beginning of the holiday season. The promise of decorating and Christmas music coupled with the steadiness of tradition and the hope of magic – its almost too much, my head could explode! Creating a Fun Christmas Ho Ho Ho To Do List would be a great idea to blend tradition and magic and push you to do all of those things you want to do and never make time for:
Ideas for Christmas Cheer List
- bake Christmas cookies
- traditional sleigh ride through snow
- Christmas Carol prank call relatives (except without less pranking and more talking)
- get dressed up and have a Christmas music dance party
- write letters to Santa
- choose a way to help someone in need
- Candlelight dinner on the longest night of the year – December 21. (♥ this one)
- make Christmas cards and send them
- get a Christmas tree and decorate it
Last year, my favorite event of the year in our new country was Colmado Caroling. We met at our building, where a bunch of us live, walked to our corner colmado (basically, the corner store where you could buy everything from specific pounds of sugar to the equivalent of a 40oz., called a Jumbo, of the national beer, Presidente.) and started here. There was no practice or tuning, although we did have the band teacher and his handy trumpet – always helpful – with us. Our Caroling leader printed out 10-15 Christmas carols that we shared and an amazing evening was born. We walked around the neighborhood caroling our faces off. We sang to about 6 colmados, 1 restaurant, 1 combination gas station/colmado, 2 hair salons, 1 bakery, 1 apartment building, and ended in a supermarket. All it took was willingness to look silly and printed out lyrics (and the Jumbos didn’t hurt). The rest was made in cheer and holiday spirit. This could easily be tailored to a small neighborhood. Get your kids’ friends and their families involved, post signs with the date and time and have people expecting you or inviting them out too, and then end your evening of Caroling at home with some hot cocoa and Four Sisters Holiday Seasoned Wine (aka “Christmas Wine” to my sister and I) – it tastes exactly like what Christmas should taste like.
# 8 – Very Personalized Christmas Cards
This is a tradition I started about 9 years ago when I was a single mingle lady. I loved Christmas so much and loved the idea of sending Photo Christmas cards but didn’t want to wait til I had a husband, or kids, or a family to do it so I decided that I would send my own single cards and have waaaay tooo much FUN with it! I looked through all of my pictures from the year and found the funniest picture I could find and printed out about 30 copies. Next, I cut out 60 red traingles (one for me and one for Puff, the dragon), hole punched 60 white dots and cut out 60 white clouds. I pasted these together to make a Santa hat and then pasted the Santa hat on the picture. As the years passed and my list expanded I opted for less labor intensive cards and I made Santa hats on the computer. The only restriction I have placed on myself is that the picture must be silly and somewhat ridiculous and from that year. I’ve had friends and their families tell me they look forward to my Christmas card every year. This tradition I will keep alive. And I think you’ll notice, not much has changed throughout the years.
Cards of Christmas Past (some of my favorites till now)
“I’m sure as the years come and go that other traditions will stick and some of these will not but the important part is that traditions are made.”