Building Christmas Traditions One Plaid Reindeer at a Time

December 8th, 2015

I believe you can divide the world into two types of people: those who think matching Christmas pajamas are a fabulous idea and those who involuntarily gag at the very thought. I belong to the former camp. Familial jammies (this year they’re red plaid with reindeer, if you’re interested) are just one of the ways that I get into the spirit of the holidays.

Christmas PJs

I grew up in a big extended family that overflowed with beloved seasonal traditions. We put on holiday plays, wrote and recited poems at Christmas dinner, and exchanged handmade ornaments. No Christmas Eve was complete without lengthy musical performances, ranging from kids singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to the complicated piano duets I’d play with my mom. In fact, my mom and her sisters loved Christmas so much they actually published a book in which they chronicled their holiday memories and traditions!

Now that I’m a mom, I’m always in danger of burning myself out by trying to do it all when it comes to the holidays. In my heart of hearts I want to cut down our own Christmas tree, make homemade wrapping paper, bring cookie plates to friends and neighbors, host caroling parties, go sledding, make paper chains, ride around town looking at decorated houses, and construct elaborate multi-story gingerbread houses.

Sadly, Advent is only 27 days long (give or take) and trying to pack a lifetime of memories into a month ends up making me twitchy. I have to prioritize our festivities or risk going stark raving mad by New Year. I grew up in a world where Christmas was mostly about family and food. Then I married a man for whom Christmas is all about Jesus. Now we’re building our own traditions that involve all of those things!

Keeping little kids focused on “reason for the season” is no small task, but we’re doing our best with the creation of the Wandering Wisemen. I’ve always admired the imagination some parents bring to Elf on the Shelf, but we decided not to invite Santa and his minions to our holiday celebrations. Instead, I’ve got a set of small plastic figures and a camel that I move around the house each night on a “quest” for baby Jesus. The Wisemen even have their own Facebook page where I post a daily snapshot of their adventures. The kids love it and I get a huge kick out of composing whimsical captions for the intrepid explorers.

Then there are the sugar cookie decorating parties. A bit more secular, perhaps, but a non-negotiable element of my holiday celebrations. There’s just something about the sticky hilarity that accompanies a frosting-filled fiesta that warms my heart. And while we’re on the subject of frosting, let’s add Christmas morning cinnamon rolls to the list of favorite traditions. They’re too labor intensive for regular production, but my kids know that after they demolish their stockings, there will be fresh cinnamon rolls waiting (because they’re not wound up enough on Christmas morning – add some sugar!).

And let’s not forget the matching Christmas jammies. I know that the time will come when one or more children starts boycotting the idea of coordinated sleepwear, but it is not this year! The moral of the story is this: be intentional about your traditions. Pick the things that will make your heart merriest this holiday season and do those things with uninhibited joy and reckless enthusiasm.

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