family, Parenting

My Favorite Holiday Traditions

When I was a kid some of my favorite things centered around the traditions my family had. Most of those were holiday traditions done between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, but some were just general things we did year after year. Every summer, for example, we would spend a week up north near the beach to get away from everything. My brothers and I would gather on the porch and play games, we’d have fires every night and spend most of the day on the beach and in the water. We also went to Cedar Point (in Sandusky, Ohio) every summer with my mom’s family. We’d get up super early and drive down to Ohio, stopping at a McDonald’s for breakfast along the way. We went to the Labor day parade and festival every year, the Strawberry Festival, Detroit Red Wing games, Tiger games, and so on… I consider them all traditions simply because we made sure to do them together. 

The holidays were always my favorite time, though. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve were always spent at one of my aunts or uncles homes. Thanksgiving always started with The Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, and then we’d leave for someone’s house. The whole family would gather and we’d stuff ourselves with delicious food (or sweets if you were a kid), play games and laugh all night. As I got older I remember playing “Skunk Your Neighbor” and “Euchre” with the family for petty change. Someone would always make sure “Santa” showed up, and maybe footprints were stamped in the snow or bells would jingle on the rooftops. We made Christmas cookies every year, although I think as kids we mostly decorated and made messes. I remember my mom stacking tin after tin of cookies on the back porch though, and we never seemed to run out even after sneaking cookies. The city we lived in also held an event every year called “Winter Glow”. This was basically a small holiday festival held outside of the city hall, and held many activities including classic ones like a horse drawn carriage and roasted chestnuts. 

My favorite memory though, is rather simplistic and involves my brother. (Side note: if you know me well, you can pick your jaw up off the floor, the world isn’t ending here.) See, every Christmas Eve we would try our hardest to see Santa. One year, and the memory that stands out most when I think of my childhood Christmases, we had asked our parents to set up the camcorder in an effort to catch him in the act. We waited up on the couch as long as we could before falling fast asleep that night. The next morning we woke up to presents and scrambled to see the video tape. Surprise! It went blank just before the presents appeared… shocked, aren’t you?

It’s those little moments full of wonder and joy that bring back the happiest memories for me.

As we got older things changed a little, of course, but my mom always kept up with as many traditions as possible for us, and still does, though now shared with her grandchildren.

When my husband and I got married, we attempted to keep up with the traditions of both families, but it didn’t quite work out the way we had envisioned (we got a lot more complaints than anything) which was stressful. Then we had a child of our own and moved out of state, which gave us the perfect opportunity to start our own traditions. We kept some of the same traditions and we also created some of our own (like the pesky Elf on a Shelf). 

So what are my traditions now?

Well, Christmas cookies are a must every year, and of course, much like my mother, I make far too many for our family and always pass them out by the bucket. We also drive around looking at Christmas lights in the neighborhoods and in our local area. We try to check out the Holiday Lights at the Beach, the Million Bulb Walk (Botanical Gardens) and the Holt Family Lights each year if it allows. The Founders Inn Illumination party has been a huge hit with our family for many years, along with the Town Center Christmas Parade. Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is another one that the kids have really enjoyed doing each year. The kids have an event at school called The Polar Express, which is an incredible feat put together by the school and PTA. They also get new ornaments each year based on what they were into that year, and matching pajamas for Christmas movies on Christmas Eve after the children’s mass. Finally, Christmas morning is met with homemade cinnamon rolls and presents, followed by a rather quiet day to just enjoy each others’ company. We actually do not have any traditions for New Year’s Eve and in fact, rarely make it to watch the ball drop!

Both of my older children have birthdays in December as well, so there are so many things that happen this time of year. It’s hard to keep track of everything!

For the second year in a row now, their father isn’t able to be with us, which creates a desire to say screw tradition and not do anything at all. (Let’s be honest though, how many of us feel like celebrating anything after this year?) Not to mention, my kids are growing up and two out of three don’t really want to participate anymore. Despite all, I keep on doing the things I would normally do, because I know that one day my children will look back on this time and smile like I do. (At least, I hope they do.) I also realize that I’m providing them with a basis for the traditions they will create for their families some day, and I hope, the inspiration that they can do anything regardless of what is thrown their way.

Many of the things that I mentioned before aren’t happening this year due to COVID, and it’s really not surprising. In spite of that (or maybe because of) we are doing things a little differently and travelling a little this year. I have opted to self-quarantine before our trip, so that gives us plenty of time to do some of our normal traditions like baking cookies and drinking cocoa while watching cheesy Christmas movies. And then we travel and get to see some new places, safely, of course. Will their be new traditions we create based on this adventure? I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that I’m making memories with my children that will stay with them forever, and isn’t that why we carry on traditions?

I love hearing about what traditions other families have created. If you care to share, drop a comment below and let us know what you do!

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