Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creating Family Holiday Traditions

In Canada, those who celebrate Christmas have the luxury of getting an early start (if we take advantage of it) since Thanksgiving takes place in early October.

Every family has their own approach to the holidays so I thought I would share ours:

Winter Solstice

This is something I want to incorporate more into our holiday traditions. I think it is important to recognize natural patterns and celebrate the lengthening of the days. This celebration also makes me feel warm and fuzzy. This year I see us celebrating with a hearty soup or chili, hot chocolate, candlelight, gifts of knitted goodies, and maybe a family game of snakes and ladders – the only board game we own that B can play.

Christmas Eve Church Service

Christianity was significant in my upbringing, less significant for DH. Both my parents were practicing Christians. Church was a Sunday ritual. Once I reached adolescence, it became less significant to me and I attended less regularly. Now, as an adult, I appreciate good morals i.e. treat your neighbours as you would yourself, don’t steal, etc. (also taught by society in general) that Christianity reinforced in me. However, I remain undecided on whether or not I wholeheartedly believe in all parts of the faith. Consequently, I have adopted a somewhat piecemeal approach – accepting parts that seem relevant to me and taking the rest with a grain of salt.

Growing up, I attended Christmas eve and morning church services. As a child, I felt heavy about going to church in the morning as I was naturally anxious to explore new gifts. For my own family, we have decided to only attend the evening service. 


Both DH and I feel strongly about charity and want to make giving a significant part of our holiday traditions.

Beginning this year, we will be asking B to pick a few toys he no longer uses to donate since he will be receiving new toys as gifts. Also new for us this year will be buying a food hamper for a family through a local charity. While the toy donation will be a ritual, we plan on finding new ways to give every year. For example, next year we might buy winter clothing for a family. In doing this, we will have the opportunity to explain to our children that there are others less fortunate and instill in them the importance of giving to those in need.


There is much debate out there in the parenting sphere on incorporating Santa into the holidays. We do. Santa was an integral part of our holiday traditions growing up.  That being said, we have made a few deviations from our upbringings, for instance, in our family Santa only comes for the children. This means no stockings or Santa gifts for DH or I.


We didn’t buy wrapping paper last year and still have a small stash from previous years including gift bags (which we reuse). We plan on using this up. Beyond that, we will use recycled brown paper which B can draw/paint on to decorate. In subsequent years I would like to use handmade Christmas gift sacks – although I realize for children half the fun is peeling off the wrapping paper so I don’t want to eliminate paper altogether just yet. Maybe we’ll just phase in the sacks by using them for adult gifts.

Besides having a limited budget which forces us to be creative by making handmade gifts or search for used items, we also limit the number of gifts. For example, B will get one gift from us, one from his brother, and one from santa (besides his stocking). DH will get one gift from the boys and one from me. This also allows us to spend a little bit more on quality gifts.

Activities and Food

DH’s family enjoys doing lots of outside activities up North during the holidays like winter walks, tobogganing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and bonfires. They always convene on Boxing Day (December 26), so we like to partake in these activities with them, and avoid the Boxing Day shopping madness in the city.

Until this year, the Christmas tree farm was a large part of our winter holidays. DH has always had a real tree since he grew up at the farm. We’ve continued this tradition and plan on finding a local Christmas tree farm where we can get our tree this year. Again, as the kids get older, we may look at other more environmentally-friendly options such as “renting” a potted tree.

Lastly, home-cooked meals and holiday baking (gluten/dairy free for me) with family and friends are big for us. This year I may initiate a baking exchange with family!

What traditions do others have/plan on implementing this holiday season?

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