Our Favorite Childhood Christmas Traditions

What an enormous magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows in the human memory and in the human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it.”

That was said by Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish historian and essayist from the Victorian era. I love it. “What an enormous magnifier is tradition!” Indeed!

It’s Christmas Traditions Week at CabinConnection.com. On Monday, I gave you 10 new ideas for traditions found around the Web. (My favorite is still the couple that wakes up their children on a random night before Christmas, puts them in the car with bags of Christmas treats and lots of Christmas music, and takes them around to see all the Christmas lights.)

Today, I’m sharing Christmas traditions from my husband’s family, and mine, too. I’ve picked our two favorites from each family.

Traditions from the Beutler Family

(That’s my husband’s family.)

  • The many different sets of Christmas dishes around my mother-in-law’s table.

    Individual Christmas Dishes. I may very well steal this idea some day. My enterprising mother-in-law came up with a fun way to welcome new members to the family back when, I think, I was the only non-original family member. She spent days and weeks pouring over the Christmas dishes available in various department stores. When she found one that reminded her of a family member, she bought one place setting of the china. Whenever a new spouse or grandchild enters the family, a new Christmas china pattern is purchased. For Christmas dinner, my mother-in-law sets intricate places for each person. Each one includes the person’s dishes, a complimentary glass or crystal goblet, a place mat, a napkin ring and some other ornament (a candle or salt and pepper shakers or a knick-knack — my son has a stuffed reindeer that plays the sax!). The result is so fun. And each person loves to run to their spot and see their special place setting again. I love it!

  • Themed Christmases. My in-laws don’t do boring old normal. Every Christmas (really every gathering) has a theme. The idea is to plan activities for the time together so we don’t get stuck sitting around watching TV or chatting about nothing.Here are some of my favorite Christmas themes:
    • My mother-in-law in front of the Candy Cane tree.

      Candy Land Christmas. The WHOLE house was decorated in different “candy zones.” There were lollipops on the staircase banister, gingerbread on the mantle, and lots and lots of peppermint swirls on the Christmas tree. We listened to a specially-made CD of candy music (It’s a Marshmellow World; Candy Girl; The Candy Man; Lollipop; Peppermint Winter; Sugar, Sugar; to name a few). We had a gingerbread-house-building competition and played a big version of Candyland. My mother-in-law wore red and white striped tights. The kids will always remember it.

    • Our Wiikend chart — I did NOT win.

      Wiikend. This was right after the Nintendo Wii came out. We planned a Wii Olympics for our Christmas weekend. We drew countries to be represented by, then competed in various contests on the Wii — race car driving, bowling, swimming, etc. The competition lasted all weekend and was tracked on a detailed board. We each had a T-shirt for our country. We ate sandwiches in the shape of Olympic rings. The kids loved to participate, too. Fun for everyone.

    • Christmas Around the World. That’s this year — I’ll let you know how it turns out. The idea is that every family has been given a country/area. We will each prepare a meal from that country, and there are activities planned for every country, too. Should be fun. (Anyone have any ideas for a Hawaiian breakfast???)

Traditions from the Lightfoot Family

Yes, that’s my maiden name. Unique, huh?

  • Making wreaths while blasting Christmas music. This was the first year my daughter was old enough to help!

    Wreath Making. My father is a landscaper. And my parents’ home is in the middle of a forest that he ACTUALLY GREW! Seriously! When they moved into their home 30 years ago, it had a huge open yard. My father has turned it into an exotic forest of plants and flowers. It’s really beautiful. Well, one benefit of owning a forest is that you can take from it at will. During my teen years, my dad got to be well-known for the beautiful real pine wreaths that he would hang on the front of the family home. At some point, people started offering to buy them. So we started a tradition of making wreaths and selling them to earn Christmas money. We used to spent several evenings during the holiday season sitting on overturned buckets in the driveway or garage, if it was really chilly, listening to Christmas music and wearing old ugly gloves to protect our hands from sap and pine pricks. The tradition continues now. Though my parents don’t sell the wreaths anymore, we always try to get together to make them for all of our homes and those of our relatives. My job is to wire on the greens bunches. My sisters help me. The kids and my mother gather the bunches (we use 4-6 different kinds of greenery). But only my dad could tie the beautiful big bows that go on the front. Until this year, that is. My dad taught the oldest grandchild, who was soon turning out beautiful bows. Wish I’d learned to do that…

  • Memorizing Luke 2. When my father was the young dad of three little girls, he had an idea for a special Christmas present for my mom. He spent sneaky hours helping the three of us memorize part of Luke 2 (the part about the shepherds) as a surprise. He got a tape (!) of it, which I love, because my little sister complains loudly at the two of us for going too fast. And we recited for my mother. Fast forward to when the grandkids were born. The year the oldest three were 2, 3, and 4, my parents issued a challenge. While vacationing in Israel, my parents had several small nativity sets made out of olive wood. Any grandchild who memorized the shepherd part of Luke 2 would get his/her own nativity set. Shockingly, we were able to teach this to my then 2-year-old (almost 3) with very little trouble using some hand motions. My son learned when he was 3. It’s fun to hear them all recite it each year at our family gathering. My sisters and I mouth the words. We didn’t take a cassette recording of it, but we did get this great video of my daughter when she was little more than a baby. Enjoy! And Glory to God in the highest!

About Kendra