Holiday Traditions

CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER NORDELL

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 The holiday season is such a wonderful and magical time, especially when you are a child. This is the time of year that you wait for – the time of year that you count down to and relish when it arrives. When you are a child you know nothing of the stress and commercialism that plagues the holidays. All you see are candy canes, presents and beautiful decorations.

As parents I know we all want to create memorable holidays for our children. This was my mother’s favorite time of year and we had dozens of traditions that revolved around the holidays. She made this time of year so magical for me growing up and some of my best memories are of spending time as a family during Christmas. I will admit to being very lazy when it has come to creating the same magic for my girls.

In my defense we have always lived near our extended family and we were very well taken care. Both my mother and my mother-in-law made the holidays magical and wonderful for all of us with very little effort on my part. This is the first year I have to do it on my own and I am afraid I am not doing a very good job. I have been rather self-indulgent the last couple of weeks and have been having my own little “pity party” about being so far from home. I could list a thousand reasons why I am bummed out but none of them would matter to my girls. So it looks like I am going to have to “fake it until I make it”. I want to continue sharing my childhood holiday traditions with the girls and I want to start creating new fun traditions of our own.

There are several traditions that have been apart of my family since I was little that I plan on continuing with my girls. My grandfather was stationed in German for a good part of his military career so we have a few modified German traditions that we celebrate in our family. Please understand that I am not saying that all Germans celebrate these or any for that matter but I know that is the origin of most of my family’s Christmas traditions. But isn’t that what makes a great family tradition - you take something you love and modify to work in your life for your family!


The first tradition we celebrate during the holidays is St. Nicolas Day. On the 5th of December we put our shoes out and during the night St. Nicolas comes and fills them with small toys and treats. I love seeing the girl’s faces when they wake up in the morning and find their shoes. It also seems to make the wait for Santa Claus much easier on my impatient 5 year old.

The second Christmas tradition we have is Advent. I am not talking about the calendars with all the tiny doors, although we do have those as well. Our celebration of advent is simple – every Sunday and on Christmas Eve we light a candle on my Advent wreath and then spend time together as a family. We read Christmas stories, enjoy yummy treats and bask in each others company. We have found that it is a wonderful way to remind the girls of what is truly important this time of year.

The last and definitely the yummiest tradition in our family is our Christmas Day breakfast. On Christmas day I get out my aebelskiver pan and use my great grandmother’s recipe to make all of us breakfast just as my mother did when I was little. It is a delicious breakfast and the smell of the abelskivers cooking always reminds me of Christmas when I was little. Continuing these traditions with my girls has helped me feel closer to family this year even though we are so far away.

What do you do with your family to celebrate the holidays? And I not just talking just about Christmas as there is so much else to celebrate this time of year as well. Please share your family traditions with us and perhaps we all can find a new way to celebrate this wonderful season with our own families!

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5 Comments
  • December 14, 2008

    One of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions is watching Christmas movies every night as a family. We never ever watch any Christmas themed movie any other month besides December. Then the “Christmas Movie Marathon” is launched December 1st with our hands-down favorite, “Jingle All The Way” and the yule-tide movie madness continues daily up to New Years Eve when we close out with “Roudolph’s Shiny New Year.” We watch Christmas themed movies every single day in December, sometimes several a day! Each year we add new titles to the pile, there are so many now we can’t ever see them all, but some are so horrible we wouldn’t want to anyway! LOL You’ll understand if you’ve ever watched the most dreadful “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Of course we’ve had to do some major adjusting to the tradition this year since we stored all of our Christmas things before coming to Oki, and the family is spread out across three countries for the first time: so we all agreed to skip “Jingle” till we can be together :) but my daughter and I are very much enjoying renting Christmas movies from the PX and base library that we have never seen before. :)

    Dasha
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  • December 15, 2008

    It would not be Christmas without a tradition that my husband introduced to me. His mother started it, and I continue it with our family, too. It has to do with the wise men in the nativity set. At the beginning of advent, the wise men are not set out in the nativity stable, they are placed in the bathroom because the window sill in the bathroom is the farthest place in the house from the manger. Each day, the wise men are moved through the house until, at Epiphany, they arrive at the manger. We don’t start the wise men in our bathroom, but they do travel through the house. Thinking about the wise men and seeing them move at her house, or moving them in my own house helps center my thoughts on the season and how I can get my heart ready for the holiday.

    Carol
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  • December 15, 2008

    Dasha I LOVE Christmas movies! My Mother has a HUGE collection that we uses to spend the entire month watching. If you want a random and rather bad Christmas movie try The Elf Who Save Christmas. It was a terrible $2 movie my sister bought one year and it turned into a tradition to watch it on Christmas Eve. My personal favorite Christmas movie is Scrooged.

    Carol what a beautiful and simple tradition. I am currently without a nativity set (I’m too picky) but when I get one I will have to incorporate this one into our Christmas!

    Heather N.
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  • December 15, 2008

    Carol, I got tears in my eyes reading that tradition. WONDERFUL.

    The crazy tradition I started about 5 years ago is to watch one of the Little House on the Prairie episodes each Christmas (Christmas at Plum Creek). It’s the one where Laura sells her horse to dumb Nellie Olson buy a stove for her mom. But Dad also buys mom a stove and makes a saddle for Laura. Then Mary learns to sew and makes a shirt for her dad. Mom, of course, has made him a shirt from the same material. It’s a tear jerker.

    But the real reason I watch it is for the last couple seconds when toddler Carrie draws attention to the gift SHE bought for 5 cents. It’s a star for the tree. Charles lifts her up so she can place it and with the diffusion on STRONG we hear Carrie say, “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus” in the sweetest voice. (Getting teared up just writing it!)

    My bro and I watched it as young teenagers one year and ever since then you’ll hear “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus” from us at Christmas. I got him a copy of the show for Xmas a few years back.

    Joelle
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  • December 16, 2008

    Every year I make cocoa for the family and play Christmas movies as we put up the tree. This year we started with Christmas with the Kranks and Charlie Brown Christmas. Living in Hawaii (we’ll be in Okinawa next month), it doesn’t get cold so I turn down our central AC to make it nice and chilly to make the cocoa just that much nicer!

    Gwynne
    Reply