Every year I vow that I will share our Christmas traditions with you and then I get busy and don't follow through. So although I don't like discussing Christmas until November I am going ahead and doing it now before life gets busy.
Our traditions have evolved over time, but one thing that was important to us from our first Christmas as parents: we didn't want Christmas to be a materialistic event. However, we also didn't want our kids to feel like they were missing out. Finding that balance has taken time and some experimentation. I am going to share what works for us, but please don't feel that I am trying to discourage anyone from following their family's tradtions.
We have never made a big deal about Santa. (You can read my thoughts on whether I think holidays will be ruined if your kids don't believe in magical creatures here.) All of my kids have known that Santa wasn't real. Our children have never made a list for Santa and “Santa” has never given our kids gifts. Instead we have tried to create a balance between our beliefs and the more worldly celebrations. We don't want our kids to feel deprived, but we also don't want to compromise our values.
Many years ago, we started celebrating St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. We read a story about St. Nicholas and our children receive stockings on that day.
Since St. Nicholas is remembered for his secret gift-giving, we have always adopted a family in need with children whose ages are close to our kids. I think choosing a family with children close to our kids ages helped our kids feel a special connection to them. Our children participate in playing “Santa” and helping us choose gifts for the family. Truly, I think my children have more fun picking gifts for other children than they do when they open their own gifts.
We also have our children help us fill stockings for some of the elderly people in our lives who already have everything they need, but enjoy the surprise and appreciate being remembered.
We attend a candlelight service on Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas Day with family; we just don't include Santa on those days. We also celebrate the epiphany on January 6th with a King Cake. We end up having more holiday celebrations beginning on December 6th and extending through January 6th, but they are smaller, so they aren't quite as overwhelming as doing one huge celebration on Christmas Day.
What are your Christmas traditions?