Cultivating Christmas Traditions for Our Children

Mom's Talk columnist Kellyanne Koemp shares her family's traditions. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?


How do traditions begin? Sometimes we know the origins, sometimes we don’t know the roots and sometimes we just borrow good ideas from friends or articles we read.

But no matter where they come from, without a doubt, traditions build good memories for our children to remember later on throughout their lives and they are meant to be shared.

Decking the Halls

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving, my family skips the chaos of Black Friday deals out in town in favor of decking the halls at home.

We put up the tree, the wreath and the indoor and outdoor decorations. Through all of it, the kids help.

Christmas carols fill our house and get everybody into the holiday spirit. This year, just five days after Thanksgiving, my 2 ½ year old daughter was able to discern a Christmas song when we were out grocery shopping. She stole the heart of the other people waiting at the deli counter when she yelled out, "Mommy, it’s a Christmas song!"

The song was "Sleigh Ride," a particular favorite of mine, since it was composed in Woodbury by Leroy Anderson.

The Early Birds Gets the Shopping Done Early

In our family -- thanks to the memories of my mother -- most of our shopping for gifts is complete by Columbus Day.

While some might not consider this a Christmas tradition, I do, and it is one that I love. Getting the shopping done early affords me time to take the kids to the Christmas craft fairs, cook with the kids, visit Santa at the mall and not climb over people to find a good deal.

Instead, I begin shopping after Christmas and find fantastic deals that way and continue all throughout the year. Of course, there are some last minute things that our kids as for on their 'Santa list' that he takes care of, but most of the shopping is done early.

Another tradition: making cookies and giving cookies to neighbors. You can do the same with candy.

This year the kids and I have two different recipes in mind for our Christmas gifts to our neighbors. We’ll just have to see which one wins the early taste tests!

My mother’s peanut brittle was always a time-honored tradition in our house growing up. Before allergies were such a concern in the schools, I remember my mother making peanut brittle for my teachers. This is another childhood tradition of mine that I cherish and am passing on to our kids.

Hungarian Poteca, or nut roll, for breakfast is also our Easter tradition. Every time I make it I try to make it better. My father is the only person in our family attending Christmas at our house that knows what Grandma Dohan’s tasted like (she passed away before I was born) so he’s our judge! This year the kids will be helping so that should make it taste extra special!

Elf On The Shelf

Here’s one that we started with our son a few years ago: Elf On the Shelf stops by to visit for a month.

Who is Elf on the shelf? If you have children and you are asking this, you need to check out the Elf on the Shelf website.

An interesting concept: My husband swears that his parents once did something similar one year (although they can’t recall it … so maybe there was a real elf visiting him!)

Our elf is named Gavin and he stops by to stay with us every day on the Friday after Thanksgiving and until Christmas Eve, when Santa comes and picks him up.

Most importantly, nightly he travels to the North Pole to report on the kids' behavior to Santa.

Of note, I do see a marked improvement in their behavior when the little guy is around. This is one tradition that we will keep going in the house, no matter how old the kids.

Traditional Decor

Decorations always set the mood and the table is always set with red and green and poinsettias. Of course, you need to be careful with these plants.

Long rumored to be toxic, according to Wikipedia, "those sensitive to latex may suffer an allergic reaction and it is therefore not advisable to bring the plants into the home of sensitive individuals."

Needless to say, be sure your traditions are safe. 

Advent-urous Traditions

Most people know of the paper advent calendars and we have used those for years.

However, this year I went to a craft store to find something more permanent and special for my children.

I found an unfinished wooden tree with 24 small drawers. We painted the advent calendar to resemble a Christmas tree and filled each drawer with two pieces of candy, one for each of the kids.

Hopefully, having a permanent object associated with the advent calendar tradition versus a disposable paper calendar will only make the memory more strong for the kids.

And finally, the most special tradition I have held since I was a child is one in which the kids wait up on the second floor while the parents get a cup of coffee and make sure that Santa came.

This will be our first time living in a place that actually has an upstairs, so we’ll see how well the kids keep themselves under control.

Of course, I married someone who doesn’t like surprises and he has been known to search for presents before they are wrapped -- so we’ll find out whose demeanor comes out Christmas morning!

So wherever your traditions might come from, I highly recommend keeping up with them. Traditions give us something to enjoy as our kids get older and gives our kids the ability to relive their childhood memories as they pass the traditions to their own kids.


What are your favorite holiday traditions?  Share with readers in the comments.

Jaimie Cura December 07, 2011 at 03:30 PM
One of my favorite traditions is when relatives make cookies for the holidays, because you only get them once a year, so it makes them really special. I've been known to eat nothing but cookies for breakfast on December 25!
Kellyanne Koemp December 07, 2011 at 04:19 PM
In addition, last night a friend shared thins link with me http://www.portablenorthpole.tv here you can enter your child's information and Santa will e-mail you a personalized greeting!!! Both my Children LOVED this! Of course "Paloma" was not a pre recorded name on the list, so Santa refers to her as "My Little Friend". Enjoy!
Jaimie Cura December 07, 2011 at 08:32 PM
That's neat, thanks to you and your friend for sharing!


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