Christmas Family Traditions

The holiday season brings a mosaic of cherished traditions that hold families together through the tapestry of time. These rituals, passed down or newly created, are the heartbeat of our family’s festive spirit, a way to connect, rejoice, and make memories that last a lifetime. Yet, as our children grow from the wide-eyed wonder of their early years into the thoughtful contributors of their teens, the roles within these traditions naturally evolve. They move from the sheer delight of experiencing these moments to the profound joy of helping to create them.

In this post, I want to share with you two of our most treasured holiday traditions that have not only brought us closer but have also adapted to our children’s growing capabilities and understanding. These rituals have allowed us to keep connecting deeply with our kids, transitioning the responsibilities and joys to them, rather than them being mere participants. Whether it’s the jingle of a bell or the sparkle of a hand-written note encased in glass, these traditions are a testament to the enduring bond we nurture within our family.

So, pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa and join me as I unfold the stories of our Polar Express Night and our Ornament of Memories — two traditions that have grown right alongside our children, embodying the magic of the holidays and the enduring connection of our family.

The Magic of Polar Express Night

The gentle hum of the train, the sweet aroma of hot chocolate, and the soft glow of the Christmas lights create a scene straight out of a winter wonderland storybook. This is Polar Express Night, a tradition that began in our home when the kids were but tiny tots, snuggled up in their pajamas, eyes wide with wonder. It’s a night that marks the beginning of our holiday season, filled with warmth, laughter, and the tinkling sound of a new jingle bell.

Setting the Scene

On Polar Express Night, our living room transforms into our very own cozy, festive theater. Pillows and blankets are strewn across the floor, creating a soft nest for us to cuddle into. The hot chocolate simmers on the stove, rich and velvety, ready to be ladled into mugs that warm our hands through knitted sleeves. A bowl of popcorn, large enough for sharing, sits in the middle, the buttery scent mingling with the piney freshness of the Christmas tree. And then, with everyone settled, the lights dim, and “The Polar Express” begins to play, taking us on a magical journey to the North Pole.

A Tradition’s Journey

In the earliest years, it was us, the parents, who would prepare everything. We made the hot chocolate, popped the popcorn, and played the movie while our children’s main role was to experience the magic. But as they grew, so did their involvement. Now, our eldest measures out the cocoa powder and sugar, while the younger ones take turns stirring the milk until it’s just right. They debate over which version of the movie to watch — sometimes opting for the book to be read aloud instead. Each action, each decision, is a step in their journey from spectators to creators of our family tradition.

The Jingle Bell Keepsake

After the movie, in a moment that has become as precious to us as the night itself, each child receives a new jingle bell. The significance? Just as the bell in the story only rings for those who believe, these bells are a reminder of the magic they hold inside themselves throughout the year. With every new bell, we recount the milestones and memories of the year gone by, celebrating growth and togetherness.

Involving Everyone

What makes this tradition truly special is the way it includes everyone. Our youngest might be in charge of distributing the popcorn, taking immense pride in the task, while our oldest now helps with the intricate task of tying the ribbons on the jingle bells, ensuring each one is ready for that special moment. It’s a night that belongs to all of us, adapting and growing with us through each season of life.

Christmas family traditions

The Ornament of Memories

As the Polar Express Night ends and the last notes of the movie’s soundtrack fade away, another tradition awaits—one that is quieter but just as enchanting. It’s a tradition that captures the essence of the year in a delicate, transparent sphere: our Ornament of Memories.

Crafting Memories

Every year, we select a clear ornament ready to be filled with the year’s precious moments. The ritual begins with each of us writing down what was important to us that year on a small piece of paper. It might be a drawing from our youngest, who is just learning to express through art, or a ticket stub from a concert that our teenager attended, signifying a step toward independence. These small mementos are carefully folded and placed inside the ornament, alongside the number of the year, glistening in gold or silver.

A Year in Reflection

This is more than just an activity; it’s a reflection, a pause, a moment to look back on the year that has passed. We sit together, sometimes laughing over a funny memory, other times, silence falls as we remember a challenge we overcame. This ornament allows us to encapsulate not just the triumphs, but also the trials, the quiet moments just as much as the grand.

Evolution of Participation

In the beginning, it was our hands that wrote the dates, our voices that urged the kids to share their thoughts. Now, they take the lead, selecting their own pieces of the year to include. Our almost teenager, once reluctant to share, now writes a note to her future self, while the younger ones compete over who can fit the most items in. The ornament has become a canvas for their expression, a vessel for their memories, and a symbol of their growing autonomy.

A Tree of Life Stories

As each year passes, our Christmas tree becomes more than just a festive decoration; it turns into a living chronicle of our family’s journey. Each ornament is a chapter, a year in our life, hanging amongst the lights and garland. It’s a tradition that we all look forward to, knowing that come next year, we’ll have the chance to relive these memories all over again, seeing how far we’ve come.

Conclusion: Growing Together Through Traditions

As the festive lights dim and the holiday season ebbs away, the warmth of our family’s traditions lingers on. Polar Express Night and the Ornament of Memories are not just annual events; they are the threads that weave through the fabric of our children’s childhoods, binding us together in an ever-strengthening bond. These traditions have taught us that the true magic of the holidays isn’t just in the moments of celebration but in the evolution of our connections with each other.

From the laughter-filled chaos of preparing hot chocolate to the contemplative silence of penning down memories, these rituals have matured just as our children have. They’ve transitioned from being simple observers to becoming the architects of our holiday joy, their hands now the ones stirring the pot and writing the dates. As parents, there’s an indescribable joy in witnessing this passage of roles, in seeing the legacy of family togetherness being embraced and carried forward by the very hearts we nurture.

I invite you, dear readers, to reflect on your family traditions. How might they evolve this coming holiday season? How can you encourage your children to take a more active role, to find their unique voice in the chorus of family memories? Remember, each tradition has the potential to grow just as our children do, becoming richer and more meaningful with each passing year.

As you ponder these questions, consider sharing your own stories. What traditions have you and your loved ones cherished and nurtured through the years? How have they changed as your family has grown? Your experiences are the jingle bells and ornaments of your life, each one resonant with its own tale and timbre.

So here’s to the traditions, old and new, to the memories we’ve encased in glass, and to the ever-growing joy of the holiday seasons to come. May they be as enduring and as precious as the bonds they celebrate.

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