Holiday Traditions

One week into December and our holiday traditions are underway.  Despite not being Christians, we celebrate a secular version of Christmas as both Mr Pict and I were brought up with Christmas and wanted to keep those traditions going when we had kids of our own.  Of course, some of the traditions we had back in Britain have had to be mothballed since we emigrated to America.  Pantomimes, for instance, do happen here but are far too expensive for us to attend so no more pantomimes for us for the time being.  We have, however, started new traditions since moving here.  It seems those are already ingrained since the kids were determined that we were going to do the exact same things this year that we have done before.

First among these was the Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm.  We first went in 2013 for our first American Christmas and then again last year.  I offered a suggestion that we do something different this year, another light show even, but the kids shot my suggestions down.  They want repetition and tradition.  So off to Shady Brook Farm we went.  I think the kids like that we drive through all the illuminations, cosy in the car, not having to wander around in the chill night.  They had fun seeing old favourites among the lights and spotting some new additions.  Then we parked up and got out to see the tree and buy some kettle corn and visit the farm shop.  The place was jam packed with people, however, so we didn’t stay too long.

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December also means the return of advent traditions to help the kids count down to Christmas Day.  We have a small wooden chest full of drawers that gets open every day plus a Playmobil advent calendar, both traditions we have had since the kids were tiny wee, but now we also have Noel, our Elf on the Shelf.  Now there is a tradition I regret starting.  We don’t do the whole “magical” bit.  The kids know fine well it is me who moves the Elf each night and they know that the Elf is not reporting back to Santa.  For them, finding Noel each morning is just a fun wee treasure hunt.  They look forward to seeing what Elf s up to, either some kind of antics or else a message for them regarding a festive activity.  All harmless fun except that I have to remember to move the ruddy Elf every evening.  Already, a mere week in, I have had to get back out of bed in order to go and move him somewhere, having been jolted out of the land of Nod by the sudden remembrance that Noel is exactly where he was the 24 hours before.  I am also struggling to be very creative with him.  Some people do these amazingly elaborate set ups with their Elves.  Not me.  I just hide Noel somewhere.  If I do a set up, it’s usually something that makes the kids chuckle rather than create magic.  Noel pooped chocolate into a jar the other day.  On the first day, he was found under the Christmas tree with a bottle of liqueur.  That was just as well since I failed to move him that night and I had the excuse of an Elf hangover for why he hadn’t moved.

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One day, Noel the Elf was found with a gingerbread house ready to be decorated.  I once baked a gingerbread house from scratch but I had a conniption trying to get the walls to stick together with icing and it ended up looking like a total hovel.  I discovered prefabricated gingerbread houses when we emigrated and, therefore, they can become part of our family’s holiday traditions without me losing the plot.  The three younger boys had a lot of sticky fun decorating the house and eating the surplus construction supplies.

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We decorated the house for Christmas right after Thanksgiving.  Mr Pict would rather wait until later into December but all the hassle involved in decorating makes me want to have it last for a good few weeks, more return for my investment.  I don’t go overboard.  We don’t decorate the exterior of the house.  Yet.  Mr Pict wants to get stuff for outside but I don’t know that I could deal with the additional hassle.  Bah humbug.  Sorting out the twinkly lights for the Christmas tree was quite enough stress, thanks very much.  It was worth it though: the formal living room has a lovely glow to it now.

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The sweetest thing, however, is that my 6 and 8 year old boys made their own advent calendar.  Playing outside in the garden one evening, they gathered up 12 rocks and decorated them with a sharpie in order to depict the Twelve Days of Christmas.  They then brought it indoors and arranged it on the kitchen floor as a surprise.  Which it was.  A delightful surprise.  I do love it when my kids are creative, experience a spark of inspiration.  We now have the rocks arranged on the windowsill.  Just to add to the cuteness, my youngest keeps singing that the third day is “three henchmen”.  I am now changing the lyrics in our household.  That’s another new holiday tradition.

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16 thoughts on “Holiday Traditions

  1. We used to decorate gingerbread houses with the kids in our lives. I never baked one from scratch, but we did get kits that needed assembling. And they fell apart. I remember holding one together with rubber bands. The trick, it turns out, is to make a cardboard structure inside–two criss-crossed pieces, one the height of the walls and one the tall enough to hold up the roof. Then you tape two pieces together like an open book and patch the roof pieces to them. When they dry, you can rest it on top.

    • See, I just don’t have an engineer’s mind: I never would have thought of cardboard scaffolding. Still, I much prefer just letting the kids have fun decorating the premade one. The fun is in the messing rather than the constructing after all.

      • True. I used to do all the construction the night before so the kids could do the decorating. And believe me, I don’t have an engineer’s mind either. The year I had to use rubber bands drove me to it–and I never did find the pre-constructed kits.

    • Thanks, Van. My blog is something of a journal of family life so it will be interesting, I thought, to track these traditions and see which things stick and which fade away or evolve in another direction.

  2. I never heard about the Elf on the Shelf until last year – blog reading enlightened me. Kind of glad about that really, the hassle of doing something creative with an elf everyday would be too much for me!! We started a treasure hunt on Christmas morning when our son stared to read, originally it was from Father Christmas with poems and clues all through the house…. a great one off but try doing that year after year. Santa has long since stopped calling but the treasure hunt (and those poems) are still insisted upon.

    • That’s lovely that the tradition has continued beyond Santa’s visits. I sometimes wonder which traditions my kids will recreate for their own kids should they have any some day.

      Elf on the Shelf is a bit of a hassle. Thankfully I didn’t create any high expectations with my kids so mostly it’s just a case of finding a new hiding place each day. Today they will find Noel in the fruit bowl having drawn on all the bananas to turn them into Minions. That’s about as creative as I get with it.

  3. Noel the Elf is hilarious. He made me laugh with his antics. I can sense that the kids are excited for Christmas day. Who isn’t anyway. Young or old, we all love the Christmas season and the celebration that comes with it. In my family, we also set up a tree with Philippine made garlands. This year when we arrive home, I will set up my Mother’s tree and still hang her old garlands but I decided to all a twist and add all of our names which I will do with patterned paper and a brush pen. My brother thinks my idea was great and it could be a new tradition in the family.

    • What a wonderful idea! We have personalized ornaments on our tree too, ones that signify Christmases past, travels, and ones for each of my kids. My idea is that, when they have their first Christmases as adults with their own trees, they can take the ornaments that are theirs from their childhoods and put them on their trees.

      • Christmas in our family is also the same as yours, celebrating family and togetherness. Its a must for everyone of us to be together on Christmas Eve. With a fest of food from different families for dinner, games, gift giving and we all greet and kiss each other when the clock turns 12 mn signaling Christmas Day.

  4. Your Christmas tree looks lovely Laura 🙂
    It’s great that your kids like keeping the same things going each Christmas. Making a tradition that your kids can tell and do with their own kids, is what Christmas to me is all about 🙂
    The elf idea is brilliant Laura, even if you regret it, I bet the kids love it!!

    • Elf on the Shelf was a big deal when we moved to America. My kids were asked if they celebrated Christmas or Hanukkah and if they had an Elf. So I succumbed and got them one. It’s fun but at some stage I’m really going to run out of ideas or new hiding places. Today he’s in the fruit basket having turned all the bananas into Minions. That’s as creative as I get.

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