Monday, December 27, 2010

Traditions: Old and New

Ever since Glen and I were married 17-years-ago, we've been working on developing traditions that are meaningful to our family.   Back when we were first married, we simply parroted what we'd done in our respective homes growing up, but as the years have passed we've honed those old traditions and added many of our own.   I could take up an entire blogpost and talk about some of the traditions we have throughout the year, but this post is going to be specifically about our Christmas traditions. 

First, I don't know if you can really call it a tradition, but each Christmas we like to focus a lot on the symbolism of Christmas.  We have family home evenings and read stories that help us to see the true meaning of Christmas in the lights and decorations that surround us.  This year we focused the whole month of family home evenings on service, including a family service project and a service chain which we are still frantically trying to elongate before the New Year.  

In addition to the more serious traditions of learning together, we also have a few seasonal traditions that we try to do sometime during the month.  These include making gingerbread houses (which we still haven't done yet this year, but plan on doing this week), drawing names for presents, seeing the light/international nativity display at the DC temple, and sending out our Christmas cards and letters. 
Our Christmas Eve is still an ever-evolving set of traditions.  This year we tried something new and different by going to a movie and out to eat during the day.  We saw MegaMind and enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner at the Olive Garden!  We totally loved the low-stress nature of going out instead of cooking and cleaning all day, but it still remains up for the jury about whether we do this again. 

Here's our crew this year:  Our family, plus my brother Matt and family from Maryland, plus my sister Heather visiting from Minnesota. 

And to prove that I was there too, here's a picture of Ellie and I  while we waited for our food.

My nephew Lincoln, kept us entertained with his cute facial expressions and funny comments.  It kind of made me miss having a toddler in the house.

The one part about Christmas Eve that we've been doing ever since we got married is that we each open a pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve night.  It's a combination of traditions from the family Glen grew up in and my own.  They always got new pajamas; we always opened one present.  This year it was these comfy cozy matching pajamas....and a Santa hat.  We pretty much rocked. 
After everyone's in their pajamas, we gather in the living room for our Christmas Eve devotional filled with  songs and scriptures.  We use a booklet with songs, scriptures, and pictures.    I like the structure that the booklet gives to our devotional and I love that it's got the pictures which makes it more visual and interactive for the kids.  After the devotional, we have a family prayer, put out treats for Santa, and the kids go to bed as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, the adults in the house settle in for a long night of "helping" Santa wrap presents and do some assembly on some of the toys. 

On Christmas morning, we have a pretty strict rule that no one's allowed to awaken any other person or open their stockings until 7:00am.  The rule, since we instituted it a few years ago, has been a godsend for all of us Santa helpers that are usually a little on the sleep-deprived side.  After 7:00am, they can open their stockings and in general run around and be excited, but they're not allowed to touch the presents under the tree until after breakfast.

Glen declared himself "King of the Breakfast Table". 

This year we had a sausage casserole (assembled the night before) and orange-breakfast bread (super easy to prepare) and ended up eating at about 8:30am.  After cleaning up from breakfast, everyone is good and ready to get started opening presents, where we go through the rounds opening gifts one-a-time, oldest to youngest, until we get tired of taking turns (usually when a few people start running out of gifts). 

 Here is a little glimpse at our present opening rounds: 

Here is Spence sporting his new found favorite hat, as opposed to the striped Jamaican looking one he's been wearing the last several months (including the summertime). He's admiring his prize gift this year--a lacrosse helmet, so he can stop wearing his friend's helmet which sports the logo of a rival high school on it. 

Here is Ellie with her beloved gift from Santa....Barbie with a horse.  It's the only thing she asked for this year. 

And here is Adam with his theme toy of the day.....Legos! 

Cami got mostly clothes and was quite happy about that...

Aunt Heather came from Minnesota and the kids were THRILLED!!!!

Lincoln (and his Mommy and Daddy) stayed the night, so they could join us for Christmas morning.   Every present he opened was exciting, but I'm pretty sure that Santa could have just brought him this one truck and he would have been totally content.

Our sweet little Emma was the drama queen of the day with her screams of joy with almost every present!  If I'd been more thoughtful, I would've pulled out the video camera to document the shrieks of delight and ensuing jumps around the room, but then again I wouldn't want to be held responsible for anyone's eardrums getting pierced, so perhaps it's best that I didn't. 

We didn't get to eat our second annual "Christmas in Bethlehem" until tonight, but, boy oh boy, did we love it.  The middle-eastern lentil soup was perfection, the flat bread soft and delicious, and the baklava totally sinful.   It's definitely going on to our list of traditions to keep. 

And now all the guests have returned home, Cami's talk has been given, the house is starting to recover from its wrapping paper/ new toy inundation, and Glen heads back to work tomorrow.

I think I'll take a nap. 



Clarinda said...

Spence looks absolutely thrilled in his new pjs. :)
Sounds like a wonderful Christmas!

angela said...

Those pajamas are AWESOME!!!! I loved your card and it is hanging proudly in our card gallery.
Love you guys! It makes us so homesick for the Vienna Ward when the cards arrive. We are so spoiled to know such amazing people!

Katie said...

Now I know why Cami predicted that the pajama pic would go viral - It is AMAZING!!

We also enjoyed our NEW tradition of reading the nativity booklet. Thank you for sharing!

annalisa said...

I have a lot of comments so be prepared ;)
I love the Washington D.C. temple and the Christmas lights! They're beautiful!
Your kids are so cute! And Lincoln is adorable too! He's so funny!
I love the pajamas and hats! They make me laugh :)
Yay for a new helmet for Spence!
Ellie was really excited to show me, on Skype, her awesome horse and Barbie!
I'm glad everyone liked their gifts!
Also I like the Bethlehem dinner! Last year, the dinner was amazing!
I just had to comment on almost everything. The end... for now.

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