4 Moms talk about family traditions

This week we agreed to chat a bit about family traditions.   I’m assuming the 4 of us meant Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is good because there’s no way our family could ever compete with The Common Room when it comes to April Fool’s Day.

Of course we all know that it’s not competition.  It’s about…um…doing fun stuff?  No, that can’t be right.  Don’t ask me to give a dissertation on the deeper meaning of family traditions this week.  I just got home from a weekend that was waaay too much fun and I have a head cold and my sinuses and eyes are not feeling right.  Consequently, I’m doing lots of dumb things, like showing up a week early for dentist appointments.  Fortunately I’m also more forgetful than usual.  “Why is that fortunate?” you ask.  Because I feel sure that I’ve forgotten most of the dumb things I’ve done this week.

Having established appropriately low expectations, I’m now ready to share a few of our family traditions.

First of all, we stuff ourselves like the Thanksgiving turkey at every chance. Does that count?  We may not prepare elaborate and time-consuming dishes, but we love to eat and a holiday is our number one excuse to serve all of our favorites at once.  Obviously as the number of capable cooks in the house increases year by year, our feast does become bigger, better and more creative.  After all, our chief end is to glorify God in everything we do, and the first two ways to do so are eating and drinking.

Second, we surround ourselves with as much family as possible. Being part of a large family makes this easy.  Perry is the oldest of 6 children, and his mom is one of 7.  We’ll spend Thanksgiving with his side of the family this year.  I’m the oldest of 14, half of them married with children.  We’ll probably spend Christmas with most or all of them.  And we’ll eat every kind of food we can get our hands on, at every occasion.

For Thanksgiving, we usually take turns at the table, each of us telling what we are particularly thankful for this year.  The more people we have at the table, the more challenging it becomes to have an original answer when your turn comes around.  The older you are, the more insightful your answer is expected to be.  Only 4 year olds are allowed to put pizza at the top of their list of Things I’m Thankful For This Year.

If you ask me, other traditions are nice but they pale in comparison to those above:

Christmas music begins the day after Thanksgiving. To play it earlier is simply not done.  To fail to play it thereafter would be equally heinous.

We hang crocheted Christmas stockings, patterned after the ones Pampa made for Perry and his cousins long ago.  We stuff them with nuts and candy, inexpensive toys, peanut m&m’s, and an orange.

We decorate the house and deck with lights, pine cones, a nativity set, and my old snowglobe from Party Light Candles.

We draw names from a hat to decide who will buy a gift for whom, both inside the household and in the extended family.  The mechanics of the exchanges change every year.

We wear Santa hats when we go into town. You know, the standard issue red cone-shaped hat with a white fringe and a white puffy ball on top.  We don’t “do” Santa, but we love the hats and the smiles they garner.

We make paper snowflakes to hang in windows and from the ceilings, light fixtures and fans.  I try not to lose my cool over the millions of tiny paper scraps left on the floor.  Just think of them as snow, Kim.  Be a nice mom.

We argue good-naturedly about whether or not to have a Christmas tree, and how big it should be, and how long we should keep it.  I’m the scrooge who doesn’t want the mess and bother, and I nearly always lose.  Yes, we usually have a tree, and it nearly always happens on the day after Thanksgiving.   A couple of years ago when our house was still mostly unfinished, we used dark green floor paint to create a tree on the wall, then used pushpins to decorate it with our regular ornaments.

We each open a gift on Christmas eve. Other gifts may come before, after, or right on Christmas day, depending on where and when we see the extended family.  Personally, I like it when gift-giving is spread out this way; it seems to make Christmas day less chaotic and stressful, making it easier to remember the one gift that really counts: God’s gift of salvation to His children.

See what to expect in the other Moms’ homes 0ver the next 2 months:

What traditions do you have in your family?

Oh – and quick!  I need your best ideas for pine cone crafts! We brought home a bunch from our church retreat and I want to do something with them besides sweep up the crumbled remains.

Do you like the pine green I used on the text above?  Or did it occur to you that pine cones aren’t green at all?

Upcoming topics for November:

  • 11-  Family traditions
  • 18- Thanksgiving plans (a linky – be ready to share your plans!)
  • 25- Thanksgiving Day celebration – watch for something fun and unique!


  1. I was helping with the little kids missions class at church a week and a half ago, and their class was filling a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. (Filling a shoebox for kids who wont get anything on Christmas.) The teacher was trying to explain about how “you know how we open presents on Christmas morning, well these kids wont be able to.” But she began her statement with “You know how Christmas morning, Santa Clause comes” and our pastor’s daughter busted out with “Santa Clause is NOT real”. Surprisingly, none of the kids even reacted. (they weren’t all from non-Santa homes). The teacher just kept on going as if the little girl didn’t say anything. We were relieved no one reacted, but I think we were very fortunate in that situation. I was actually *really* surprised at the outcome.

  2. We are not doing Santa because my husband is Jewish and I want my daughter to understand it is her parents (and their hard work) that afford the Hanukkah and Christmas gifts. What I haven’t figured out is how we keep her from spoiling Santa for our friends’ kids (she is 4 months so we have a while). Any suggestions?

    Oh, and how I wished my parents would let us unwrap gifts on Christmas eve. No such luck, even as adults. After Christmas eve church services it is off to bed and no unwrapping before 6am.

    • Sarah,
      We never did figure out that one. Before we realized what was happening, our kids had spoiled Santa for quite a few others! Now we don’t have many friends whose little ones believe in Santa so it’s not a problem.

  3. My mom recently just gave me a Thanksgiving craft from when I was little. It is a pine cone laid on it’s side. There are feathers glued in by the flat part of the pinecone, a milk jug lid oppisite that (to make it stand) and then at the point is a turkey head made out of construction paper. It was probably a very cute craft, if the paper wasn’t twenety years old and quite so yellow….

  4. I remember when I found out that Santa wasn’t real; I felt betrayed by my parents and others who worked so hard to get us to believe the lie. I didn’t trust them after that. Consequently, as a child I was confused about Santa/Jesus and just thought Jesus was a make believe character as well.

  5. I love that you do not teach about Santa. We too skip that part of Christmas. We’ve told our kids that it’s a game people play to remember the real St. Nicholas who gave gifts as well as served others to teach Christ’s actions. We start our holidays with St. Nicholas day and throughout the season we take turns pretending we are St. Nick, this can be doing a chore for someone while they are in the shower, or creating a gift. My children are young, but I’m excited to see where they will take this as they grow.

    On Christmas Eve we play St. Nick and give them each 1 present after attending church. On Christmas morning we exchange gifts from family and friends. I love that our focus of the Christmas season is not on Santa Clause but the real meaning of Christmas.

    My 4 year old still like Santa books and stories and recognizes him as a make believe character just like all her other favorites. We also are trying to teach her to not spoil the “game” for other kids.

  6. Aw, you mean I can’t put pizza at the top of my thankful list because I’m 38??! 🙂

    This year I’m thankful for so many things – one of them – that we’re in the middle of moving (to Dallas!) so we get to go to someone else’s house. That equals less work, less mess – that’s a good thing!!

  7. Well, the pine green made me think of your painted-on Christmas tree, not about whether pine CONES are green or not! 🙂

  8. I’m curious about why you don’t do Santa (if you need some q+a topics, here’s one!). It’s been something we’ve discussed for years. My daughter is young enough that it doesn’t matter, but as she gets older it will. I don’t want to make a fuss over it. Personally I just feel like it’s lying to our kids and not focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. But it’s still fun to play Santa, especially when giving to others. Anyway, I’m always curious about this because of the responses I get from extended family and others when I say anything about it.

    • Emily,
      We don’t demonize Santa, but we don’t teach our children – even the very young ones – to believe that he sneaks into the homes of good little children to leave them gifts.
      We have several reasons, but it really comes down to the fact that we don’t like the way the whole Santa is typically practiced. Parents work so hard to convince their children that a fictional character is real. This, I think, is dangerously close to lying. It also raises the concern that when children learn there’s no real Santa (in spite of everything their parents taught them for years) they might wonder about Christ next. After all, they met Santa in real life. If he’s not real, who is?
      Also, I think that today’s Santa is deeply embedded in the materialistic, consumeristic method of observing Christmas which has long since replaced Christ and God’s gift of salvation as the primary focus of Christmas for many people.
      We do talk about the real Saint Nicholas of old and the deeds for which he is remembered; we just don’t try to convince our little ones that the guys they see in red and white suits at every corner bear any real connection to him.

  9. I’m totally going to steal the Santa hats when you go out idea. My mother-in-law bought one for all of the children one year when she was down so we have them.

    The kids will love it. Thank you!

    We also do Christmas songs after Thanksgiving and not before.

  10. Give the pinecones to someone with rabbits! the little creatures love to nibble, play with and otherwise toss around the pine cones. That’s being truly “green”. 🙂

  11. My first thought was the first project the link someone else already posted. On the pineconelady craft site my family has always used them to make as fire starters for Christmas gifts. I love the idea of using essential oils in it as well. We have never done that but I sure they would give off a lovely smell. 🙂

  12. Spray with spary adhesive and shake glitter over the wet glue. Let dry. Very cute! They also make great Turkeys. Trace 3 copies each of your child’s hand. Put two together on the back to make the tail, put one on the bottom to make the feet. Give it a face. Make sure your child colors the hands first! Great memory keeper too! I should say, this is done with the pinecone standing on its flat bottom part.

  13. Stephanie H says:

    found this…


    We have a pine tree and I too was thinking what creations could be made?

    This gal has lot’s to say about pine-cones.

  14. Take some of the pine cones and spray paint them gold and silver. These make good tree ornaments (and they last year after year), can be attached to wreaths, or just place them along a shelf with a couple of loose pine boughs winding around them. Very pretty and the boughs smell pleasant right through the holidays. One can also brush the cones with white glue and sprinkle with glitter, but I like the gold and silver ones better, personally.

    Take a few pine cones, smear them thoroughly with peanut butter, roll in wild birdseed. Hang where you can see the birds enjoy them. Do be sure to choose cones with enough stem left to tie on the thread or twine (one would think that would be obvious, but one would be wrong–I learn by making mistakes.) Pine cones can be reused for this, provided the birds have done a decent job of cleaning them up.


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