Just the very word “Christmas” brings memories, things, places, and people to mind, sometimes so quickly we are caught up in our own perception of our holiday yesterdays before we can blink. Love or loathe it, Christmas and its traditions are an integral part of American history. What Christmas Memories from the past, the present, or memories to be made in the future are most important to you? All of them! You are correct! Like in Charles Dickens’ timeless novel “A Christmas Carol,'' let's look at Christmas traditions that made memories from the past, Christmas how we do/can celebrate it now in the present, and the hopes and dreams we have for Christmas in the future.
Remembering Christmas Past
We all have fond memories of Christmas when we were kids. Funny how traditions from long ago are still part of Christmas for many generations.
- Christmas Trees - Whether yours growing up was real or artificial, odds are you had one. The tradition of Christmas trees dates all the back to the middle ages in Germany. Europeans moving to America brought the tradition with them. A woodsman from New York, Mark Carr, is known as opening the first Christmas tree lot back in 1851.
- Advent Calendars - The Advent Calendar itself dates back to Germany in 1903. A German publisher named Gerhard Land wanted children to have a visual way to countdown to Christmas as they opened a window or door each day with something new inside to see.
- Gingerbread Houses - Gingerbread houses go ALL the way back to Queen Elizabeth I who began decorating gingerbread cookies. Germany started the gingerbread house tradition which really took off in popularity when the brothers Grimm wrote their famous tale of Hansel and Gretel.
- Christmas Lights - Edward Hibberd Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, first came up with the idea to put light bulbs on a string and wrap them around a Christmas tree back in 1882. Lights on trees became very popular and by 1914 were in mass production.
- Candy Canes - Another tradition from Germany that began in 1670. Candy Canes made their way into America in 1847 and continue to be the most popular, non-chocolate candy sold in the month of December.
- Department Store Shopping Catalogues - Most kids (myself included) anxiously awaited the Christmas catalogues to come from our favorite department stores. We would pour over them for hours, memorizing all the toys we wanted, marking the pages. Items could be mail ordered or bought in store, if they were in stock.
- Television Christmas Specials - Several “classic” Christmas specials were created and beloved, from the 1950’s on. They only aired once a year, and if you missed it, you missed it.
Creating Christmas Memories In The Present
Leading up to Christmas Day gives you lots of time to grow the anticipation and make the season bright, while building lots of memories your children will cherish. Creating simple yet fun family traditions are the nostalgic memories that will stick with your children their entire life, and be the catalyst for them to want the same beautiful memories when they have families of their own. There are plenty of simple, fun things you can do with your kids that don’t cost a lot of money but build lifetime memories for them of the holiday season. A few to consider as you try and make this year, and the coming years, more memorable:
- Pile your family in the car (maybe even in your pajamas) and drive around to look at Christmas lights.
- Give each person their own job/responsibility as you decorate the tree and the house.
- Make and decorate Christmas cookies together
- Designate several nights of the week as “Christmas Movie Nights” and gather together to watch some holiday classics.
- Help your kids write a letter to Santa.
- Create a hot chocolate bar with everyone’s favorite toppings.
- Build and decorate a gingerbread house together.
- Let your kids help you shop for toys and let them drop them in the box to donate to Toys For Tots.
- Have a red and green scavenger hunt, all items to find either red or green.
- Have a Christmas Carol singalong and let each person pick out their favorite carols. Also use these carols to create a playlist on yours and your kids devices so you can enjoy all your favorite Christmas songs throughout the season.
- Bake Christmas goodies and deliver to family and neighbors.
- Let the kids help you wrap gifts and let them use art supplies to decorate their own wrapping paper.
- Make your own Christmas cards and let your children decide which ones to send to family and friends.
- Take a family trip to the grocery store and let everyone help pick out food to take to your local food bank for the holiday season.
- Have a picnic/snack by the Christmas tree.
- Plan a family “campout” by the Christmas tree on the evening of December 23, sleeping bags and all, Christmas pajamas and all. What better way to wake up by the tree and the day is now Christmas Eve!
- Gather the family together and go to a local Christmas Eve service.
- Take a lot of these ideas and write each one down individually and put them in a “Christmas Bucket.” When it's time for a fun family activity, draw one and enjoy!
- These are just a few of MANY suggestions, create your own fun things to do and, by all means, include some traditions from your own childhood.
The Christmases To Come
When your children are grown and have families of their own what do you want them to remember most about Christmas during their childhood? The cookies and gingerbread houses were fun, toys and gifts were special, ornaments passed down will still be cherished, but what your kids will remember (and cherish) the most is YOU. They were watching as you scrimped and saved to get them the gift they really wanted. They were watching as you made endless cookie dough, baked countless cupcakes for the school party, church party, and sports team party. They were watching as you ran from store to store to find just the right gift for EVERYONE in the family, then spent hours wrapping them all, one by one. They were watching you as you watched them on Christmas morning, wrapping paper flying, laughter ringing through the rafters. Every gift opened, they were watching you, to see that you saw their joy. So, what’s the key to making Christmas memories in the future? Continue to be present and never stop watching. They will cherish all the things you did, fondly remember the favorite gifts they got, but remember you most of all. Always the constant driving force, always working for their good and their happiness. Christmas of the future will look a lot like Christmas today. We will grow older in age, but still be kids at heart ourselves when the holidays come around. In the future there will be more family to love, more joy and laughter to be heard, and always thoughts of Christmases past and joint efforts to make Christmas future just as meaningful for the next generation. Memories and traditions come full circle in the past, present, and future just like families come full circle. Hold your circle close and it will carry on to the next generation. Now, go make some memories!
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