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  • Neyir Urminsky

Our Family's Fav December Holiday Traditions

The 2020 hunt for the perfect tree!!!

I love Christmas, I have always loved it, so much so that we got married on December 28th. Over the years I have been fairly intentional about developing Holiday Traditions. We have never lived in the same city, or often country as our families. Pre-covid we would often travel over the winter break but generally we spend Xmas day at home. This year I suggested that we could forgo many of the presents and instead go on a vacation over the break. The kids were not having it, even the 15 year old, they were absolutely shocked at the idea of not following our usual timeline! So maybe I have overdone Holiday traditions just a bit!!

A selection of this year’s cookies - all eaten now!

Having said that while I do love traditions I have also found that one of the keys to success is to be flexible. As the kids are getting older and we now have my mom living with us I am seeing some things shift and some members of the family (I’m looking at you teenager) not wanting to be as involved - haha. I accept that as the way things are now. Still while older kids may not participate as much I know there is something grounding in knowing the traditions are happening and that your family wants you to participate.

I always love learning about how others celebrate so I thought I would share a few of ours. I don’t think anything we do is particularly groundbreaking but maybe there will be a nugget in here that inspires you. When the kids were younger and I only had 2 I would do a mini tradition each day with something bigger on the weekend. The daily traditions were really small like planting a bulb in a pot, writing out their gift list or reading a new holiday book. As they have gotten older and multiplied I haven’t stuck with that but we do still have daily and weekend traditions throughout the month.

Books read so far this December

Daily we read

Up until this year I would wrap all of our holiday books and they would open 1 per day. Each year I have added a few more books and now we have more than 25. We have faith based Xmas books, general holiday books in both French and English, some silly, some fantastical and we have been adding in more books about other faith traditions. This year I meant to wrap them, really I did but it just didn’t happen. That is the kind of thing that in years past I would have really beaten myself up about but now just accept as either a natural evolution or reflect that ‘that’s the way we are celebrating this year’. Instead this year the collection lives in our room in a basket and the twins have been choosing 2 books each afternoon or evening to read.

Our other daily reads

How Winston Delivered Christmas. I had never heard of this book until I stumbled upon it in Indigo about 3 years ago. Since our years living in the UK I am a complete sucker for British content and we love this one! It is one story arc about a little mouse in London trying to deliver a letter to Santa told over 25 days. After each daily story there is a craft or activity. We do a few of the activities each year but have never done all of them, I mean everyone has homework and sports now - haha! Also we don’t get too concerned if we miss a day or start a bit late as we did this year. Then we just double up on readings for a few days to catch up.

The Jesus Storybook Bible - A Christmas Collection

For most of the days this is a short bible passage and a simple reflection, also there are 10 music selections to play for specific days. In my head I see us doing this every day of Advent at breakfast. In reality it happens when it happens, often in the evening with the other reading. Like Winston we started late this year and we aren’t beating ourselves up about it. I find when we focus on keeping traditions ‘perfectly’ we risk getting so overwhelmed that we are tempted to throw them out all together!

Our weekend activities are fairly standard. The Saturday of the first weekend of December or last of November depending on where it falls we cut our tree. I put on the lights that evening and then on Sunday afternoon with Christmas music playing we drink mulled apple cider, and eat sometimes a snackey dinner and sometimes simply chocolate and cookies meanwhile the kids decorate. I used to direct them on how to place ornaments, now I let them have at it and re-adjust a few in the days after but in no way re-do their work.

Tree decorating spread from 2020, I seemed to have more time that year 🤣🤣

Then we spend one weekend making cookies; Friday/Saturday we bake and Sunday we decorate. Another Saturday or Sunday we spend making our Gingerbread House, I always buy a kit or 2 or 3 depending on their size. The houses last about a week max, my kids actually eat a fair amount of the gingerbread. Also full disclosure, I always go to the bulk store and buy more candy for decorating. This is an outing the teenager is usually happy to participate in!

One of the 2021 houses, we decorate this year's this weekend!

Also we have a pizza and movie night with homemade pizza nearly every weekend throughout the year and in December we only watch Xmas movies. This is more or less of a hit depending on whose choice it is - heehee!

As we get closer to the holidays another tradition that I implemented was sorting through toys, donating and selling where appropriate. This morning one of the twins even pointed out 2 toys he thought should go, his twin only agreed on one!

Lastly in terms of the day itself we tend to open stockings, then have breakfast, read the story of Jesus from the bible and afterwards open the gifts. Then we will head out on a walk before or after the main meal depending on what we are having. We don’t always have the same main dish but our desserts are pretty standard; Gluten free mincemeat tarts and this delicious Gingerbread Trifle.

This trifle is loved by all though I miss my family’s traditional port infused family recipe

My last tradition is around gifting. Every year we get a new family game and a new puzzle or sometimes 2. I love making sure we have these for the week between holidays to work on and play as a family. If you have seen my stories you won’t be surprised that this year’s game is Math ex. I love grabbing these Djeco puzzles when I can get them as the artwork is gorgeous (this is the actual one I am wrapping this year) and 1,000 pieces is currently our sweetspot.

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