Now that you’ve helped the Wiz with dinner, I need your help with the holidays. I LOVE the holiday season (namely, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years). Each year I look forward to those holidays with great anticipation, and each year they’re gone before I blink and I wonder if we gave them any of the significance they merit.
We live very close to my family and extended family. While this situation is perhaps another’s nightmare – I love it. Having lived out of state for 4 years and to come home where my children can regularly interact with their great-grandparents, grandparents and cousins means the world to me.
Here’s what our Thanksgiving will consist of this year. It’s our turn to be with my family this year and it’s my parents’ turn to be with my Dad’s family this year. So, our Thanksgiving group will be made up of Grandpa and Grandma, Mom and Dad, 7 uncles and 7 aunts and most of their children and some, like me, of our spouses and children. There are 44 grandchildren all together, and one aunt is still in production :). Several of my generation live far away and will probably not be able to join us, however, you get the picture – there will be a lot of us and we will be having this festive affair in a church building. Fun and festive it is, intimate it is not. Last time we attended this event, we ate and then I sat with my baby chatting with several aunts and uncles and cousins. My husband was outside being entertained with a go-cart and my kids ran around the building involved in all types of games and fun. We each had a marvelous time, but I honestly didn’t really even see my own little family except while we actually sat down and ate for a minute with 60ish other people. I left there feeling a little hollow. I want my kids to know why we celebrate and I want our celebration to reflect that and I want to celebrate it with them.
I don’t want to miss out on the big family shin-dig, so I decided the answer is to celebrate on our own the night before or the Sunday before. Sounds great, right? Right, but I have no idea what to do in our own little celebrations. Here’s where you come in. What do you do to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in a nice cozy meaningful way?
I know that beggars can’t be choosers, but to make this more helpful I should inform you of a few things: 1. I’m not super organized or detail oriented, if your suggestion requires a big detailed list of preparations I will be overwhelmed and dazed and either will not do it or I will but will be in such a bad mood I would seriously dampen the festive spirit. 2. I am not crafty in any way shape or form so if your suggestion involves creative crafting on my part I may go into a deep depression. 3. Money is an object. I’ve heard Thanksgiving is a fabulous time to go to Disneyland, but it just isn’t going to happen. Hopefully I haven’t scared you all off. I would love to hear your traditions, please!!!


Blogger Carrie said...

My family sounds very similar to yours. When we all get together there are over 60 people (this includes 37 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren). It is heavenly chaos. While I love every minute of it, I totally understand the need for something a little more intimate.

One of my favorite family Christmas traditions growing up (and one I have started doing with my own small family) is what we call "Advent".

"Advent" happened every Sunday night in December. Dad would read a portion of the christmas story from the bible, Mom would read a Chirstmas Story (either a short one from Friend, New Era or Ensign or a portion of a longer one that we would finish in 4 weeks). Then we would light candles on our Advent wreath (one the first Sunday, two the second Sunday and so on). With the lights low and the candle(s) burning we would listen to a Christmas song and take some time to think about Christ. Then we kids would fight about who could blow out the candle(s) and finish up with dessert.

The whole event doesn't have to take more than 15 minutes if you don't want it to and it can take very little planning: find the Christmas Story in the bible, open up a church mag to find a story, have a christmas CD on hand and in our family, sometimes dessert was just some sort of Little Debbie snack cake.

I remember as a child, this time spent with my family focusing on Christ and the true spirit of Christmas felt so refreshing. I still look forward to it every year now as a time to breathe and refocus during a very hectic time of the year.

11/07/2005 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Sue said...

I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions - now that we've moved miles away from family, we need to start creating our own Christmas traditions to make the holidays special.

Traditions our family had when I grew up - on Christmas Eve we got into our pajamas and re-enacted the Christmas story (I had 8 brothers and sisters, so there were plenty of people for the different parts); getting to choose one gift to open on Christmas Eve; going Christmas caroling (something my family still gets together to do); eating cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning...

My parents used to make us wait until everyone was awake to go into the living room; Dad would make us line up in the hallway, youngest to oldest, then wait while he went to "check" to see if Santa came - he would come back and then "remember" something else he needed to go check on - on and on, as we squealed and squirmed. Made us crazy, but it also made us laugh - and the anticipation was great.

My sisters (who I no longer live near, boo-hoo) have a Christmas cookie baking party every year that is fun for the moms AND the kids - the kids got to decorate the sugar cookies, and we sometimes got ambitious and worked on gingerbread houses.

Also, when Christmas does not fall on a Sunday, we take sack lunches to the homeless on Christmas.

On my DH's side, instead of gifts, we draw names, and exchange ornaments - can be anything you want, but it has to have the year on it somewhere - so for each of the 9 years we've been married, we have an ornament that reflects something special that happened in our lives that year - getting married, new baby, new house, etc.

11/07/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

For me, Thanksgiving and New Years are meant to be huge family deals. So, in the years when we haven't gone to relatives' houses, we generally foist ourselvs on friends and neighbors so we get that huge family-type-gathering feeling.

That aside, for Thanksgiving, we do our thankful tree. I put branches in a pot and cut out some leaves out of cardstock. Every Sunday leading up to Thanksgiving we read a gratitude scripture, sing a Thanksgiving hymn (or Primary song), and write one thing on a leaf that we are thankful for. Then on Thanksgiving, before said huge shindig, we get together and read and talk about all the things we're thankful for.

I don't like getting together with family for Christmas, I prefer a quiet, cozy family holiday. Which usually hasn't been a problem, since we don't live near our family. I do try to keep busy during the month, though, spreading out cooking, gift giving, parties, decorating, etc. We have an advent calendar and every day we put a note saying what we'll do that day. I've found it keeps a handle on all the mad Christmas rushing around.

11/07/2005 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous heather h said...

The winter holiday season is one fo my favorites as well. I have young children, and here are a few things that work for us:
We frost cookies together. If you are really crafty challenged, you can buy unfrosted sugar cookies to frost. The EASIEST way to decorate cookies is to put the frosting (store bought of course) in a ziplock baggie and cut a small whole at the corber now you and your kids ( my 3y.o can do this)can squeeze fun designs onto the cookies.
We also like to read the christmas story. Kids have SHORT attention spans so we read it from the children's bible (the 2 page, board book version). I have heard of some families dressing in towles and bathrobes and acting out the story...which might be fun.

I hope this helps and you have a great holiday!

11/07/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

We live far from family and usually do holidays by ourselves because of the cost/time factor. We make thanksgiving special by planning our menu, setting the table festively, and taking time share thoughts on what we are thankful for. After dinner we often play a game or two, maybe go for a family walk, or read aloud.
Of course, with little kids things don't always go smoothly, but we have managed to have some special days just our little family.

11/07/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Having lived out of state for 4 years and to come home where my children can regularly interact with their great-grandparents, grandparents and cousins means the world to me."

And also uncles who are spending ungodly amounts of money to come home, pretty much solely to see your kids.

11/07/2005 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

May I just say, for future reference, that the week after Thanksgiving is a fabulous time at Disney World in Florida. It is a ghost town. I was wandering about MGM Studios, wondering if the park was even open. A 10 minute line was too long to wait.

So -- we are planning on doing this in a few years time - by the time my youngest might still remember it, but before my oldest thinks Disney stuff is "lame". It's not a tradition, but it's something we are saving for, because it truly is a great time.

11/07/2005 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

All -- thank you so much you've all been so helpful.

Carrie, what was the advent wreath? Is this something you made or bought? I really like that idea.

Sue, we too had to wait FOREVER out in the hall while my parents lit the candles, turned all the tree lights and started a fire, I swear they delighted in taking as long as possible doing these few little things. It did make it maddeningly exciting though! I love your sack lunch idea. Do you make them all? Do you coordinate with a local shelter?

Melissa, I LOVE the gratitude tree idea and it sounds doable even for me and my craft challenged self.

Heather H. your plastic bag frosting decorator is brilliant. Anything to keep 3 yr. old hands busy!

Karen, I love that you make the preparations part of the family activity. I hate the traditions that involve Mom in the kitchen by herself.

Davis, a big oversight, of course I meant to include my kids' uncles and aunts, but then on the other hand only two of them have bothered to stay close to home. However, your sacrifice to visit is something we greatly appreciate and anticipate! You can use your real name.

Wiz, it really does sound fabulous to have the place virtually to yourselves. Maybe some year we'll try it. I knew a family that every Christmas went and took gifts to an orphanage in Mexico. Great ideas, just need to wait until the $$ starts rolling in.

11/07/2005 07:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I love the holidays too! As soon as November comes, that's pretty much all I can think about. As for Thanksgiving, if we aren't going home, we usually combine with another family and just make the traditional turkey, stuffing, rolls, and of course, a few pies to choose from. Our only real Thanksgiving tradition comes from DH's dad, who likes to play Handel's Messiah and other Christmas music through the meal, as a start of the Chrsitmas music season, so we do that too.

This year we are going to Utah for Christmas and for the first time in our 6 years of marriage, our parents live in the same state, so we'll see how it goes to "share." We haven't gone to my parents' for Christmas in a long time because they lived so far away, so I'm so excited to at least spend Christmas eve with them since they really are the most fun. Even though all of us are grown up, whoever is home still gets a new pair of pj's that night. Also, we have the same "Christmas soup" in bread bowls and make popcorn balls and treats. We act out the nativity, which feels silly unless there are kids around, sing carols, and mom reads "The NIght Before Christmas."

I love the "Advent" idea by Carrie. Maybe we'll try that. We haven't developed any of our own traditions since we've only had one year that we haven't been at one of our parents' homes, but I just love being with our family. It is so exciting and fun!

11/07/2005 07:45:00 PM  
Anonymous wbpraw said...

We now live away from family, but have still managed to have a big Christmas Eve bash with friends who are also away from family. When everyone has left and before the kids go to bed to wait for Santa, we gather them all on our bed in their jammies and we quietly read from Luke 2 - just our small family. Something else we do that I stole from a cousin -- We take all our existing (not new) Christmas picture books and wrap them on the first day of December then every night one child gets to open one and we read it together. I don't have 24 Christmas books, but I'm getting there. I buy one new book each year. I look for ones with a Christmas message, but we throw fun ones in there too like Olive, the Other Reindeer (a favorite).

And Dede, I've never made a sweet and sour meatloaf in my life! -- it must have been your OTHER friends - when are coming to see us?- email me.

11/07/2005 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I think my mom made our wreath (and I'm not sure about the one that she gave to me). But you can buy them from a number of different places online:


The custom of the wreath is a German Catholic one. Advent is the celebration of the coming of Christ. Our family is neither German nor Catholic, but many, many years ago, my parents were invited over to celebrate Advent with a family who were and have now adapted the tradition and made it their own. Traditionally, the wreath has 3 violet candles and one rose colored one (not sure of the symbolism there). We usually just use 4 red ones. I bet you could find one pretty cheap on Ebay. Gotta love Ebay.

11/07/2005 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Sorry that link didn't really work. Just google "buy advent wreath" and you'll come up with a lot of different options.

11/07/2005 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

We are trying a new "tradition" this year. We started a thankful chain. From yesterday until Thanksgiving, we will think of things we are thankful for and write them on a piece of paper that gets added to the chain. Then, when we decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving, the chain will be part of it. (We each get our own color of paper, too.) It is simple but helps me (and hopefully the rest of the family) remember to be grateful throughout the holidays.

11/08/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Beanie said...

We have the Charlie Brown Holiday Classic DVD's that we can watch at the holidays. Kids or no kids, young or old, they are fairly short, but all are good. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, Valentines day, who doesn't enjoy a good classic?!

11/08/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

This is really one of my MOST favorite blogs. Can I just say that?

What great ideas.


I put a space in the http address so you might have to cut and copy both parts. Sorry.

But it is a fun "advent" tradition for us.

It isn't what anyone would want to copy, but it is a fun thing we do.

We also go caroling. Though I am not sure we will with Ethan this year?! And I know it is somewhat outdated.

I always make us matching pj bottoms, goofy I know, but ya know, I think my kids would miss it if we did not do it. We open them Christmas Eve.

We always have a really fun leaf raking party where we go from one house to another (with friends) and we rake leaves together and have a little progressive dinner or snack as we go along. We haven't done that one in a bit, but when we lived in *town* that was a blast.

I just love these ideas! Thanks for this "Place"

11/08/2005 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I went visiting teaching this morning and one woman said she cooks stuff the day before and puts the turkey on and leaves it all day while they go to the extended family celebration.

Then when they get home in the evening, her turkey just falls apart and they eat it with their fingers and all the other treats and they have leftovers.

The other stuff she cooks beforehand are just everyone's personal favorites like shrimp cocktail, etc. They have it later.
I thought that was a good idea.

I hate Thanksgiving, it's such a lonely time if you don't have anyone. And I always worry about it being fun for my company and I haven't had a good Thanksgiving in years. I mean, we have a big dinner and company, but I haven't been able to relax and have fun.

Maybe this year.

11/08/2005 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Wbpraw -- I love your book idea! We love buying children's books, but I can't say that I have invested in any christmas ones. Can you please list some of your favorites so I have a place to start?


11/08/2005 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

Mary, I'm so glad you get to go "home" for Christmas, sounds like you have some fun long-standing traditions. We always act out the Nativity too, it's always an adventure :)
What's the "Christmas soup"?

Wbpraw, I love that book idea, I started doing that a couple of years ago. Sitting down with a good book each night (or at least each night we're home) was a highlight for me last year.

Carrie, thanks for the link and Ebay suggestion. I'll look into it, it sounds so neat.

Rachel, your chain idea is cute, I love that it will be part of the tree decor.

Beanie, "Over the river and through the woods..." still runs through my head every Thanksgiving.

Lisa M., your Christmas Book gift sounds so neat. Someday when I learn how to be organized I'll attempt it. Also, I LOVE the leaf raking party idea. How fun and neighborly.

Anne, I think you're raised a VERY important issue. I think many women grow to dread the holidays because it basically falls to us to make them fabulous. For some women it comes very naturally to and is something they are almost energized by. For some, like me, it doesn't come naturally for and can end up being just a lot of stress. That's one advantage of having Thanksgiving with a million people in a church, no one woman has to prepare her home and the entire meal.

Tell your family and friends to go to their favorite restuarant and drive up North a little and join us! Ryan and Davis will be there, you should really come!

I hope I didn't miss anyone, thank you thank you for all your suggestions!

11/09/2005 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

When my huge family gets together for Thanksgiving (once every other year), after we eat, we all settle down and everyone names a few things they are thankful for. With the adults, the list is a bit longer and more emotional, and with the kids, it can be simple things like "the sky" or "the dog", etc.

It's a way to sit down together and really appreciate each other... if only for 30 minutes, or so, until we're all at each other's throats again. =p

Another thing: Maybe for Christmas, make candy/cookies/whatever with your kids & husband one night. It's great for bonding. And the best part? You get to eat it afterwards! *grin*

My family (the ones in the area, anyway) also tries to have a dinner Christmas Eve (or thereabouts), and afterwards someone reads the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible (I always leave the room for that part--I've got kids to watch!), and we try to also get a few carols in as well. If the kids are too antsy for Bible stories, you could always simplify it (without having to read all the "thy, thou, etc").

Those are just a few of my family's traditions. There always happens to be food involved, too. =p

11/09/2005 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great ideas, everyone. My family, in the week leading up to Thanksgiving does the ABC's thankgiving list. Each of us take a turn, in order of oldest to youngest starting with A saying what we are thankful for starting with the letter we are given. We do this through email initally. Then my sister compiles the list, and my Dad reads it at the dinner table during Thanksgiving dinner. It is fun, and gets us in the mood before the actual holiday arrives.

Growing up we would act the Christmas story our through dance. It was always very interesting and very entertaining. We even set up curtains, had costumes, great music, etc. But it did usually cause some sort of sister fight somewhere during the day of prepartion. It was all part of the tradition. It was quite a production, and tons of fun. So, if you have little dancers in your house this is a fun idea.

11/12/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous myoungx said...

before we eat the thanksgiving dinner, we each take a turn telling others what we are thankful for .
for christmas growing up we would go caroling and bring a plate of cookies to each family, kinda as a " thankyou for letting us sing to you even though we sound sad:)!"
the sweet older ladies in our ward always welcomed us in to visit. those our my favorite memories

11/12/2005 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

Anonymous, I really like the ABC idea, so did each person do each letter or did you rotate the letters through each person?

I also LOVE the dance idea, I know someone who did that, perhaps you are that person. Anyway, I know it was a highlight for all of them, aside from the contention and drama in the preparation :). I have two little girls who could really go with that idea. Thanks!

myoungx, your Thansgiving tradition is what my family often did, until there got to be so many!

I love carrolling, there's nothing more festive.

11/14/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Christmas we used to do ring and runs. We would make up plates, or plastic buckets ($1 @ WalMart), of baked goodies. We would then pick a few names from the church roster. We'd all pile into the car and head to their house. When we got there one of us would run up to the door, place the goodies on their step, ring the bell and run. We did this every year... we even loved doing it when we were in High School. Note: You might want to include a note saying..
"Love a family from the 'name of your ward,' that way you know the food came from someone you could trust.

12/16/2005 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Be Thou My Vision said...

Traditions exists depends on people's religion... some people are aware of it and follows and some aren't. It's their choice anyway.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. And to the people who commented, thank you so much for sharing also. I learned a lot of things because of this blog.

11/18/2009 08:49:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home