This year Christmas will be very very different for us. Edwin and I both value tradition to a very high degree and this Christmas we’re breaking with all tradition.
Edwin’s family has a very rich tradition with a large annual Christmas Eve celebration in Los Angeles. And that includes lots of extended family at Edwin’s aunt and uncle’s house. My family goes to Jackson Hole every Christmas with a bunch of extended family to visit my grandfather.
We have lots of traditions within that tradition that I hope I never grow old and forget. Since being married, Edwin and I have formed a bit of our own tradition by spending Christmas Eve in Los Angeles and flying out Christmas morning to Jackson Hole. I haven’t really spoken about it on my blog or Instagram but my grandfather passed away this year, making it a difficult year and a different holiday season. My family isn’t going to Jackson Hole for Christmas for just about the first time. We also have a wedding in Los Angeles this weekend that we’re going to. So it’s too much for us to travel back a week later for Christmas Eve.
It will be my first Christmas without my grandfather. It will be Edwin’s first Christmas Eve spent without his family. We’ll be in Charleston so we won’t have a white Christmas. All of this makes me so sad. On the flipside, it will be our first Christmas in our house. And we couldn’t be more thrilled about and grateful for! In light of this upcoming season being turned so upside-down for us, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re creating holiday traditions + 10 holiday tradition ideas. If you’re at a season of your life where you’re looking to create your own holiday traditions as a married couple or as a family, then this post is for you!
How To Create Holiday Traditions
How do you want to celebrate the holidays? It might seem like an obvious question but it isn’t always. Usually, holiday traditions are connected to specific people and places and it can feel unsettling to imagine doing the holidays any other way. This is certainly the case for Edwin and me! To spin this uncertainty into positivity, think of it as an opportunity to reflect on what matters most to you during the holidays, what you want to put emphasis on, and what you want to carry on into the years to come (and pass on to your children if you have them). Here’s what we’re considering and asking ourselves as we’re thinking about how to create holiday traditions.
What was your most beloved holiday tradition from childhood and growing up?
This is a fantastic place to start! What are the one, two, or three family traditions you can’t imagine the holidays without? If you’re making new traditions with a spouse, then see if you have any overlapping or similar must-do traditions. I like the idea of making sure you each have a favorite tradition from growing up represented moving forward.
What did your parents, grandparents, or family members do during the holidays that you’re thankful for?
Growing up, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles generally call the shots during the holidays. As kids, we go with the flow so it is sometimes not until adulthood when we realize just how special and meaningful our parents, grandparents, and extended family members made the holidays. It’s really nice to stop, look back, and think about what activity, message, or sentiment they put a spotlight on. My hunch is that you’ll discover a lot you’re thankful for. What will you want your children or future children to be thankful for one day?
What do you want the focus of the holidays to be?
The beauty of the holidays is that there are so many wonderful things to focus on! I think this one is especially important when you have kids because whatever focus you put on the holidays will really shape the meaning of the holidays for them and set that as their foundation for years to come. What do you want the focus of the holidays to be about? Things to consider: family, community, giving back, the birth of Jesus, traveling, and so much more.
How do you want to mark the holidays throughout the season, on Thanksgiving, on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day?
There’s a lot that goes into the holidays so it can be helpful to think about the bigger picture of the season, which really goes back to what you want the focus of the holidays to be. When thinking about the holiday season as a whole, think about the activities you want to accomplish and create as traditions throughout the weeks like picking out a volunteering, Christmas tree, tree trimming, hosting a holiday party, etc. Then, you can narrow in and think about what you want the special days of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s day to look like. How do you want to mark these days this year and in years to come? It’s never too late to start new holiday and Christmas traditions!
What meals and food do you want to serve?
I bet a lot of you associate certain dishes with Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and Christmas night. I know Edwin and I sure do! Are any of these dishes traditions you want to carry forward? Perhaps you want to put your own twist on the traditional meals from your childhood. Do you want to create new recipes as your own tradition going forward? Maybe you want to start the tradition of always trying a new recipe at the holidays. Tastes and smells are powerful memory makers so food is a fun topic to think about when creating your own holiday traditions!
What activities make the holidays special to you?
For me, this was church on Christmas Eve and skiing on Christmas afternoon. What about you? I know some families who always go to the movies or always watch the same Christmas movie on Christmas day. I know other families who always volunteer at shelters serving meals on Christmas Eve or Christmas day? What activity or activities do you want to do year after year as your holiday tradition? This can tie into the food question above!
Beyond Christmas Eve and Christmas day, activities can include things like singing Christmas carols, building gingerbread houses, picking out a Christmas tree at a tree farm, shopping for an adopted family, attending a holiday parade, and completing an advent calendar. There are so many activities to do to get you in the holiday spirit!
10 Holiday Tradition Ideas
Send a Holiday Card
My parents have sent a Christmas card every single year (they still do!). In fact, one year my mom almost skipped the tradition until my sister and I caught wind of it and insisted that the holiday tradition could not be broken. This holiday season marks the third one for Edwin and I as a married couple. We started this tradition year one and keep adding an addition to our card every year.
Our first Christmas card was just the two of us with a photo from our wedding. Last year, our yellow lab, Maybelle, joined our card. This year, our white lab, Hopper, joined our card. I’ll be popping our cards in the mail this week with a photo from this post. My incredibly talented friend Hannah of Hannah Alyssa Photography took our Christmas card photos last year and this year! I love the tradition of being captured on film year after year by the same photographer and I can’t imagine a better one than Hannah! P.S. Other than last year’s Christmas card, you know Hannah from here and here!
Pick Out a Real Christmas Tree & Trim the Tree Together
A favorite tradition for both Edwin and me from growing up was picking out a real Christmas tree. We 100% want to keep this tradition going so you won’t find any fake trees in our house. We both have very fond memories of coming home to trim the tree with our families after picking it out with Christmas classics from Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra playing in the background.
Watch a Favorite Christmas Movie
Every single year growing up, my family sat down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life during the week leading up to Christmas. I can’t imagine a holiday season without doing this. Nothing ignites the holiday spirit in me like this movie!
Adopt a Family
We adopted a family through our church every year growing up. As a family, we went shopping for our adopted family and, as kids, had so much fun picking out items for the kids in the family. It is such a wonderful way to put an emphasis gift giving in a positive way instead of in an overconsumption way. I also think adopting a family during the holidays is a beautiful way to teach children compassion, gratitude, and the real magic of Christmas.
Go on a Christmas Lights Tour
We loved driving around to look at the famously decorated houses during the Christmas season. There were a few houses in our neighborhood that put out hot cocoa and hot cider for kids, which only added to the merriment.
Host a Holiday Party
I think the best holiday parties are the ones you attend every single year that are holiday traditions for the hosts. They feel so special and become something to look forward to year after year. I love a party with years’ worth of memories too! For more on hosting holiday themed parties, head here.
Bake Santa Cookies
I love the idea of gathering all the little ones (your kids, nieces, and nephews) on Christmas Eve to make Santa cookies and hot chocolate and to put our reindeer food. It’s a fun and tasty tradition to do together every year.
Open Presents and Stockings
I feel like everyone has traditions around this. Growing up, we opened stocking on Christmas morning and any other presents on Christmas night. Edwin opened presents on Christmas Eve. I know some that open one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas day and others who open gifts on Christmas Eve and stockings on Christmas morning. We’re excited to one day have kids to start present and stocking opening traditions with!
Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning, and Christmas Day Meals
Since our holiday is so different this year for the first time as a married couple, we’re thinking quite a bit about what we want our Christmas meals to be so we can start these traditions. My favorite of these meals growing up was Christmas morning cinnamon rolls in our Christmas pajamas. We rarely ate cinnamon rolls during the year so it was always special! One thing Edwin and I both know is that we’ll be getting dressed up for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas dinner. Both of us did this with our families growing up and we both love the idea of honoring the meals with dressed up attire.
It is really pretty common to do advent calendars for religious reasons or as a general countdown to Christmas. Either way, they are certainly a nice way to honor each day of the holiday season and can be a great holiday tradition. Advent calendars can be a fun DIY too.
A Few Other Holiday Tradition Ideas
Write letters to Santa, make Christmas ornaments, make Christmas wreaths, make Christmas tree garland, hang an annual ornament, donate toys, and read holiday books (I loved The Polar Express so much as a child!).
Don’t forget, it is never too early to start your own holiday tradition! I hope this post gave you some holiday tradition inspiration! Merry everything! xx
Photography by Hannah Alyssa Photography