Now that my oldest son is four, I want to start incorporating all of the fun holiday ideas I used to do in elementary school and with my grandparents. He is old enough to enjoy them, participate, and start making memories.
By Nicole Nowitzki
When I was younger, we used to make almost everything for the Christmas tree. We would string popcorn, link paper rings of red and green, tie ribbon on branches, and create age appropriate ornaments that our parents would either cherish forever or promptly “lose” when the tree was taken down. I don’t think anyone really liked tinsel, so I will not be resurrecting that, and the good Lord knows that I’m not lighting hanging candles. Our parents’ and grandparents’ trees were beautiful, but I’m surprised they were willing to risk burning the house down.
We would sit around and look at pictures (that were taken on film, and you would pray that out of the 24, expensive photos that you’d pick up from the drug store, you’d have one good shot). It was all about family. We would make pies, cookies, and candy. We would hand write Christmas cards, deliver many of them in person, and visit for hours before, during, and after the holidays.
Also, I vividly remember there being a spending budget. This was important to remember (in this time of credit cards). If you didn’t have the cash, you didn’t buy it. Whether you picked a name, or did something small for everyone in your immediate family, you planned it out. My mom would write down names on a piece of paper, and she would put a dollar amount next to each person. It was not about the number of gifts, or the money that was spent. She wanted to make sure each gift would be fun or useful to that individual. Sometimes, that person would love some homemade cherry cheesecake cupcakes, really needed a new pair of gloves, or wanted to go see a movie. Either way, it was personal.
We also need to get back to giving time and love instead of gifts. We are accustomed to asking, “What do you want for Christmas?” and a standard response is something that can be purchased. Why not give coupon books filled with amazing adventures of hobbies, write them a book, create a picture album, or bring over your favorite Christmas movies to watch together. Teach children how to wrap presents. You don’t need fancy paper. Newspaper works well, and then they can create a fun tag.
Other traditions that have been lost or forgotten are caroling, singing around the piano, playing board games for hours, driving around to look at Christmas lights and decorations, teaching children our favorite Christmas songs at the tops of our lungs in the car, making Christmas cards for troops, making gingerbread houses, homemade popcorn balls/taffy/ribbon candy, hang peanut butter-birdseed pinecones/apples/popcorn strings outside for squirrels or birds, and taking pictures in front of the tree. All of these make memories to remember.
This year, I want to remember every minute. I want to decorate cookies, play fun games, tell stories, build a snowman, and wear silly Santa hats. If I had my way, I’d do all of these, but in reality, I’m busy, and some of my kids are still a bit too small to really enjoy all of them. I have a feeling that my future life is going to be filled with, “Do we have to?” and “We’re doing that again???” but I know that no matter how much they act unamused, they will still have a memory.
Remember, it’s not only about the event and activity. If everyone is upset, stressed, and overwhelmed, then maybe it should be cancelled or postponed. Children will remember the positive, but they will also remember the negative. You can create something magical that they will want to do with their future families, but you can also make them avoid even owning a tree. It’s all about what works best for your family. Sometimes, simplicity is better. Pick one thing, make it special, and don’t forget to have fun!