Christmas

Create a Magical Christmas through Family Traditions

Christmas Family Traditions

Christmas is a magical, wonderful time of the year. But it also a time of great financial strain and stress which has led some to say “bah humbug” and skip the holiday festivities. I get it. Today there is considerable pressure to create the perfect holiday, which isn’t cheap or easy. Perhaps it’s time we reconsider what truly makes the holiday magical.

Seeing Lauren and Taylor’s eyes light up on Christmas morning and hearing their shouts of joy as they unwrap presents, are memories that I will treasure forever. Santa and presents are important, especially to young kids, but Christmas means more than just gifts.

Presents Are Forgotten but Family Traditions Are Treasured Memories

I remember my excitement Christmas morning as a child, but I only remember a handful of gifts that I received. What I do remember are our family traditions and how precious those memories are to me today. I realize for all the excitement my girls may genuinely feel for their gifts this Christmas that in 20 or 30 years what they will remember is everything else. Here are a few of our annual traditions.

Orange Marmalade Signals the Start of the Holiday Season

Every year after we have recovered from our Thanksgiving festivities, we don’t rush out to the stores but back to our kitchen instead. We thinly slice juicy California oranges and make homemade orange marmalade. The citrusy scent permeates the house and ushers in the Christmas season in our home. The girls help me make the jam, even though they aren’t big fans of it themselves, but the kitchen is filled with laughter and the sounds and scents of Christmas.

Decorating the Christmas Tree and House

Admittedly, there are times it would probably be easier to decorate the tree and house by myself, but where is in the fun in that? 🙂 Many decorations have a story behind them and the girls never tire of hearing these annual stories. I also purchase an ornament for Lauren and Taylor every year from a place we visited or something that symbolizes a special moment from the past year. Now when they leave home, they can decorate their own tree with our family memories.

Watching Classic Holiday Movies or Shows Together

For many years, it’s been the Polar Express for us. When the girls were younger we even took them on the Polar Express Train Ride at Christmas. While we no longer do that, we still watch the movie together and the book is a popular choice at bedtime. During such a busy time of year, taking a couple of hours to snuggle on the sofa together and watch a movie is a welcome break and a great reminder that family is the best gift of all.

Decorating Gingerbread Houses with Extended Family

I’ve been decorating gingerbread houses every Christmas since I was a child. My Mom used to spend days baking the gingerbread from scratch and my sisters and I would decorate our houses at the dining room table covered with bowls of candies and frosting. Now days, we use gingerbread house kits, but we still spend an afternoon with Grandma and the girls’ cousins decorating gingerbread houses. Christmas music still plays in the background and not every piece of candy makes it onto a gingerbread house. Some still disappears into somebody’s belly.

Affordable and Memorable Holiday Traditions

None of our traditions cost very much but mean a great deal to all of us. You may be tempted to break your piggy bank trying to buy everything on your child’s Christmas list, but the reality is the debt you could create may last longer than your child’s memory of the toy. Set a budget on what you can afford to spend on gifts, use my simple plan to create your child’s true Christmas wish list and focus on creating family traditions with your family. Those traditions are what they will remember as adults and want to recreate with their children.

Here are a few additional popular and affordable family traditions:

The Final Step in Creating a Magical Christmas

Next Monday, I’ll talk about the final component to creating a magical Christmas that celebrates gifts, traditions and one of my favorite things of all—sharing.

What are some of your family traditions?

Shannon

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.

The Heavy Purse Store is now open! My new downloadable Money Club Workbooks are now on sale. Each workbook provides five targeted lessons to help you raise Financially Confident Kids. Please check them out in The Heavy Purse Store.

December 9, 2013  •  59 Comments  •  Christmas

Leave a Comment

Comments

  1. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Great post Shannon! The line that struck most was "the reality is the debt you could create may last longer than your child’s memory of the toy." So true! A wonderful reminder that it's the memories that matter most, NOT how much you spend!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Thanks, Dee! It's sad but true. The debt people take on trying to create the perfect holiday with tons of gifts may last a lot longer than the actual gifts. Once we get that, I think it's a bit of relief as it lessens the pressure on the gift-giving and more focus on traditions and the real meaning of Christmas.
  2. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Last night we decorated the tree and baked/decorated Christmas cookies. The cookies were fun and inexpensive to make and the kids had a blast. I think that may be a new tradition for us!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      It is so much fun having the kids in the kitchen, especially at the holidays. They are so excited to help out and even though things may not look "perfect" they are heartfelt. I definitely hope decorating and baking together becomes a holiday tradition at the Johnson house!
  3. Kathy
    Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Our 2 traditions have sort of gone away since my son married and lives 2 states away. We always made Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve day and then that evening we watched the movie Christmas Vacation.....while eating cookies of course. But since our son doesn't come home for Christmas Eve any more, we just bake cookies whenever convenient.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Sounds like some wonderful family traditions. I'm sure when your kids were home they looked forward to those activities every year and it inspired them to make some of their own traditions with their families too.
  4. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    I love this list! It is amazing how inexpensive traditions can mean so much. Every year since I met my husband we have gotten a "special" ornament to represent the year. This year when we were decorating our tree, my 7 year old son FINALLY noticed them and it meant a lot to him. He laid them all out and made sure we had every year accounted for.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Thanks, Shannon! It's true. We spend so much on trying to make the perfect Christmas when many of the things that we truly love and remember don't cost very much at all. I love that you get a special ornament every year and I bet now that your son understands what those ornaments represent, he'll look for them every year. Love it!
  5. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    These are all great options to utilize Shannon - I actually have a very similar post going up next Monday. :) Gifts are fun and all, but I think so much of it goes back to spending time together and making memories that will far outlast any present. Our kids really enjoy The Polar Express as well and is a nice break from Charlie Brown Christmas. :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Great minds think a like John! And we are obviously brilliant! :) Yes, I agree as much fun as the gift may be in the moment, being together with my family and our shared memories will outlast any gift. The Polar Express has always played a big role during the holiday season so it's a good thing that I like the movie!
  6. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    The tradition we've started is centered on Christmas Eve. We bake cookies, read about the birth of Jesus from the Bible and open the stocking stuffer presents. We also love watching Christmas movies, especially It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Beautiful, Brian. I love it. Christmas Eve is always such a special night and those traditions are so powerful. I love how classic holiday movies are still so popular today and kids actually look forward to watching them.
  7. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Great ideas, that orange marmalade sounds delicious too. We used to paint our windows with a snow-like spray so we would spend hours cutting paper to make patterns, and also made most of the tree decorations from scratch. We celebrate st Nicholas on December 6th, the ancestor of Santa Claus so it lasts for all of December.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      It is delicious. It's the Barefoot Contessa's and so easy to make. I remember making paper snowflakes too, although we didn't get to paint ours onto the window! Sounds like great fun.
  8. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    One tradition my family has kept for my entire life is attending church on Christmas Eve. It doesn't sound like a 'fun' tradition per se, but it truly is memorable and something I look forward to each year, maybe even more so now that I'm an adult!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      We attend Church on Christmas Eve as one of our family's traditions too. It's always such a beautiful service. Like you, I probably appreciate it more today than I did as child. LOL!
  9. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    I love Christmas traditions! Two of my favorite ones were putting the angel on top of the tree and getting to put baby Jesus in the nativity. My sister and I would alternate these responsibilities each year. We also didn't put Jesus into the nativity scene until Christmas morning and then my sister and I would have to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before carrying on with the morning. It helped put the day into perspective before ripping open presents. (We're both in our 20s and still sing every Christmas).
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      I love it, Erin! And I can absolutely see you and your sister singing Happy Birthday to Jesus as a young child and today! :) Such wonderful traditions that still mean so much to you today.
  10. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Great ideas, Shannon! One of our traditions is to watch "A Christmas Story" when they do their 24 hour marathon on tv. That movie never gets old! :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Love it, Mackenzie! A Christmas Story is such a great classic movie. It's funny how we look forward to our favorite holiday movies every year, even though we have seen them so many times. I think the familiarity of them is just such a comfort.
  11. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Your family has beautiful Christmas traditions, and you are so right, they are things that will be remembered and possibly repeated when your girls have their own families.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Thank you, Sicorra! I certainly hope the girls carry on some of our family traditions and I'm excited to see what new traditions they will create.
  12. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Love this post! We do a lot of little things like St. Nicholas day and a couple of Italian traditions with the children. Now that we are older, some of that "magic" has gone away. I'm itching to have kids so we can revitalize it!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Thanks, Michelle! Yes, Christmas felt very different when it was just my husband and me. I still enjoyed the holidays, of course, but kids definitely make it entertaining!
  13. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    I love this, Shannon, and agree it's about experiences/memories over the gifts! While I do remember that I received a Cabbage Patch Kid, I remember more that it was tilted in the fireplace (like Santa just dropped it off) versus what the doll actually looked like. We used to also drive around at all the Christmas-lit houses, people get so creative. So cool that you carry on your family traditions with your girls!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Cabbage Patch Kids - I remember those. They were the "it" doll for so many years! I love how you remember how your present was tilted as though Santa just dropped it off, more than what the doll actually looked like. But the thrill - that Santa was there - is a powerful memory. Yes, I am always impressed by all the Christmas lights too. It's so beautiful.
  14. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    We do lots of baking together and when we were young we used to go for drives looking at the houses with lots of christmas lights. That is a memory I will always have.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 9th, 2013
      Those are some great family traditions, Liz. I definitely love baking with the girls for the holidays. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!
  15. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    We share some of the same traditions Shannon. Every Thanksgiving weekend we pick out tree and decorate it together. We have Christmas music playing and we make hot chocolate. Of course it's not always harmonious but I'll treasure the tiffs as well :).

    I'm adding a new tradition and that's to bake more. My grandson will be two this Sunday so I want him to remember the holidays and coming to my house for brownies or Christmas cookies.

    Sounds like you all have a great time as casa de Shannon! Thanks for sharing this with us! Hope you had a great Monday!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
      Anytime family gets together there are always a few tiffs and that's part of the joy of being a family! :) Baking with young kids is messy but a lot of fun too. You'll love it and it's will something your grandson will love as well. Have a great week!
    • Friday, December 13th, 2013
      I can't wait for him to help me out. He had his first grandma baked cookie today and he liked it :). It was a practice run because I need it, lol.

      Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a great weekend Shannon!
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 13th, 2013
      I love it! So cute! I'm sure he loved his cookie that grandma made for him and is looking forward to making cookies with her when he gets a bit older. You have a great weekend too, Corina! Thanks again for hosting the Every Woman Weekly. So honored to be a part of it!
  16. Monday, December 9th, 2013
    We have started a few of our own traditions like playing board games on Christmas day and making our own menu outside of traditional Christmas foods. The daughter and I also like to decorate and she was actually helpful this year. You would also be proud of me because we crafted for two hours on Saturday and made some really cool decorations. I AM NOT CRAFTY, but my neighbor is and talked me into it. I actually enjoyed it and feel very proud of my decoration.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
      I love that you cook some nontraditional foods too, makes it more interesting! Sounds like you and your daughter had a great afternoon together and be a new tradition for you as well. Kids are always so proud to show-off their decorations. So much fun!
  17. Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
    We do many of these same things, Shannon. The day after Thanksgiving always involved decorating the house and watching "A Christmas Story". Then, we schedule in our baking days with grandma, our other Christmas movies (It's a Wonderful Life is my absolute fave) and then gear up for Christmas Eve at grandma's house and Christmas day here at our house. The kids are eagerly counting down the days as usual. :-)
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 12th, 2013
      Sounds like some wonderful traditions, Laurie. They mean so much to us, particularly the older we get! :) My girls are eagerly counting down the days too and there are not too many days left!
  18. Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
    Great post Shannon, I got nostalgic just reading it. My wife and I wait until a week before Christmas, when all of the gingerbread house kits go on sale. It's a great way to spend $5, get an hour of quality time, and have a great dessert too. Unless I get frustrated at my shoddy craftsmanship. I would probably be a slum lord if people had to live in my gingerbread houses. And your orange maramlade sounds super good right now!
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 12th, 2013
      LOL! A gingerbread house slum lord! :) It's a lot of fun to do and the kids (adults too) have so much fun making them. And I have it easy. My Mom used to bake every piece of the house. It took so much work but the house smelled amazing.
  19. Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
    Will you adopt me? No seriously! :) I'm very envious of people with long-standing holiday traditions. Being single and away from family for most of my adult life, it makes any kind of tradition challenging. I would say the only thing that is constant is my love of pumpkin pie for both christmas and thanksgiving, and Pillsbury crescent rolls. I do try to see the nutcracker during the holiday season if I can. One of my faves.
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 12th, 2013
      Consider yourself adopted, Tonya! :) The years where we lived away from our family made it harder for us too. You cannot go wrong with pumpkin pie or crescent rolls! The Nutcracker is great show. Now that the girls are getting a bit older, maybe we ought to consider seeing an annual show too. So many good ones to chose from!
  20. Thursday, December 12th, 2013
    Sounds lovely! The most memorable moments are often inexpensive ones. We just finished our gingerbread house last week and have got the Christmas music on every night. Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas album just brings me back. We usually head to my mom's every year to create Scartelatta – these special honey drizzled almond cookies, but everyone's down with the cold this year, so we'll see. We've been working non-stop this December, so really looking forward to the break.
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 12th, 2013
      Bing Crosby used to croon in the background when we were kids making gingerbread houses too! I'm not familiar with those cookies but they sound delicious! Sorry to hear everyone is down with a cold. It's such a busy season that it seems like someone always ends up with a cold. Hopefully it'll be gone by Christmas!
  21. Thursday, December 12th, 2013
    I am a huge believer in the power of traditions! Traditions are the glue that holds a family together - no matter what. I love yours! I love the orange marmalade - that sounds so fun and delicious! The polar express is also a fave around here. One of my sons makes sure everyone wears their socks to bed on Christmas eve - in case the polar express comes by…. you wouldn't want to be barefoot!
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 13th, 2013
      I couldn't agree more, Leah. Traditions are the glue that hold a family together and they are so special to me. I have no doubt that you have some fabulous traditions in your blended family. Love your son - too cute! :)
  22. Friday, December 13th, 2013
    Great post - we used to do jigsaw puzzles and play charades, also board games that never get taken out of the cupboard except at Christmas :)
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 13th, 2013
      Thanks, Susan! Yes, board games are often overlooked but so much fun to play as a family. The holidays are definitely a reason to break them out.
  23. Friday, December 13th, 2013
    Yep, it's the traditions that are so special. When I was a kid my mom would play Christmas songs on the piano and we'd all sing along. Another tradition at our house was on Christmas Eve we'd take turns reading the Christmas story in the Bible. Mom had plenty of homemade Christmas cookies that we loved arranging on her special tray. They appeared from the freezer on Christmas Eve and every time someone came to visit over the holidays. My daughter loved arranging the cookies on that tray and now she has that tray. She makes cookies more than I do now!
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 13th, 2013
      I love your family traditions. I can see everyone gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols and arranging cookies on her special cookie tray. I love that your daughter has that tray now and is carrying on the tradition. It makes it so special and an heirloom.
  24. Friday, December 13th, 2013
    What wonderful traditions!
    We do try to make time to drive around to see all the lit up homes each year. My son is almost 3 now, and he's finally interested in the lights. Both kids helped decorate the tree this year and it was so much fun.
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 13th, 2013
      Thanks, Corinne! It's so much fun when the kids are big enough to "help" and decorate the tree and house. Things may not look quite perfect but that's part of the fun!
  25. Sunday, December 15th, 2013
    What a great post! My favorite Christmas tradition from my childhood was going to my grandmother's after Christmas Eve mass and having tourtiere - a French Canadian meat pie. It's a tradition that my father's side had been doing for years. When I moved away, I forgot all about it, until the past few years with my own kids. We now have tourtiere, but with our own family's twist on the tradition. Great to pass along something from my own childhood, and something that goes back generations.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      What a wonderful tradition. I love how you're passing it on to your kids with a twist of your own. I'm sure it's something they will carry on when they have their own families.
  26. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    We all love jigsaw puzzles so I love the idea of making a holiday one together.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Perfect! I think it would be lots of fun, especially doing it over a few days. Something to look forward to every night!
  27. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    I agree with not getting everything on your child's wish list. Even now that my nieces and nephew are older, I have scaled back on their Christmas gift a great deal. Their new stuff catches their eye for a week and then its onto the next big thing. I get them things they need. Same with my parents now ...
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      A lot of people have scaled back their gifts, whether by necessity or choice. There has been so much emphasis on presents that the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the background. Kids are fickle too, so it's hard to see hard-earned money be spent on something they like for a week too. :)
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
Facebook Twitter YouTube