My Favorite Childhood Christmas Traditions

My Favorite Childhood Traditions

I recently read an article about a large number of adults who wished they could skip the holiday season for two primary reasons: stress and financial strain. When did the holidays—a time of joy, gratitude, family, and cheer—become so stressful? We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays that we forget to slow down and actually celebrate our Christmas traditions.

Gingerbread houses have been an annual Christmas tradition in my family since I was a child. I can still smell the burnt sugar my Mom made to glue together the freshly baked gingerbread houses. Every year she would take hours, if not days, making the gingerbread from scratch, baking them in the house molds then reducing sugar to use as glue to assemble them. Bing Crosby would croon Christmas carols while my sisters and I sat around the dining room table, full of bright bowls of candy and frosting, as we decorated our houses. We’d put a couple of pieces of candy on the houses then some in our mouths!

Decades later, we still gather every year to decorate gingerbread houses. These days we use kits, so the process is a bit easier, but the tradition is still so important to us and now to our children too. It’s become a part of their Christmas tradition to decorate a gingerbread house with their Mom, Aunts, Grandma and cousins.

The memories of our family holiday traditions are so vivid to me that I can close my eyes and recall the smells and the warm feeling associated with them. But if you asked me what gifts I received as child, I have a hard time recalling them.

While I certainly do my best to get my daughters what they truly want for Christmas, I put more effort into creating magical Christmas traditions with Lauren and Taylor. We decorate our gingerbread houses, watch the Polar Express, decorate our home and cook together. I just LOVE how the house smells during Christmas.

Another tradition we have is deciding who we will share our money with during this season of giving. For several years, we have “adopted” a family, which has been very helpful in teaching Lauren and Taylor the real meaning of Christmas. We not only provide the gifts they need, but I always try to pick a family that has girls close to or the same age as my girls. Lauren and Taylor will go through their clothes and toys to give beyond what the family needs.

Last year Lauren delivered the gifts with me. She and the children of the family became fast friends, and Lauren was so excited to show them all the clothes and coats that she and Taylor had selected for them. The little girls’ mom and I never spoke, but we stood there watching the magic of our children together with tears in our eyes. This is Christmas to me.

Right now the girls love opening their presents and squealing over new toys and clothes, but I also know that some day they will pass along our family Christmas traditions to their children, which is the greatest gift I can give them.

Favorite Childhood Christmas MemoriesPlease join me and my fellow bloggers around the world as we celebrate some our favorite Christmas memories. Hosted by my friend, Sicorra from TacklingOurDebt, a group of bloggers kicked off the holiday season by sharing some holiday memories today. You can read their stories and get into the holiday spirit by visiting TacklingOurDebt. The links to their posts are at the bottom of her post. I can’t wait to read about their favorite memories.


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December 2, 2012  •  26 Comments  •  Christmas

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  1. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    Love the idea that your kids get to help you decide who to give to during the Holiday Season. So special!
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      Thank you! My daughters love the holidays as much as I do. I want them appreciate everything we have and how good it feels to share our blessings with others. Happy Holidays!
  2. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    That is a great tradition to start with your daughters. We will choose a name from the Angel Tree to do the same thing. It's good to remember those less fortunate.
    • Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
      That's fantastic. My girls look forward to sharing every Christmas and I hope it's tradition they will carry forward with their own children in the future.
  3. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    I love gingerbread houses, and decorating them are so much fun. It's amazing how little things become part of us as we get older and we pass them along to others in our life. Thanks for sharing!
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      Absolutely! When we're kids all we think we care about is the presents under the tree. As we grow older, we realize we cared far more about our family traditions.
  4. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    Love your Christmas post!!

    My mother use to build ginger bread houses like you do. I tried one year and simply made a mess :-)

    I love that you work together with your children to adopt a family at Christmas and spread the holiday cheer. Something I am sure they will do when they grow up. Thanks so much for participating.
    • Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
      Thank you for putting this together, Sicorra. It's been so fun sharing our traditions and reading about others.
  5. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    I have never tried a gingerbread house but it looks lovely, and delicious. A simple tradition to have as a family, spending time together and one that doesn't cost a lot of money. Thanks for sharing!
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      It is so much fun! My daughters and I look forward to it every year.
  6. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    I've never made a gingerbread house before, but they look so beautiful. My mom made one with my niece one year and said it was a ton of work. I can't imagine your mom making the houses from scratch. So much work, but what a beautiful tradition she created for you and your sisters.
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      They are a lot of work, but are so much fun. My mom did create an amazing tradition that I'm proud to carry on with my daughters.
  7. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    "When did the holidays—a time of joy, gratitude, family, and cheer—become so stressful? We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays that we forget to slow down and actually celebrate our Christmas traditions." I totally agree with you! I would love to try to make a Gingerbread house with my kids. They're teens but I'm sure the sweetness will entice them to the table! And your "adopt a family" is an awesome thing you're doing, bless you for that and you've inspired me! What a beautiful post, Shannon!
    • Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
      Thank you for your kind words, Corina. I'm sure your kids would have a blast - and yes, sweets will definitely bring them to table! But the fun of decorating and being with family is what will keep them there for hours.
  8. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    Those little houses are super cute.. Do you actually eat them? Do you have to wait until Christmas day, or can you nibble as you go? :-)

    I love the idea of pooling the family together to help a charitable cause. That is really what this time of year is all about..
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      Well, we nibble (not me, of course!) on the candy while we decorate them. The kits aren't really edible; the price we pay for convenience, I guess!

      We've "adopted" a family for a few years now and it's a really great cause. It helps give the girls perspective and they really love to share, which I love!
  9. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    I love your tradition. I think it's so important to teach our children what we want them to learn at Christmas time. Learning to help others is huge.
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      Thank you! I love the cookie tradition your mother started! It is so important to show children there is more to Christmas than just presents.
  10. Monday, December 3rd, 2012
    Gingerbread houses, I completely forgot about them. We used to decorate them when I was little. It was so much fun. We did "Christmas is for kids" when I was little. I remember vividly, going to the store with my mom to pick out clothing and gifts for the kids in our area who were less fortunate.
    • Monday, December 3rd, 2012
      It's amazing what we remember from our childhood. I hope my girls continue these traditions with their children (many, many years from now!) :D
  11. Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
    I also love the way the house smells at Christmas, so yummy!
    • Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
      I couldn't agree more. Happy Holidays!
  12. Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
    I love your blog. I just found it through participating in this party with you! It sounds like you have some great Christmas traditions to remember the positive aspects of the season. Also, you can't go wrong with a gingerbread house!!
    • Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
      Thank you, Cat! You definitely can't go wrong with gingerbread houses. Happy Holidays!
  13. Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
    I've always wanted to make true gingerbread houses, love the tradition! I enjoyed your post! ~ Paula
    • Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
      Thank you, Paula. I think you'd enjoy making gingerbread houses given how you love to cook!
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    "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