It seems to happen every year. You enter the holiday season with high expectations of having a memorable Christmas. But every year, something seems to be missing from your holiday celebrations. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you are quite certain when you are driving around the mall looking for that ideal close-in parking spot along with 10,000 other harried shoppers that whatever is missing, you hope you find it ASAP.
If that is you, perhaps what you are missing from your holidays are simple nostalgic traditions. I’ve found that, for me, traditions bring more meaning to the holidays and have better connected me with my friends and family. And the connections with others makes all the difference in creating those fabled “Hallmark moments” during the holidays.
Sure, something can be said for spending quiet moments alone, listening to Christmas music, contemplating the reason for the season. I’m a big fan of curling up on the couch, sipping a cup of hot tea, and enjoying the quiet simplicity of winter’s magic. But connecting with others through nostalgic traditions also has the great potential to create a happier, more meaningful holiday season.
Without traditions, we are in danger of losing our identity, our sense of belonging, our values, and our connection to the past. And perhaps most importantly, without establishing and engaging in continuing traditions, there is a danger of another year passing without creating lasting memories—memories that you will look back on 20 years from now with fond nostalgia.
Don’t get me wrong. You can easily establish a tradition of shopping with family or friends at the mall—a tradition that can be just as wonderful as any other. But if trips to the mall are nothing more than a stressful, necessary evil to get through Christmas, then maybe reassessing how you approach the holidays may be in order.
At the Nostalgia Diaries, we love all kinds of traditions, and on this Third Day of Christmas, we give you three simple, nostalgic traditions you can start this year with your family that will help warm your heart and maybe help fill in the missing pieces to create wonderful “memories-to-be” this Christmas season.
1: Leaving Cookies and Milk For Santa (And Carrots for His Reindeer)
There is little to match the excitement of a child believing a jolly fat man in a red suit will slide down the chimney and leave presents under the Christmas tree. You can enhance the excitement for Santa believers (whether young or young at heart) by leaving out a plate of your favorite cookies and a glass of milk for Santa and a couple of carrots for his reindeer. A simple tradition to implement, it can be used as another way to teach the little ones about the importance of giving, caring, sharing, and kindness.
According to History.com, the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa became big in the 1930’s: “In that time of great economic hardship, many parents tried to teach their children that it was important to give to others and to show gratitude for the gifts they were lucky enough to receive on Christmas.” But the tradition was first established, according to History.com, in Norse mythology. Many variations of this tradition are practiced across the globe.
Using a special Santa cookie plate can also add a little something “extra” to the fun. Each year that cookie plate comes out, it will be a reminder of Santa’s upcoming visit. And when the cookies are carefully placed on the plate and a glass of milk is set next to it in Christmas Eve, and you read The Night Before Christmas before sending the kids off to bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, you can be sure that you are creating memories that they—and you—will look back on with fondness.
And while you are setting out the “Santa” presents and filling stockings, don’t forget to eat the cookies and drink the milk! After all, Santa needs his energy . . .
2: Countdown to Christmas with an Advent Calendar
Christmas is a religious holiday of course, and there are as many Christian traditions as there are secular ones. From the display of nativity scenes to midnight Christmas Eve church services, religious traditions help everyone remember the “reason for the season.”
One nostalgic tradition that appeals to many families during the season is counting down to Christmas with an Advent calendar. As explained in Mental Floss, “Advent is the four-week period beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) through the following three Sundays.” Advent calendars typically begin on December 1 and countdown the 24 days until Christmas. “The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas.”
Most Advent calendars utilize little doors or windows that open to reveal a picture, a Bible verse, or for the more elaborate calendars, pieces of chocolate. The can be simple paper calendars, or large scale buildings.
Countdowns to anything, especially Christmas, always get kids excited and if you’ve never watched a kid with and Advent calendar, you should. While we recognize we are already 13 days into the Advent countdown, there is no reason why you couldn’t start now! You can easily “catch up” by opening all the doors through today. And hey, if it is one of those calendars with the candy or chocolates behind each door. . . WIN!
Even if you’re not religious, an Advent calendar is a fun tradition to start and continue through the years. The visual countdown is a constant and exciting reminder that December 25 is drawing near and it can be used as a happy reminder to be mindful every day and embrace the excitement, wonder, and anticipation of the season.
3: Opening One Present on Christmas Eve
Candlelight church services. Parties with family and friends. Caroling at nursing homes. Watching a favorite Christmas movie. Setting out a “key” for Santa when you don’t have a chimney. Tossing out “reindeer food” (oats and glitter) . . . Families have many Christmas Eve traditions and you probably have your own special activities to make your Christmas Eve Memorable.
Opening one present on Christmas Eve is a popular tradition and there are many variations on the activity. Sometimes specific presents are opened. For example, Christmas jammies are a favorite Christmas Eve present—the thought being that on Christmas morning, everyone wears the jammies they received as gifts on Christmas Eve. Sometimes the kids together will open one “activity” gift, like a game the whole family can play, or a challenging Christmas puzzle, or a movie everyone can watch. And sometimes each family member simply picks the present they want to open (although that can be a potentially traumatic experience when your brother picks out an awesome toy and you pick the one that has underwear).
Bottom line: Opening one present on Christmas Eve is a tradition that can make Christmas Eve that much more memorable. Kids love the anticipation and excitement of being able to open a present before Christmas Day. It feels decadent and adds a layer of happy activity to an already wondrous evening. It will no doubt be a tradition that the whole family will enjoy.
Just joining us for this series? Links to Days 1 and 2 are below to help you catch up:
Check back tomorrow for a very creative Fourth Day of Christmas!