What are your favorite holiday traditions?

We used to always visit a crazy lit house in the Smoke Rise subdivision in Atlanta. Now we have a new crazy house to visit each year in Phoenix. It has a workin train that circles the yard and brings candy to the kids that visit. It also has a working ferris wheel. Imagine their power bill.

We used to always visit a crazy lit house in the Smoke Rise subdivision in Atlanta. Now we have a new crazy house to visit each year in Phoenix. It has a working train that circles the yard and brings candy to the kids that visit. It also has a working ferris wheel. Imagine their power bill.

Last weekend we visited an outdoor mall where they blow fake snow at kids. It is actually soap foam. What do you think of the lit palm trees?

Last weekend we visited an outdoor mall where they blow fake snow at kids. It is actually soap foam. What do you think of the lit palm trees?

Since moving and as the kids have gotten older we’ve had to develop some new holiday traditions.

We used to always visit that crazy house in Smoke Rise that is so lit up every year. Many of our friends still do and post about it on Facebook.

Now we have a new crazy house to visit. This guy has less space to work with but he is more mechanized. (See photo above.) The kids enjoy seeing that one.

Last weekend we went to an outdoor mall where they blow “snow” at the kids. It was soap foam. It was a little bit disappointing. Next year we have to remember that in Glendale (where the big stadium is) they do a real snow event that is free. They have a field of real snow for the kids to play in but we missed it by one night. (Flagstaff gets a lot of snow but it hasn’t snowed yet this year. It’s also a couple of hours away from us. But we will go in January to see real snow.)

With the “Hobbit” movie coming out soon I think it would be a cozy thing to all cuddle up and read “The Hobbit” aloud. I remember one of my elementary school teachers reading “The Hobbit” to us. (I can’t remember which grade though – PHR or Jarvis do you remember who it was? Could it have been Mrs. Johnson in 4th grade?)

We also recently bought one of those outdoor fire pits to make S’mores in and just sit by the fire. I think that’s a nice way to spend time together and relax. We used it around Thanksgiving when my parents visited. Lilina had a big time sitting in her Papa’s lap telling “ghost stories.” She would basically just make spoooooky noises.

When the kids were little we used to gingerbread house making parties around Christmas but now we’re doing ornament parties where they pin sequins into foam balls. The neighbor kids love those kits.  (Just picked them up half-price at Hobby Lobby last Saturday.)

Several of you wrote last week that you just love to sit with the lights out and look at your tree.

What are your favorite holiday traditions to do alone or with your family? Have you had to change things as the kids have gotten older?

46 comments Add your comment

K's Mom

December 14th, 2012
2:58 am

With our kids being small (2 1/2 and 7 months) and having moved to a new place, I feel like this is the year we are beginning to make some traditions that will “stick.” We always do Santa at Phipps and to me it is worth the appointment hassle and the hour and a half drive. This year we have added a local Santa brunch which my whole family came for, we are doing the local Christmas Parade on Saturday and we went to a neighborhood cookie/gingerbread house making party last weekend. We also only do 3 gifts from Santa because that is what the wise men brought to Jesus. We rode around and looked at lights too, but again the kids were a little too young to be able to see past their seats and get too excited. We used to go to candlelight church service, but now we go to the kid friendly Christmas pageant and it is always a lot of fun. I cannot wait for my little guys to be able to participate.

Eventually we will likely add the elf (that one I am sort of dreading). My husband’s birthday was last week and K and I made cupcakes and he enjoyed it for a while, but lost interest toward the end. I think next year he will be interested in making cookies. I am looking forward to K & L being old enough to help decorate the family tree.

I would really like to add something that just my husband and I do together. I got pregnant so quickly after we married that we really never established traditions for just the two of us since I was on bedrest by our first married Christmas rolled around. I think next year, I may try to surprise him and get a babysitter and go do some shopping together and grab a bite to eat. There is also an amazing tour of homes here that I think he and I would both like, so that may be something we try too.

This is a fun topic and I am looking forward to hearing what others like to do.

DB

December 14th, 2012
3:36 am

For several years, we would go to Callaway on Dec. 23rd, see the lights, do the festival and spend the night in one of the villas — we’d bring some board games, play games in front of the fire, make some s’mores, It was a relaxing break, just us (me, husband, and kids) and always fun. Until the kids were in their teens, we would go visit the Phipps Santa, then have dinner out a nice restaurant and go drive around and admire Christmas lights. We go to the midnight service at church on Christmas eve, enjoy Christmas morning, have Christmas dinner, and then go to a movie Christmas evening. Pretty low key.

@K’s Mom: If you don’t want to do the elf, DON’T. There’s no law that says you have to! We refused to get sucked into it — as if there aren’t enough things going on around this season!

A

December 14th, 2012
6:17 am

Ditto about not having to add the elf. The elf is really lame and sounds very time consuming. Don’t put yourself through the hassle and stress. Just do what feels right to you this time of year.

Belle

December 14th, 2012
7:26 am

We have fun with the elf. We don’t do any of the crazy antics but he does change location. The kids race to see who can find him first.
We also decorate gingerbread men cookies to leave out for Santa.

Tom

December 14th, 2012
7:29 am

One of my favorites is listening to Christmas/holiday songs on B98.5 from Thanksgiving thru Christmas Day…..but not this year.

Seems they have a new program director that thought it was a good idea to can that tradition, despite the voluminous outcry for those like me who pretty much ONLY listen to the station for this one month.

As if the 11 other months aren’t enough time to hear the non-stop cacophony of NTAC “singers” whose studio-enhanced voices sound like farm animals being violated otherwise.

Idiots.

Aunt Shell

December 14th, 2012
7:38 am

Santa always snuck 1 present in a day early to be unwrapped Christmas Eve. It was always a new board game and we’d play as a family.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
7:44 am

When my kids were younger, we would pile into the back of a friend’s pick up truck, tucked in blankets, jackets, etc, and go to Lake Lanier Lights……hit Santaland, ride a few rides, and roast marshmallows…..

Now, we love to go to the malls and look at the decorations and relax. Most of my shopping is finished, I just have a few items to purchase.

Sunday we are making cookies. A tradition that started with my Grandmother and my Mom, when my mom was little. Sugar cookies rolled out on the counter, and cookie cutters galore. I still have Mom’s cutters from when she used them as a child. All the kids friends come over, and even in their 20’s they still love to do this!!!!

I’m also making cinnamon almonds this year, along with some mixed nuts, to give to the neighbors.

Christmas Eve we go to my parents house, hang out, put a puzzle together, watch Christsmas Story and football. Mom cooks a fabulous dinner, desserts, etc., then the kids get to open one present. After that we all fix cocktails, and play Tripoly or Monolopy until Midnight. We all spend the night, and get up Christmas Morning and open presents. It takes us up to 3 hours to open presents, as we do it one by one, so every can see what others are receiving. Then we all help cook breakfast. My nieces make the eggs, and my brother brings farm fresh sausage. Mom makes hash brown casserole, and we get Bear Claws (A christmas tradition since I was little)…..then around noon, we start gathering, and head home.

Then it’s home to unwind and relax. My company is closed Monday & Tuesday, and I’m taking wednesday to recouperate……

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannaukah, Happy Kwanza…..Whatever you celebrate, Enjoy!!!

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
8:00 am

Ok, my post got eaten AGAIN!!!!! Getting kinda tired of this… I’m not going to repost for fear of it showing up multiple times…LOL.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
8:02 am

@Tom – you have a couple of options. I haven’t listened to Atlanta radio in YEARS……I downloaded all my CD’s to my phone, and I have a wireless transmitter in my car so I can listed to WHAT I want to listen to….

Also satellite radio is nice, but I refuse to pay for that.

Voice of Reason

December 14th, 2012
8:03 am

We used to go see a great house decorated with a crazy amount of lights (Griswold Style!) tucked back deep in the Indian Hills subdivision in East Cobb. But the people that owned the house moved away a few years ago. I miss seeing it.

Kat

December 14th, 2012
8:17 am

The Elf is only as “time-consuming” as you make it to be. You know that YOU control the Elf and that it isn’t real, right? I like it because my husband and I work together to think of the next place to hide the Elf and what the story will be. Plus, my kids are so well-behaved because our Elf reports back to Santa every night. If you consider “going shopping and getting a bite to eat” as a hoped-for holiday tradition, then your opinion of other traditions will be frowned upon.

Mother of 2

December 14th, 2012
8:18 am

We bake cookies with the kids’ friends about a week before Christmas. Everyone brings some home to their parents. Christmas Eve is just the 4 of us. We eat crab legs for dinner and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Relaxing and fun for all.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
8:33 am

We have a couple of additional kids in my house this year. One of my daughter’s friends and her boyfriend are staying with us for a couple of months. So we are including them in our traditions at home, before we go down to my parents house.

We are doing Christmas Eve Eve at home. I’m cooking a turkey and all the fixings, and making hot chocolate in the crock pot. I’ve been recording all the Christmas cartoon shows, Shrek, Prep & Landing, etc, and we will watch them all back to back to back.

We are making cookies this weekend. A tradition that started when my mom was a child. I still have her cookie cutters…..The kids friends will all come over and decorate the cookies, and a few neighbors will pop in. We are also doing a craft this year and making coasters. Some of the kids were over last night and they are so excited they can’t wait till Sunday…..

Aquagirl

December 14th, 2012
8:39 am

My favorite holiday traditon is using spellcheck, especially in headlines for my blog.

JOD

December 14th, 2012
8:53 am

I love all of it! From shopping for the tree and putting up lights to making a big Christmas Day feast. I just love all of it. And this year, I’ve had the Christmas spirit since October – probably due to our very exciting special delivery in April…gotta love the hormones.

We make cookies for Santa and leave carrots for the reindeer, and I also like to make cookies for Hubs’ team at work. I’d like to take some down to the local fire/police station, but need to find time to do that – has anyone ever done it? I usually plan too much cooking and am exhausted by Hubs’ birthday (2 days after Christmas), but I love having all the family here and that means food!

This is our 2nd year with the Elf, and DD loves it. Usually he just moves around, but when the mood strikes, he does something silly (like play cards with the dollhouse dolls). It’s as easy as you want it to be.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
8:55 am

Pinterest has a ton of Elf ideas……

Patrick

December 14th, 2012
9:00 am

When I was a kid, one tradition we had while decorating the tree was this little semi-clear plastic bear that could be seated right on top of one of the light bulbs. This made the bear glow whatever color that light was. My mom would ask, “What color should the bear be?” and I’d always choose the color. Most years he was blue or green. Some years he’d be red or yellow.

Nowadays the main tradition we have is I make dozens upon dozens of Christmas spice cookies (similar to gingerbread, but better…a recipe of my own design) to give out to people at work, and to ship out to a few friends. The task begins the weekend before Thanksgiving, when I buy up the ingredients. Thanksgiving weekend I’ll make up the dough, and if I have time, bake. The following weekend will see me baking and possibly decorating. The next weekend will be decorating, then the weekend after that is when I ship. Or, I’ll take a long lunch and ship out during the week.

The other tradition, besides watching the usual specials and movies, is to go out for Chinese on Christmas night. This is mainly my mom and I, since my dad doesn’t do restaurants that much.

As for the holiday movies and specials, the only ones we watch now are Charlie Brown, Grinch (original), Christmas Vacation, Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Shrek, and Scrooged. One I’ve started up that I do solo is I’ll watch the Garfield Christmas special, since I have it on DVD. My parents didn’t care for it much.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
9:10 am

@Aquagirl – Is that all you’ve got? Pointing out someone’s mistake? Do you feel better now?

Techmom

December 14th, 2012
9:38 am

We have a few but one thing we do that I absolutely love is we have breakfast with our friends on Christmas morning after all the gifts have been opened. There are 4 families and we’ve been doing it for about 7 years. Usually about 10, we head over to enjoy some mimosas, egg-nog and non-stressful time with our friends. We also do a gift exchange which results in lots of [good] yelling and laughter.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
10:07 am

We will go to my parents for Christmas Eve and spend the night. ALL OF US….

We’ll get there around 2:00. Watch football, Christmas Story, put a puzzle together. Mom cooks a fabulous dinner (prime rib this year). After dinner, the kids get to open one present. Then we all go and play a game, either Monolopy or Tripoly. Tripoly is a blast.

Then we all go to bed around midnight and get up Christmas morning and open presents. That will take about 3 hours. Then we cook breakfast, gather up our stuff and head home…….

TnT's Mom

December 14th, 2012
10:49 am

We let out kids open presents from Mom and Dad and the gifts the out of state grandparents sent our kids one Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas morning the boys woke up to see what Santa had left the night before. Santa didn’t wrap the presents, just left them under the tree. One year though the trampoline did not fit in the living room, so Santa left a note to go look outside.

Also every year since they were born, 15 and 19 years ago, I have made a tree ornament out of felt that is an outline of their hand. I then put their name and year on it in fabric paint. I have a seperate table top tree that only has these ornaments on it. It is neat each year to see how their hands have grown.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 14th, 2012
11:10 am

For some reason the good people at WordPress found it unnecessary to give us spell check in the headline box — it is really annoying they don’t have it there.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 14th, 2012
11:15 am

TNT — I love the hand ornament idea — I did their hands a long time ago on the tree skirt I made and I love seeing how tiny but we should do an update to add to the skirt or for the tree. I think we will do that. Thanks for the great idea.

Jaynie

December 14th, 2012
11:16 am

I used to get together with all my girl cousins and make peanut brittle. We had the best time spending all day in the kitchen slopping hot peanut brittle around in an assembly line. When my grandkids came along, I also did the 3 presents (from me) like the Wise Men gave baby Jesus for my grandkids. Every year since the first grandchild was born, I’ve given each one of them a Christmas ornament for them to put on their trees at homee and to have when they have their own families. I also started putting weekend “abentures” to do with all my grandchildren in a jar and each grandchild would get to pull an “abenture” to be scheduled for once per month for each month of the year. I enjoy the the entire weekend with all four of my grandkids, it gives their parents a weekend off and it spreads my costs out over the entire year.

Techmom

December 14th, 2012
11:16 am

Cute idea TnT’s Mom. I do have a lot of handmade ornaments from when my son was younger but we kind of fizzled on making them once he was middle school.

Techmom

December 14th, 2012
11:24 am

@Jaynie – that’s great. Your grandkids will remember their “abentures” with grandma more than toy they’ll ever get. My parents do things with our son while my in-laws buy him things. He’s 17 and probably couldn’t tell you one thing my in-laws have ever purchased him but he sure as heck can tell you about camping in Colorado, spending summer days at the base pool (my dad is retired Air Force) and tubing down the river.

@TWG – sometimes for longer posts (b/c this stupid 1 inch window drives me nuts), I type my response in Word (or Outlook) and spellcheck then copy and paste.

DB

December 14th, 2012
11:29 am

@Patrick: I forgot, we used to go to a Chinese restaurant near our church before the Christmas Eve service — we’d always time it so that we could simply walk half-a-block to the church and be in time to get a good seat for the service (it’s a televised service, so congregants have to get there about 45 min. early in order to have any hope of having a decent seat.) We did it for four or five years, but the last time we went, the service was so poor, we haven’t been back.

TnT's Mom

December 14th, 2012
11:31 am

Some years it has been a pain, but I am so glad I kept it up. Although, much to my oldest’s sadness, I told him that since he is 19 now, he is grown up and doesn’t get a hand this year. He is heading to Army National Guard basic training in January, so he is definately not a kid anymore.

Also, each year I buy a new ornament for each son that is related to what they are doing that year. I found one this year that is a sock monkey dressed in camo and holding a gun. That one is for the oldest joining the Guard. In years past they have been sports related or about whatever hobby or thing they were into.

My mom also busy them Hallmark Keepsake ornaments each year.

Mayhem

December 14th, 2012
11:47 am

My brother and I have given our Mom an ornament every year. We take turns buying it. This year, I picked up one in St. Simons, a little sand piper…He’s SO cute!!!!

When my Mom was 7 she received an ornament from her Grandmother. It’s a round ornament with tiny toys inside. She’s never opened it, but knows what’s in it because her sister opened hers right away (75 years ago). But my Mom has never opened hers, and it still hangs on her tree…..

Almost every ornament on Mom’s tree has a story behind it. I love her tree, it’s the prettiest one in town.

HRPufnstuf

December 14th, 2012
12:05 pm

Every year on Christmas day we watch “Trading Places”. It is a Christmas classic for us, just me and my partner, and our dog too.

Aquagirl

December 14th, 2012
12:46 pm

@Aquagirl – Is that all you’ve got? Pointing out someone’s mistake? Do you feel better now?

Well, I had some work to do so yes, that’s all I had time for— pointing out there was a misspelling in the headline which also appeared on the main AJC page. Most writers like their work to look professional and that was a fairly prominent mistake, visible to people who never even read this blog and don’t cut a mom with three kids and Christmas approaching a little slack. So yes, I do feel better. Thanks for asking.

Anyway, my holiday tradition is trying to do nice things for strangers. You should try that, or maybe switching to decaf.

redandblack

December 14th, 2012
12:48 pm

My kids are 5 and 7 so every year we make sure to watch the Christmas classics like Rudolph, Frosty, The Grinch, and this year my 7 year old watched It’s a Wonderful Life. We make our own gingerbread houses every year. Bake cookies together, and go see the Lights/carnival at Lake Lanier. The lights at Lake Lanier are WAY overpriced and not at all worth the money you spend, but the kids love it and the carnival at the end of the show so it has become one of our tradititons. We go to a tree farm to pick out our tree, sit on Santa’s lap at the mall, and go see the go see the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts version of Rudolph every year too. And of course our newest tradition… Elf on a Shelf. We do each of these things every year and the kids really look forward to all of them.

Along the same lines at TNT– our tree skirt has their handprints on it– a set for each year of their lives. It’s very special and yhey love to look at it when I bring it out every year.

redandblack

December 14th, 2012
12:50 pm

I forgot to mention that I get them each a special Christmas snow globe each year too.

K's Mom

December 14th, 2012
12:52 pm

@JOD, congratulations on your exciting news. I have not been keeping up with the blog too much since our move, so if this is old news I apologize. I am very happy for you and your family.

@Kat, not sure what your deal is, but chill out. You have always been snarky and I have no idea why. I was in no way knocking the elf, I think it is a cute idea. I am just not looking forward to the one upmanship that I have seen the last two years, to me it makes it much less fun. I do not want my kids to be disappointed if our elf just moves around and does not have an elaborate vignette each morning. Shopping and grabbing a bite to eat with my husband is simply something that is Christmas themed where we can spend time together…so sorry that is offensive to you.

xxx

December 14th, 2012
1:00 pm

If you can’t master the elf at this point in your life, raising children may not be right for you.

HB

December 14th, 2012
1:39 pm

K’s Mom, whether you decide to adopt one eventually or not, you might enjoy this WashPost blog on the elf (made me chuckle): http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-elf-on-the-shelf-it-must-be-stopped/2012/12/13/b01e88b4-4534-11e2-9648-a2c323a991d6_story.html

I have no elf, but I’m sick of the them. If I see one more taking a “bubble bath” in a bowl of marshmellows on my FB page, I’ll scream.

momtoktb

December 14th, 2012
1:43 pm

Now that the 3 kiddos are between 10 and 13, here are the ways we are spending the time leading up to the Holidays: 2 required science fair projects; 1 social studies project; 1 math project; two essay writing assignments; eighth grade finals. All in addition to the daily homework grind.

Oh, wait . . . were you asking about traditions leading up to the birth of our Savior? Not on the school calendar, I’m afraid. Last year my then 9-year-old was chastised for not doing a homework assignment because silly us, we decorated the tree that night.

Once the school closes for break, we can begin our family traditions – including a Christmas Eve visit to the downtown Varsity after touring Christmas lights. :-)

Jawga Boi

December 14th, 2012
2:21 pm

Pray and hug your kids. Our deepest sympathy to the residents of Connecticut.

JOD

December 14th, 2012
2:41 pm

The news out of Newtown is so sickening, and becomes more distressing as the afternoon wears on. God Bless the families and emergency responders.

@K’s mom – Thank you very much. We are over the moon about our little man.

FCM

December 14th, 2012
3:24 pm

Prayers to the 27 families who just had a major jolt to their holiday plans due to the shooting. Prayers to all the other families who are also effected.

DB

December 14th, 2012
5:55 pm

What a complete and f**king coward — no, he doesn’t try to shoot up a police station or a military base. He has to pick defenseless babies to spill his acid fury on? There’s a special place in hell reserved for animals like this.

Kat

December 14th, 2012
8:37 pm

@K’s mom: No, I’m not snarky. Snarky is when you trash someone else’s tradition (such as Elf on the Shelf) and then (try to) sound original by saying you would like to shop and eat with your husband. I was simply pointing out that it doesn’t seem to be especially holiday-oriented. Don’t get so offended when someone points things out. Geez!

Merry Christmas to everyone!!!

MA

December 14th, 2012
9:41 pm

In 1998 my husband said he wanted to buy an artificial tree after having had real trees for 10 years. I didn’t really want to, even though I didn’t touch the real ones because of allergies, but always helped our two kids get the ornaments out and ready. I finally said okay and then we got the awful news that my beloved father died on Christmas night. We had to go to another state for the funeral and when we got back after a week there stood the artificial tree. Thank goodness we didn’t have a real tree or it would have been dead and needles all over. Now, we have three small trees with the fiber optic lights. I love them. We have bought an ornament for each child every year and they are usually music or sports related for our son and angels or bears for our daughter(nickname – Bear). We have also bought a Santa ornament for ourselves and have 25 now. We usually buy them if we have traveled or if not something here locally.

We also have the tradition of our kids taking turns carrying baby Jesus to the creche, putting him down, and singing Happy Birthday to him. Then they can get their stockings and presents. We go to Waffle House for breakfast and then a movie in the early afternoon. We have had turkey in the past, but, also spaghetti, steak and shrimp, or one year peanut butter sandwiches when I was sick and couldn’t cook.

Merry Christmas to all! And, God Bless all the families who have been touched by the terrible tragedy in Newtown, CT!

redandblack

December 15th, 2012
12:23 pm

We own the elf also, but I don’t like it. We bring ours out when our tree goes up on the 2nd weekend of December. I was fine just moving him from place to place and last year my kids were happy with that. But this year….. the elf just being there isn’t enough. All of their friends come home with the hilarious (to them)stories about all the mischief their elf gets into. My daughter actually left a note for the elf asking him to get into stuff. So now, there is spilled hot chocolate and mini marshmallows all over my counter that will need to sit there all day. Hubby thinks we should TP (toilet paper) the christmas tree. I’m not a fan. And besides, my 5 year old already asked why we need an elf to watch over them when SANTA himself see everything (ie knows when you are sleeping/knows when you are awake etc). Smart boy.

atlmom

December 15th, 2012
12:57 pm

We’re Jewish, so when I was younger, it was chinese food and a movie. Now, we typically do something time consuming, typically in the kitchen (like, I’ll make cinnamon rolls, which are wonderful fresh, but SO much time!).
This year we’re going on vacation – skiing. I hear that on Xmas day it will be pretty empty…we’re very excited.
When I was a kid – my friends and I would go to another Christian friend’s house and we’d all decorate his tree. It was SO MUCH fun – all us jewish people decorating the tree had a great time – because it was something that we didn’t do, so it was ‘new’ to us, and he and his family would get a decorated tree. It was a great tradition! One year, we had to bring an ornament because we had broken so many over the years!

Atlanta mom

December 15th, 2012
6:54 pm

Kat,
You were snarky. Own it.