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Favorite Family Christmas Tradition


Feeling Sentimental

I find myself so sentimental this Christmas!

I think it is because my girls are 15, 13 & 11 years old, and now that they are teens and preteens, I am wanting to just hold on to the few years we have left with them.  I’m really feeling how old they are, as I’ve noticed there are a few family traditions that are just not as exciting as they used to be. Our girls are getting older and naturally the things that excite them change. My oldest is a cross-country runner, so making and eating a bunch of Christmas cookies is not something she wants to engage in, as eating healthy is pretty important to her.  Our puzzle tradition?  I’m stuck doing it alone, as the girls are just too busy or too cool {grin} to sit with Mom and do a puzzle.

Another tradition that has fizzled out, and the one I’m mourning the most, is our ‘Steal-the-kids-from-thier-beds-to -go-look-at-Christmas-lights’ tradition.  They now stay up way too late for us to wake them up and steal them from their beds.  They are also at the age where being crammed in a car together late at night is the perfect recipe for sister drama!

Despite being so sad to give it up, I think back fondly to the many  years we did this favorite holiday tradition of mine. They may not be interested now, all 3 girls would say that it was one of their favorite memories of the holiday season, too.


Favorite Holiday Tradition

The tradition started way before the girls were born, when Todd and I were engaged & newlyweds.  His Mom would rent a limousine and Todd, his Mom, his brother & wife and I would relax in the limo while the driver took us around to the best neighborhoods in town to look at Christmas lights.  I remember loving it, and thought it was such a loving thing for Todd’s Mom to do.

When our kids got old enough to have interest, we started a similar tradition.  We decided that some weekend night in December we would put the kids to bed a bit early, then heat the car & steal them from their beds, tell them we were going on an adventure, and throw them -footie pajamas & all- into the car.  They absolutely loved it.

I have so many vivid images of the girls holding on to their Dad, squealing in delight with eyes bright as he carried them to the car.  I was always behind them, capturing the moment with the camera.  If they were not wearing footie pajamas, we would throw on their slippers and they, of course, always grabbed their favorite snuggly blanket, as we always skipped coats.


Dad’s job was to heat the car and carry them out.  My job was to gather the Christmas music & a small snack for each girl.  I would often take a thermos of hot cocoa for Todd and I and sippie cups for the girls.  Their favorite CD’s for so long was Strawberry Shortcake Very Berry Christmas & The Chipmunks Christmas. We had another one with kids Christmas songs on it –the favorites being ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause’ (which they all would say “Eww!  Gross!!” and ‘All I Want For Christmas Is My 2 Front Teeth’ which drew extra laughter when one of them actually WERE missing their 2 front teeth.

I would usually get snacks from the Dollar Store.  I’d find a fun little Christmas purse or small stocking, and load it up with a package of crackers and some Christmas candy.  They just loved it–especially the sweet treats. Hint: suckers are great.  They keep little mouths busy and the volume of the car down.

Stawberry-shortcake-Christmas-CD{Notice the glass of wine I took with me that year}

As the girls got older, we had to get smarter.  I remember running around the house setting all the clocks back so we could get them to bed earlier.  It became a guessing game every weekend in December, “I bet it is going to be tonight!” they would say…and often they were right.

The image I cannot get out of my brain is the girls being carried out by their dad. Like I said, I got the view from behind, their little legs would be wrapped around their Dad with their fuzzy slippers hanging, their little heads peaking at me from his shoulder.  Those legs kept growing longer every year and his struggle to lift them each year grew.  Even as they got older, he still carried them out so they wouldn’t get snow on their slippers.  It was so much fun!

Holiday-Christmas-Lights-2{“Slow down so I can get a clear picture!”}

The lights were always so great to look at, and we would choose our favorites as a family.  I’ve heard of families having a holiday lights tradition where they would leave a plate of cookies at the house that was voted the family favorite.  We never did this but it is a fun idea.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 1.29.07 PM

Holiday Lights Contest

Do you have a favorite house in the neighborhood?   Do you know someone who goes all out? Is it you?  If so, to be in with a chance to win a $5,000 gift card, and help choose America’s 10 best public light displays!

Participants Can:

  • Enter the by uploading a photo of your own holiday lights display on the USA TODAY website. The winner of this photo contest gets a $5,000 gift card from USA TODAY.
  • Vote for your favorite holiday lights display from a group of 10 pre-selected public organizations. Each voter will also have the chance to win one of two prizes: A $1,ooo gift card or a $1,500 gift card.


New Family Traditions

I have been thinking hard about some new traditions we can implement with our girls now that they are older.  I know that they would be into entering in the USA TODAY contest above, as a gift card of any value would be exciting, much less one in the thousands!  They also are at an age where they love giving an opinion and love a good competition.

I know any traditions that involve their friends or cousins would be super appealing to them right now.  Or, sadly, one that involves shopping!

Have any ideas for me?

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Do you put up holiday lights each year?


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  • Anonymous
    January 9, 2015 at 5:44 am

    It’s too late for this year but maybe next year? Every year we would adopt a poor family (we would get a name and contact info from our church). We would call and find out what they needed/wanted. We would get fixings for Christmas dinner and gifts for the kids. And then deliver them the week before Christmas. It is one of the things I remember most about Christmas. As we got older my mom would delegate more and more of the work to us. This wpuld em corporate the girls love of shopping.

    • AmyNewNostalgia
      January 9, 2015 at 10:37 am

      Oh how I love that so much! Great idea. Could do that for someone on just about any holiday!

  • Mila
    December 18, 2014 at 6:23 am

    What a great post! Love your little tradition 🙂
    I put lots of indoor lights up every year


  • Liz cooper
    December 12, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I loved reading this Amy! It does cause some sadness as our chilren grow and change and past traditions change. But of course in truth we wouldn’t RREALLY want them to stay young forever. Thanks for your inspiring take on this!

  • RANDOMiss
    December 11, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Such a great/unique tradition! For me the tradition revolves around putting up the tree and Holiday baking with the family.

  • AmyT
    December 11, 2014 at 2:56 am

    We have no kids and used to “borrow” our friends three kids for sleepovers and Xmas fun. The past two years they moved away which was heartbreaking. Since I was little my mom used to take us on lights rides and used to eventually deem it a Sleigh Ride (in Florida, mind you. Lol.)
    My partner and I now do Sleigh Rides with our dog who now loves the first five words of “I like the sleigh ride” singing him bc if means we r going for s ride. He could care less any the lights but we live then and put on the local Xmas station or bring music and drive around until we or the dog have had enough. The local newspaper promotes lusts of where to find the extra cool lighted homes and we sometimes map those into my phone. I think I will be sleigh riding for life. Imagine the old shut ins who can’t drive or have no car who might like to see the lights. Maybe you guys can start a volunteer drive to see kites for a local nursing home or foster kids home even. I’m guessing the foster parents so uhh msg love the respite. But not the middle of the night runs. Lol. You rock and I love a good sleigh ride.

  • Jess
    December 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    You could do the flour game! I’ve seen it on the Internet a time or two. Pack a tea cup with flour, turn it upside down on a plate. Place a life saver or something small on top. People take turns cutting a piece of flour and whoever makes it collapse has to dig out the lifesaver with their mouth and no hands allowed. Messy, but sounds like fun to do on Christmas Eve or something’

    • AmyNewNostalgia
      December 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Funny! That is hilarious. My 13 year old has a bunch of friends coming over Saturday night…I’m thinking this would be a great fun game to keep them busy