Six years ago, our little family of three was headed into the Christmas season for the first time as a family of four. I remember pulling out the Christmas decorations and realizing right away that we had a problem. Every year since our biological daughter Kristan was an infant we had purchased two identical Christmas ornaments for her. I wanted her to have a set of ornaments when she became an adult that represented her childhood, and I didn’t want her taking my ornaments (so, I bought two).
Now with a new daughter who was only six months younger than Kristan (they were 12/11 at the time), we were about to put up a Christmas tree full of personalized ornaments for Kristan, and have none for Heather. Pulling the Christmas tree out that day was the beginning of a journey that has taught me the importance of tradition in helping our family bond and create memories as we’ve grown. Six years later, our family of three is now a family of nine plus three grandchildren. Our traditions have created memories, shared experiences and will impact our family for generations.
Holidays provide a perfect opportunity to create traditions that are meaningful. For our family, we focus on creating traditions that are personal, fun and can be passed down for generations.
It’s important for your children to know that you see them as individuals and think about them individually. Consider traditions that are personalized to each child. For our family, that’s personalized Christmas ornaments. This tradition started when Kristan was an infant, but we’ve continued it as each of our children have entered our family and grown. The first year that one of our girls is with us, we always purchase a “first Christmas” ornament for them, along with a few others that are unique to them. We have so many ornaments that we can’t put them all out each year, but our daughters love this tradition.
Traditions create the opportunity laugh and enjoy one another. Laughter and joy are bonding activities. Do things that together that create laughter and bonding. For us, there are two traditions around Christmas that create laughter, fun and a little competitiveness.
The first is putting up the Christmas decorations… this is an all day long activity! First, I put apple cider on the stove with extra cinnamon sticks and spices, this makes the entire house smell like Christmas. Next, I turn the Christmas music on LOUDLY – all.day.long. Then, the decorating starts – my girls enter and exit the decorating process all day long – hanging (or breaking – that’s a story for another day) their personal ornaments, chatting with me, singing and drinking apple cider.
Here’s an example of how meaningful this small tradition is, even to one of our daughters who no longer lives at home to participate in the decorating day with us.
Another fun tradition that we have is Elf on the Shelf. All of our daughters are 17 and older, but they all love our silly tradition around our sneaky, mischievous family Elf, Winks. We’ve created a competition around Winks’ annual visit. Every night when he goes to the North Pole and “returns” he finds a new place to hide, or mess to make and the first daughter who finds him the next morning must take a picture and text it to me. On Christmas Eve, the daughter who has located Winks the most receives an extra small gift from Winks for being the one who found him the most. Even as adults, Winks is special to our girls, they love his antics and enjoy the friendly competition.
It’s important to our kids that we paint the picture of their future with them… “when you have kids…”, “…in your first home.”, “…when you’re in college.” We do this trough tradition too. One of my favorite things is children’s story books, so several years ago, I started the tradition of buying a story book each year for our girls. They can keep these books to one day read to their own children. I like giving my girls natural activities that can help solidify a “normal” childhood when they’re older with their children. Everyone should be able to say to their kids, “My mom bought me this when I still lived at home…”, “When I was growing up we always did _______.” Legacy gives a since of belonging. Legacy gives life. Legacy lives on.
As you add your foster and adoptive children to the traditions of your family, also remember to find out what’s important to them. This year, we added the tradition of Hanukkah to our family because our new daughter, Charlie, is Jewish by birth. In doing so, we discovered a meaningful new tradition to remind us all of God’s faithfulness to our family each year.
What are some of your favorite family traditions? Leave a comment to help others as they’re considering what would be meaningful to their family.