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Replacing outgrown holiday traditions


Noreen Claire
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Every year, my mother gave us new pajamas on Christmas Eve. I've kept this up with my own children but it's just not working anymore. Five kids, hand-me-downs, one with sensory processing issues related to clothing... It's just not worth the trouble. I want to keep the 'Christmas Eve tradition', but I need a new tradition!

I was considering everyone getting a book but we already limit gifts to the 'something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read' list (plus stocking stuffers), so that wouldn't work.

Anyone have any ideas? 

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I think you could still do a book, they can get two books or get their book early. They were getting pjs in addition to something to wear after all.

Maybe you could incorporate it into your other Christmas Eve traditions. A family movie and popcorn. A game. T-shirts instead of pjs. 

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What about a group experience on Christmas Eve? Doesn’t have to be the same thing every year, though it could be. For years we went looking at Christmas lights and drank hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. As little kids it calmed them down, and as teens/adults, it connected us.   We go to a movie on Christmas Day because we live far from family and it makes the day special.  Is there an experience you could do? A family puzzle and an appetizer dinner?  Making gingerbread houses? Dividing into teams and giving each team a little money and seeing which team can find the best food bargains for a food pantry?  Family game night?  

We did the pajamas thing when the kids were little but they didn’t care about them. I was truly the only one who cared.  So I get that it’s kind of sad to move on from a family tradition.  We’re having to let go of our favorite family tradition this year and it’s really hard. 

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We also let go of the Christmas Eve pajamas.  The year we stopped that, I made the kids pillowcases with Christmasy flannel fabric. That lasted one year. Now, we have an appetizer dinner and either play a game or watch a movie.

I've found that traditions grow and change organically.  You try something one year, everyone likes it and does it for a time, then things change and something else comes up.  I am not really sure anyone can set out to start a tradition to do something because not everything is tradition-worthy (like pillowcases) and everything changes over the years.

(As an example, two years ago we went to a cabin for Thanksgiving and loved it. It was going to be our new tradition. We did it again last year. And still loved it. But guess what? This year both my daughter and I are working both the day before and the day after Thanksgiving. End of tradition. We'll figure out something new.)

I am not unsympathetic; I know how hard it is to realize/admit that a tradition doesn't work and it is hard not to want something to replace it.

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I never did the Christmas pajamas, but always thought it was a cute idea. I work in retail, and we have a whole section of them.

We did a cheese-and-appetizer platter for years and got a Christmas ham.

I can't even remember what we did last year. LOL. It was a time of personal turmoil, and I'm clueless. I know that we didn't have cheese because DD is dairy-free. I do remember that we went to a friend's house for Christmas turkey on Christmas Day. We're already invited for this year.

I'll figure out something. There are a couple movies we might watch, and I might do soup and a dessert for dinner. 

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I wish we could do an experience, as that sounds lovely, but we spend Christmas Eve with my in-laws (we host on a rotating basis) and that just won't work.

Plus, DH's parents got divorced 3 years ago and every Christmas Eve since then has included some amount of trauma/drama from them, so DH is definitely *not* in the holiday spirit when they are here. (Think, "Merry Christmas, I have cancer!" and "Merry Christmas, I've just figured out I'm gay!" as the crap that has happened the last few years.)

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If you already have something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read, do you need anything else?  (as far as gifts)  Otherwise, how about a family game, or a family experience?  Or something like going to a local nursing home for an hour and bringing Christmas cookies...

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My Mom is big into holiday socks.  We get them from her for every holiday.  Maybe easier than PJs?

What about Christmas Eve being a candlelight/fire night?  No electric except for tree lights?

Or watching one of the numerous holiday films and having popcorn or decorating sugar cookies?

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43 minutes ago, umsami said:

My Mom is big into holiday socks.  We get them from her for every holiday.  Maybe easier than PJs?

What about Christmas Eve being a candlelight/fire night?  No electric except for tree lights?

Or watching one of the numerous holiday films and having popcorn or decorating sugar cookies?

If you're wanting a gift to open I love the sock idea!  Between regular socks and slipper socks, there's a lot out there to choose from!

Another idea if you want a gift to open is a Christmas ornament.

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I like the ornament idea.  Then they have a starter set when they move out.

Other than that, I like the idea of doing a family activity together.  I'm sure you already do that, though, and maybe do church that day?  What about doing up a fancy bag with cocoa and marshmallows for each person?  Not a mug, I'm sure you have several of those, but one of those individual servings of cocoa in a flavor they might like: dark chocolate, Mexican chocolate, white peppermint....for each person to snuggle down with while you read The Night Before Christmas.

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Maybe after everyone leaves on Christmas Eve a car ride looking at Christmas lights might be a nice way to recover from everything. The cities near us list all the houses with awesome lights so we map out our path and go for a drive later at night. Last year someone had a lighted sign that said “What is Mrs Cratchits first name?” Still don’t know!

We never did pjs but did do ornaments since their first Christmas 

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9 minutes ago, Katy said:

We do ornaments too. I try to choose something symbolic of the biggest thing in each kid's life that year, so they have memories attached to each one.

We do this too! 

Everything noteable this year was either terribly sad or already commemorated with an ornament.  So instead I'm doing an ornament related to something we talk about a lot.

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I think it is silly to stick to the 'limit' when you're taking away the pajamas.  Adding an extra book is a replacement for the pajamas rather than an addition.

Have you ever heard of the Scandenavian custom of giving books as special Christmas Eve presents and then reading them all evening?  I've toyed with the idea of doing that, but with the gifting on Christmas Eve and then the reading marathon on 12/26 when we can catch our breath as a family.  https://www.treehugger.com/culture/icelanders-give-books-christmas-eve.html

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We often will watch a movie with a fun snack and drink.  I will purchase a DVD, wrap it up, and then the kids get to unwrap it to see which movie we are watching.  It's a family gift as opposed to individual gifts.

My BFF's family decorates sugar cookies while listening to old records.

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OH!  Another idea is to start one of those Christmas villages.  Everybody gets something different, but they are all displayed at your house until each kid moves away, keeping track of which belongs to whom.  

Or, same idea with theme ornaments.  Each kid has a theme.  Like, cows for one, horses for another, or apples for one, strawberries for another, etc.  Each gets one per year, they all go on the family tree, but it's easy to know which ones to take with them when they move out.  Or Old World ornaments--one kid gets Santa Clauses, another gets stars, etc.  Same idea.

 

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To keep track of our yearly ornaments each kid has a spiral bound index card pad.  They write the year, draw a sketch of the ornament and write why it is significant.

If digital photography had been easily available the year we started this tradition I might have done photo albums to keep track.

ETA: we keep the list packed with the Christmas decorations

Edited by happi duck
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We started the Christmas book flood last year and my kids who don't really like to read loved getting books! We all snuggled by the lights of the Christmas tree and read after church. I think I learned about the tradition here on the boards: https://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood

We're all excited about it this year too!

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6 hours ago, Noreen Claire said:

I wish we could do an experience, as that sounds lovely, but we spend Christmas Eve with my in-laws (we host on a rotating basis) and that just won't work.

Plus, DH's parents got divorced 3 years ago and every Christmas Eve since then has included some amount of trauma/drama from them, so DH is definitely *not* in the holiday spirit when they are here. (Think, "Merry Christmas, I have cancer!" and "Merry Christmas, I've just figured out I'm gay!" as the crap that has happened the last few years.)

Please don't take this the wrong way (because I totally sympathize with you), but in this case, I think the new tradition would be Christmas Eve alone with just you, DH, and the kids.  Enjoy being together, play music, watch a movie, play a game, get fun socks for everyone and wear them doing some new tradition, bake something fun.  Get the pre-built gingerbread houses (I know Target has them) and let the kids go at it.

I would not be tolerating the drama.  You only get so many chances to make wonderful Christmas memories with your kids.  But...I am old and tired of everyone's crap these days so just ignore me if you want -- LOL.  I hope whatever you decide, it works out.  

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So many good suggestions here!

I copied a friend and gave everyone a box of cereal that was just theirs (and I was sure I had plenty of milk on hand!). We don't buy cereal, so it was special. The kids liked having one they chose and loved not having to share! I got one for Dh and myself too. Of course I wrapped them, lol. We always make something more substantial for breakfast, but the kids can have cereal if they want. 

Not nearly as good as what's been said here, but there it is. 

Edited by Angie in VA
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A friend and extended family did the sock thing and it was a huge hit.  They took a family photo of just everyone's feet.  Very cute!

How about appetizers, board games, and a few holiday movies playing in the background?  You could do a dessert bar afterwards, like brownies and sundaes...

Just an idea...

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