Christmas Tradition Swap!

For most people, it's still too early to fully embrace the Christmas season (ahem, my husband). And I don't want to overlook Thanksgiving, as it is my favorite day of the year. But I'm a planner, and if you're like me, you're already making to-do lists in preparation for December 25th! In light of this, I wanted to do a Christmas tradition swap! I'll share mine, you share yours! Who says you can't make new traditions?

1. Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox:
My sister and I (and our parents) started this tradition many years ago, back when our money came from crayon-shaped banks instead of ATMs. Mom would take us to Big Lots, and we'd pick out the coolest toys (that could fit in a shoebox), the softest washcloths, the comfiest socks, and other essentials. Our hearts went into each box, and we prayed earnestly for the child who would open it. Since college, my husband and I have continued this tradition, putting together two shoebox gifts each year - one for a boy, one for a girl. Shoeboxes must be sent off by the end of November, so it's the first Christmas-related activity we do as a family.  It's not too late to put a shoebox together! Learn more about Operation Christmas Child here

2. Make homemade ornaments:
The most treasured ornaments on my parents' tree are the ones my sister and I made in elementary: painted popsicle sticks in the shape of a tree, a wooden block painted to look like Santa, with a yarn beard, a reindeer made from a lightbulb - you know the kind. I'm trying to channel my childlike creativity again. Last year, I crocheted ornaments (or tried to). I'm currently scouring Pinterest for ideas, so feel free to send me a pin! My great grandma used to make ornaments (they adorn my parents' tree as well), and they are simply G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S. I'll be thinking of my spunky gran as I try my hand this year. 

3. Get a REAL tree:
I married into this tradition. Growing up, we had a fake tree. And I was determined to have a fake tree with Kyle, too. But, you know, compromise. So I told him I'd try it ONE YEAR, and if I hated it, we'd get a fake tree. 

But I loved it.

We picked ours out at Sullivan's Hardware (*below* - my FAVORITE place to browse this time of year - their yellow house gift shop is so charming). The tree smelled amazing. I didn't mind watering it or cleaning up the needles. My crazy allergies weren't bothered a bit. And we don't have to worry about storing a fake tree! 

4. WHITE CHRISTMAS & Holiday Inn:
If anyone can carry on a conversation with me beyond small talk, they know how much I adore the movie White Christmas. Every word, every song, every dance, I've committed to memory. We watch it at least 12 times throughout the months of November and December, and Kyle will tell you that I sing the songs in the shower year-round. You guys. It's the best movie. SUCH a crush on Bing. And partly because of that crush, I'm also crazy about the movie Holiday Inn. Watch them!
'Tis the season for old movies & Bing.

5. Christmas music, everywhere, all the time:
According to Kyle and my Pops, Christmas music is not allowed until after Santa has appeared at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. According to Momma & me, Christmas music is permitted in October. We don't limit the cheer! I just picked up two of my FAVORITE albums in a $5 Christmas CD bin at Wal-Mart: Kenny G Miracles: The Holiday Album (my mom played this every December morning before school), and a Classic Christmas CD, with the right people singing the right songs (Bing singing White Christmas, Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, etc.). I can't wait to pop them in on the car ride home after Thanksgiving gatherings! And if you happen to have a record player, there's nothing like the crackle of Christmas music while you bake/trim the tree/wrap presents. 

6. Write a letter to Santa at Macy's:
Macy's Believe Campaign is pure magic, especially if you're like me and grew up believing that the real Santa was the one at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. That store has connections! ;) The Macy's on State Street in Chicago (Marshall Fields, once upon a time) is by far our favorite. Their window designs are breathtaking, and they have an extra special area for North Pole letter writing. (It's for grown ups too, of course!) And if you go to the State Street Macy's, don't forget to take a peek at the Walnut Room Christmas tree from the 8th floor balcony. Or, if you can afford fine dining, make reservations for the Walnut Room on the 7th floor. Be sure to watch Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus beforehand! 

7. Draw names for stockings:
In late elementary school, my parents, sister and I started drawing names for buying stocking stuffers. With only four of us, it wasn't difficult to figure out who drew whom, especially because I couldn't keep a secret. Now, we draw names as a family of six, making it a bit more challenging. Years later, I still spill the beans!

8. Drive around the Christmas tree THREE TIMES:
In a tiny Indiana town, there happens to be a giant Christmas tree the locals put up each year in the middle of an intersection (I use the term "intersection" quite loosely). My great grandparents lived in this town for many years. In fact, there's an ornament on that tree with their names on it! Being the spirited people they were, they started a tradition of driving around that tree THREE times! As kids, we yelled, "Weeeeeeeee!" pretending to ride a roller coaster. Now, it usually makes us dizzy and always makes us smile. (Ride along below!)

9. Share memories:
This isn't so much intentional as it is natural. Stories are told. Remembering happens. By golly, the whole point of keeping up Christmas traditions is to make memories. And we have many! We rehash my sister's disdain for Santa Claus as a little girl. "I just don't YIKE 'em," she said, feet firmly planted on the ground, staring down the mall Santa. 

We talk about our grandpa. He went home to heaven a few years ago on Christmas Eve, all of the people he loved most standing and kneeling by his side. Our hearts aren't hardened toward the holiday. It's just yet another day of many we think about him: his laugh, his love, his legacy. And we remember just how fleeting this sweet life is.

10. Birthday cake for Jesus:
Not a year goes by where we don't bake a cake, light candles, and sing Happy Birthday to baby Jesus. We've done it since the very beginning. And the funny thing is, Kyle's family did the same thing! It's my FAVORITE tradition.

11. Christmas Eve pajamas & ornament: 
My parents have given us pajamas on Christmas Eve each year as well. (Along with pj's, we're each given an ornament - sometimes bought at Hallmark, sometimes homemade.) I never sleep better than I do in fresh Christmas pajamas. They're also the only new pajamas I get throughout the year. (I have a closet full of sweatpants, after all.) A few Christmases ago, I was given bright pink Lucy-&-Ricky-type button-up pj's with bucking broncos and cowboys all over them. Let's just say no one else in my dorm had them. ;)

12. Read the Christmas story:
On Christmas Eve. Out loud. As a family. I love to sit there listening, eyes closed, imagining the stable and the star. It's a familiar story - you've probably heard it read by Linus. Try imagining it in a new way. It's not just a story - it happened. What a plot. What a gift. What a Savior. 

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Let's swap!