Thursday, December 30, 2010

You're Going to Shoot Your Eye Out...And Other Christmas Traditions

Update: My dear mother--in-law had a few more details to add to the traditions that were established in their home when Chris was growing up. I loved reading this and hearing more about the way they spent Christmas together in their home, and I wanted to share it here. Look below for the added material.

This year was our first Christmas spent at our home here in Virginia, unless you count the Christmas we spent in Virginia two years ago - although we spent the entire holiday in the NICU that year.

It was a very relaxing, low key, "quiet" (ahem...2 boys = not so quiet....but relatively speaking), quality family time Christmas.

I just felt giddy this year as we were able to really enjoy it with our children. Last year,although I loved being in Minnesota, the boys were both sick with colds and truthfully they were pretty miserable as we traveled and spent our Christmas there. Chris and I ended up holding them most nights in the recliner so that they could get some sleep (and we could too)...anyhow...I digress...

The boys were SO in to the celebration of Christmas this year. It was fun to watch it through their eyes and to see them experiencing the magic of it all for the first time.

Right after Thanksgiving we started doing Elf on the Shelf with them. We didn't focus much on the whole story behind the Elf, because #1. I don't think the boys would get the whole idea of the elf going back and reporting to Santa on their behavior and #2. I find it pretty creepy to think about this elf that hangs around and watches your every move all day long and then when you're sleeping he goes to the North Pole and tells Santa about it. Sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of to me! So instead we just made it a daily game of "Find the Elf!" The boys would wake up every morning in their cribs and when we would go in to their room they would say "Elf! Elf! Down! Down!" We would set them on the floor and they would RUN down the hallway, their little necks looking left and right, searching for their little red friend.

That little elf made his rounds I tell you! When you have to find 20 whatever plus hiding spots for each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas you need to get a little creative about where he goes! He hung from the lights, got stuck on top of our tree, hugged a bottle of wine, had his legs hanging out from the cupboard door, peeked around the clock...he got around!

Growing up my family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. We would get all dressed up. My Grandma Brustuen would always come over to spend the evening with us. We would meet in the kitchen in the late afternoon and have appetizers of shrimp, pickled herring (for Mom!), and eggnog. We would sit around and visit for an hour or two before moving to the dining room for a nice dinner served on china. After dinner we would have to clean up (always seemed to take f.o.r.e.v.e.r.!), and then we would meet up in the living room (a.k.a. the yellow room) afterwards. Many of us would gather around the piano while Mom played and we would sing Christmas songs. Some religious and some secular, some slow and some fast...always trying to please everyone. We would then read the Christmas story and in recent years we have begun to do a white elephant gift exchange together. After the silly gift exchange we would begin with the actual opening of stockings and gifts. We would always take turns, one person at a time, going around the room opening up gifts one by one. That way we were able to really enjoy the experience and see what everyone was given.

After opening gifts my uncle, aunt and cousins would come over for cookies and coffee and we would sit and visit until late in the night. I have such fond, fond memories of many Christmas Eves spent that way...and to this day that is still our tradition there!

Chris, however celebrated his Christmas a bit different. He would go to church on Christmas Eve and then they would open one gift when they got home. The next morning they would wake up and there would be some gifts unwrapped under the tree from Santa along with wrapped presents from his parents. They would then open gifts and enjoy the morning and some delicious food just hanging out together. This is just wonderful Beth, establishing family traditions will always mean so much to your little ones:)There are a few things Chris left out that I would like to share with you. During Advent we talked daily about the Advent calendar and what Advent was all about (on their level of course). We baked cookies, decorated the tree (usually two of them), made ornaments for the trees, and the children made gifts for grandparents and for their dad and me. They always participated in the Christmas program at church. On Christmas Eve we always attended Christmas Eve service. It was a very special time for us. The little ones would always go in their pj's as they would usually fall asleep at the 11 pm service. As they got older, we would come home after the service, the kids would put on their new pj's which they got every Christmas to last the winter, have some cookies and usually apple juice in "real" glasses, talk about Jesus and it being His birthday, and each open one gift. We could hear them all talking for an hour or so after that...but then early the next day they were ready to go!! Christmas Day was spent either at home (if Doug worked day shift) with dinner in the evening and a visit to Grandmother and Granddaddy another weekend, or Christmas morning at home and then to Grandmother and Granddaddy's for Christmas dinner. Regardless of what shift Doug was working, he ALWAYS was there for the children when the woke up on Christmas morning. This was so very special for them and for me. Love to you sweet family as you begin your own very special traditions:) Mom H./Mawmaw

Since we have been married we just celebrated however it worked best around our travels. We have always traveled either to Virginia or Minnesota for every single Christmas since we started dating, so we were not able to really have any Christmas Eve or Christmas Day traditions of our own. Now that we have children though we both feel it is very important to establish those traditions for just the five of us.

So a few months ago the two of us went out to eat and we talked about what traditions we would like to start with our family. I feel like we created a nice balance between what I was raised with and what Chris was raised with. I am sure as the years go on our traditions will grow and morph somewhat, but here are some of the traditions we have started with our family and some that we will start when they are a bit older:

Before Christmas

  • Elf on the Shelf

  • Make a gingerbread house

  • Take part in Operation Christmas Child

  • Drink hot cocoa and go drive around looking at lights

  • Make roll out cookies together and decorate

  • Go caroling at a nursing home or somewhere such as that

Christmas Eve

  • Have a nice dinner together

  • Go to church

  • Open one gift before bed

  • Sing Christmas songs

  • Wear Christmas pjs

Christmas Day

  • Begin day with breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls, and fruit

  • Read the Bible Story

  • Pray together

  • Give the kids an ornament every year

  • Open gifts

  • Play

  • Visit family!

This post has turned out to be entirely all too long and I haven't even shared pictures from our Christmas yet! There may just have to be a part two.


  1. So many wonderful memories Beth!!! This is a gift to your children..
    What a blessing!!

  2. Anonymous1.1.11

    You and chris are such Loveing parents beth, both to your children and to the Lord. God bless you all

    Love dad

  3. I think your traditions sound wonderful!! And I agree ~ it is SO important to start establishing traditions for YOUR family. :) We decided that Thanksgiving would be the holiday that we spend with family and we don't travel on Christmas anymore so that we can have our own traditions and wake up at our own house {grandparents are more than welcome to come and visit!}. :)

    Love the elf game.


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