In no particular order, here are 7 of my favorite Christmas/Winter traditions.
1.) Baking (or no-baking)I have fond memories of baking cookies at Christmas time. We would make a day of it and cover every surface of our kitchen with an assembly line system of mixing, rolling, cutting, cooling, and decorating sugar cookies. There were always plenty to "test" and plenty to give away or take to Christmas gatherings. While both of my boys love helping in the kitchen, I was not ready to take on that large of a baking project with them yet. We settled for a couple of no-bake treats instead and as it turned out, it was the perfect amount of baking for both mommy and boys!
We made 2 treats: World's Easiest Fudge, and Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Each of the boys had their own bowl of chocolate and a bowl of sprinkles. I used the short pretzel sticks and we only dipped the tip.
We gifted quite a few of these, but had plenty to eat for us too.
2.) Sights and SmellsGrowing up, our house was filled with gold and deep red decorations at Christmas, and my mom's nativity collection. My mom always either burned cinnamon or berry scents, or simmered cider on the stove. Now, when I get in the mood for the holidays, I always start with a scent.
Here is my current go-to winter potpourri. It is so easy and smells sooo good. The recipe is orange peels, cinnamon and water. That's it. Bring it to a boil, then turn it on low. You can keep adding water all day and it will still smell delicious. You could also add cloves or allspice, but oranges and cinnamon is really all you need.
Even though I have my German clay houses out all year long, I really associate them with Christmas time. When my husband and I lived in Germany, we frequented the Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) every Christmas. These little houses were sold in the little shops there. You can put a tea light under the houses to light them and scented oil in the chimneys to make them smoke and smell good too. I originally bought these as a gift for my mom, but when she ran out of room and moved them to storage, I asked her if I could store them on my mantle instead. They bring back the best memories.
Decorating the tree has always been my thing. Jeremy helps with the lights (sometimes) and then I do the rest...that is until this year. I didn't plan on having the boys helping me, but I didn't time their naps right, and they both got up before I was finished. They (Lex especially) were so good at getting the ornaments on! They didn't clump them all together and they were so careful, even with the fragile ones. I guess we have started a family decorating tradition. I love this picture.
3.) Snow PlayEvery once in a while, Missouri gets the perfect snowfall, in which the snow is wet enough to play with, the temperature is warm enough to play in (but not warm enough to make the snow all sloshy), and the snow is not so deep that you can't walk through it. We had one of those snow falls back in December.
Eli throwing a snowball. Last year, he cried when we took him to play in the snow, so this is growth.
4.) CraftsWe love painting in our house, and have it down to a very efficient system, so we decided to make ornaments using this tutorial from Pinterest. We made the dough, rolled it out, cut it out, poked a hole in it, then baked it. Once it dried and cooled, we painted them, then sealed them with a spray adhesive.
5.) PajamasI love, love, love pajamas. In fact, my best friend from high school, with whom I exchange Christmas and half-birthday gifts, still sends me pajamas every year for Christmas. I have quite the flannel collection. Sometimes, when I get home from school, I get into pajamas before I even get the boys' coats off. Shameful, I know. Anyway, I say all this to explain our 5th tradition, Christmas Eve pajamas. We started it for Lex's first Christmas and have done it every year since. We buy the boys pajamas to open on Christmas Eve. After their bath, they put on their new pajamas and we read The Night Before Christmas. When they wake up, they have cute pjs for Christmas morning pictures. I love it. Some years, Jeremy and I have bought them for each other, too, but not every year. For some reason, I don't have the best picture of the boys on Christmas Eve, but these pictures show the pajamas.
6.) The Night Before ChristmasWe try to make Christmas Eve a quiet, special, reflective day. After all the hustle and bustle of the season, we are always ready to just have a quiet day. When Jeremy and I moved to Missouri, we began the tradition of going to IHOP on Christmas Eve for breakfast. After 7 years of doing that, we broke the tradition this year. We decided that staying home would help us to relax leading up to the holiday. It was a great day. I have an aunt who once told me that she lights all of the candles in her house on Christmas Eve. I do that now too. We also set out cookies and milk for Santa and read The Night Before Christmas.
My Grandma passed down to me a set of 4 of these dishes. You can't see it in the picture, but there's a little circle on the plate in which the cup sets like a puzzle piece. It keeps it from sliding around. We really only get them out for special occasions. Interesting note: I never let the kids handle these dishes, but this year, when I was getting them out, I dropped a cup... and it didn't break, not even a crack. Whew! I was much, much more careful after that. I love these dishes.
Something else my grandma passed down to me was this little tiny book ornament. When I was little, I would go to my grandparents' house for Christmas, and always, always take this ornament off the tree to read the story. I loved how small it was. Fast forward many years to when I was adult. My grandma was downsizing and didn't need a big tree anymore. I believe she gave each of the grandchildren an ornament, but what I really remember is that she chose this one for me. I put it up high so the kids can't reach it yet. I want them to learn to be gentle with it before I put it in their reach. My grandma came to visit for Thanksgiving this year and we celebrated Christmas with her. She asked if I still had this ornament. Of course I do! This isn't the version we read to the boys. We have a colorful, kids version for them, but I hope that someday this little book is special to them too.
7.) Christmas Breakfast
My boys are really into pancakes right now. I think it's because it's an easy breakfast for them to make and they get to cook on the stove (with mommy supervision, of course). So for Christmas breakfast, I made these adorable snowman pancakes. The boys don't eat syrup on pancakes (I pack them full of blueberries, so they're sweet enough without it), but for Christmas, I spread on whipped cream, buttoned it up with blueberries, and put on a bacon scarf. They loved it.
That's a little bit about my holiday, even if it is a couple of months late.