Our Family Christmas Traditions

Our immediate family consists of my husband, our almost four year old daughter, Pepper, and myself. My mother, step father, and father-in-law all live nearby, but everyone else lives in other states, mostly on the other side of the country. Today I’ll tell you how my immediate family celebrate Christmas.

The Christmas Tree

Our Christmas excitement really starts as soon as Halloween is over because that’s when the stores start to roll out the festive merchandise. It’s not easy to convince my three year old that it’s not Christmas yet when there are 20 trees up at Walmart. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday anyway so pre-child we always put up our tree on Halloween, sometimes earlier. After Pepper was born we started putting it up later and later in the year because it takes up so much space that is now occupied by toys and furniture I have to do something with the whole time the tree is up. This year the tree went up about one week before Thanksgiving.

My husband is not big on holidays. They were never a big deal when he was a kid. He is getting more in to them as Pepper grows up though. I care about the tree more than my husband does so I have the more difficult jobs. I clear the furniture, get out the tree and put it together, fluff the branches, test and string the lights, and string the garland (my daughter calls it garlic). Then the whole family listens to Christmas music and puts on the ornaments. It has been so fun to see my daughter get more and more excited each year.

The Christmas Countdown

I always want to do an Christmas countdown for myself. It’s one of the things I miss most about being a kid at Christmas. And they have such fun ones these days. They are so expensive I can’t possibly justify the cost. Pepper’s countdown has been different depending on the year. One year we did the book countdown where we wrapped 24 books and read one each day. This year we have a small parts container from Walmart. It has 30 drawers so we start counting down 30 days before Christmas and she gets to open one drawer each morning. They are mostly small toys, shopkins or something from the dollar tree broken up in to several drawers. This year we also have Christmas stickers and activities. The activities have been her favorite part so far. We have done things like Christmas crafts, coloring with mommy, reading Christmas books, playing a family game, etc. And we still have coming up playing in the snow with grandpa, baking with grandma, and driving around to look at Christmas lights.

This year she also has a small cardboard countdown grandma got for her that has a piece of chocolate behind each door. And we have an app on my phone that tells us how many more sleeps until Christmas. She asks to see it every morning.

Christmas Songs

We start singing Christmas songs the day after Halloween because that is when local station starts playing them 24 hours a day until New Years. This year she is learning all the words, and very quickly. She is very musical. Her favorite song is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and she sings it nearly non-stop most days. Sometimes she will sing a line and then I’ll sing a line and we’ll go back and forth through the song over and over. It drives my husband nuts haha We turn on youtube or pandora often and sing and dance along together.

Christmas Crafts and Activities

My daughter loves to do crafts. She likes to decorate for every holdiay and she likes to make little things that can be hung up. You can see most of our crafts on my instagram @allthingsmommablog

So far we have done a lot of bookmark making. We also made some paper ornaments for the tree using posterboard, washi tape, and stickers. She colored a Christmas canvas bag from the dollar tree. We have more coloring projects coming up as well as awooden Christmas Tree plaque to paint and then hang.

In years past we’ve made other ornaments by taking the clear plastic balls from the dollar tree and filling them with fake snow, or jingle bells, or green and red pompoms.

We also enjoy doing Christmas and Winter themed worksheets. I try to incorporate skills she is honing with so much fun she doesn’t realize she’s learning.

A place I had been looking at for worksheets is Education.com. They reached out to me and offered a fun winter worksheet for my readers.

Young readers can keep their spelling skills warm this winter with this “cool” word search. Continue to fire up those spelling skills by visiting Education.com for more fun activities.

You can download the word search here:



They included the answer sheet too!

I love using word searches for helping my daughter learn to spell new and longer words. With a lot of new words I like to go through in advance and circle the first letter of each word to make it a little less challenging for her. She loves to find the words and color in the letters.

word search

I’ll be heading back to the website after I finish typing this to snag some mazes. She’s recently obsessed with them and both my husband and daughter are getting maze books for Christmas. I like that the ones on this website can be customized based on size and difficulty.

Christmas Books

No celebration would be complete for my little reading machine without books, books, and more books. This is an assortment of books from the library we had the first couple of weeks of December. More are on the way you can watch Instagram to see more of what we are reading.


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Pepper’s current favorites are How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a recordable version of Twas the Night Before Christmas that has her grandpa’s voice reading it to her as she turns the pages.

Gifts and Santa

Traditionally I shop for gifts all year long and stock up on things for way later. We have toys aged eight and above that we bought while I was pregnant. I keep a giant box of things for future holidays. And I’m usually done shopping and wrapping way early. For 2017 I wrapped the last gift on the 1st of July. This year was so so different. My husband lost his job in April and he’s still technically unemployed. He’s helping me with my freelance work, but we’re barely scraping by. So, no big gifts this year. We had to cut some people out of usual shopping list. But it will still hopefully be a great day. We have just a few things for me and my husband so Pepper doesn’t think Santa forgot us and obviously more things for her. And I still have four more small things I’m hoping to pick up for the hubby if we can find some wiggle room in the budget to do so.

I try to get my daughter things she will either love and play with for a long time or that are consumable so I don’t have to worry about long term storage. And this year especially I tried to get the few specific items she asked for. I enlisted help from grandma and grandpa for the item out of our price range.

Her wish list for Santa this year was:

  1. A big Hatchimal with blue and yellow spots
  2. A toaster with toast for her toy kitchen
  3. Monopoly Junior
  4. New Markers

Grandma is bringing the Hatchimal and Santa has the rest covered. She is still little enough that I can sway her asking to things I know are obtainable like the markers and things I’ve already purchased like the toaster. Now she thinks it was her idea and it will be amazing and magical for her when she opens exactly what she asked for.

As far as Santa goes, she’s a believer. So all Christmas morning gifts from him. She is so bright and observant and logical that I’m pretty sure this year is the last year she is going to believe in Santa as a concept so I’m trying to play it up pretty big on a limited budget. Any tips to make it extra special?

She has a cardboard mailbox under the tree that she sends notes and cards and letters to Santa in. He sends letters and other surprises back when he can. He is very busy right now after all. On the day we put up our tree Santa leaves her a letter and a gift hidden somewhere in the house. He gives her a clue so she can find it.

She also got a special letter from him. And she is sent a video from him too from www.portablenorthpole.com

Both the letter and the video are free. She loved the video last year and I can’t wait for her to see this year’s video.

As far as opening gifts, I’m terrible at waiting, but this year we have no money to buy anything other than what we already have, so Pepper got one gift on the day the tree went up and she has one to open half way through her coutdown when the drawer has a slip of paper saying to open a gift. So all presents from us will be opened on Christmas morning.

My mother and step father spend the day here on Christmas Eve and we eat Christmas dinner and open gifts from them that day. They go so overboard that we open for an hour or more.

When we wake up the next morning Santa has visited and we can open all the gifts under the tree and play with them all day. One rule I have is that she doesn’t have to leave home or her new toys on Christmas.

I make a big pot of chili and anyone that wants to come see her can come anytime after noon and visit with her or bring her more gifts.

My father in law is an organist at a church and works on Christmas Eve and Day so he usually ends up seeing her the day after. We’ll go to his house and he usually buys something big that we can keep there for when we are over each week for dinner and playing. It works out great. Big exciting toys for her and I don’t have to find a place to put anything else.

Christmas is a great low key day with lots of fun and surprises and love and coffee and naps.

After Christmas

We keep the toys out for a few days and then slowly find places for them among her old toys. The tree used to stay up much longer, until my birthday in the middle of February one year! But again, the space issue. I’m usually done trying to do things around it by the first week of January and we take it down. It’s darker and less joyful for a while, but then we get back to our lives and look forward to birthday week in February.

*My birthday is the 13th of February, Valentine’s day the 14th, and my daughter’s birthday the 16th. We end up celebrating for a full week and she gets a gift each day ending with a small party with the grandparents on the Saturday.

How do you celebrate Christmas? What is your favorite tradition? How long do you leave up your tree?


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