And so it begins…

The turkey’s been picked clean, the tree is up, the decorations are on, and I’ve already received several texts from friends who are more with-it than I requesting a current address for their annual Christmas cards. Christmas music stations are set on my dial and we are in full swing over here. Heck, we’ve already watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” twice already!

The kids were so excited to extricate our large, fake tree from the clutches of a dusty basement this morning, their Christmastime adrenaline rush enabled them to not only dig it out of storage without help, but then heave the 200 pound sarcophagus of a box half-way up the basement steps because “dad was taking too long” creating a spot for the pre-lit giant upstairs. It was the best teamwork I’d seen out of that lot all year.

Yes, Christmas really brings us together. (We share everything this time of year, including the flu…Hence all the Christmas movies already.)

For years it was I creating and pushing the holiday traditions, intent on making the season magical for our children. It was hard work, and I often wondered if anybody else even noticed the little traditions I was trying to lay the foundation for that didn’t include chocolate or toffee.

But sure enough, today it was our children who were the ones hauling out the holly and busting out the Christmas books. They were the ones who lovingly unwrapped each of the Christmas ornaments we’ve collected over the years and insisted we chat about the meaning of each one. They were the ones who sang along to the Christmas music a tad off-key and reminded me again and again it was time to draw names for our family homemade gift exchange (and then went ahead and wrote down the names and stuffed them into a stocking because “mom was taking too long.”)

I can tell it’s going to be a fun year. The holiday torch is lit, and they are eager to run with it. And now that our family temperature is right for embracing Christmas traditions (meaning I’m not the one who has to make all five homemade gifts this year) I’d like to know, what are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

To get the ball rolling, I’ll share a few of ours. But please comment below and let me know, what have been wonderful Christmas traditions for your family?

I’ve already mentioned the Christmas tree ornaments. We like to acquire an ornament from each trip we take, for each child that joins our family, or to represent anything that’s special to us. For example, we turned our bride and groom wedding cake topper into a Christmas ornament. I buy frame ornaments to showcase each child’s sonogram picture. We have souvenir ornaments from China, Fiji, Mexico, Hawaii, Yellowstone, London, anyplace we’ve visited or lived in. And of course, all ornaments made in the classroom by little hands have places of honor on our tree. It turns trimming the tree into a delightful walk down memory lane.

Another tradition we have is drawing names and making a surprise home-made gift for that member of the family and then opening them all on Christmas Eve. Simple is the key. Some of our past favorites include a pretty picture colored onto cardboard and cut into a puzzle, an easy-peasy Jedi Knight tunic made from a yard of brown flannel and cinched with a thrift store belt, a pillowcase made for a camping pillow, and a custom designed coloring book cover. (If you want more ideas, just ask.)

Every year, the Deseret News runs a “Christmas I Remember Best” writing competition and we love to read the winning entries aloud every year. (A little trivia: My husband’s family has had one of their Christmas stories make the cut.)

Like most of you, we love to carol and take goodies to our neighbors. We love to ding-dong ditch gifts to those in need and run like mad into the dark night. But I know there are lots of great ideas out there, and my kids are ripe to take on yet another Christmas adventure.

Thanks in advance for sharing.

Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, free-lance writer, wife and the mother of five small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com