I really want to know what your (yes, you, reading this right now) Christmas traditions are. So to start the conversation, I'm going to share mine/ours:
Sansom Family Christmas Traditions
I'll begin by telling you about Christmas traditions growing up. My family gets REALLY into Christmas. I mean, why wouldn't you? It's celebrating the first of two comings of our SAVIOR and to be honest, I'm going to be REALLY celebrating when He comes again, so why not celebrate His first coming to foreshadow the second coming? I digress. But my parents just really love Christmas, and they instilled a real love for this season in my sisters and me.
So here are some of our traditions:
#1: Pajama rides
When we were little, my parents would make us go to bed early, and then about 10 minutes later, they'd run around our house and yell really loud "PAJAMA RIDE! PAJAMA RIDE!!!" We'd pile into the van in our PJs, and we'd ride all over Destin and Fort Walton looking at Christmas lights. We'd always stop for a hot chocolate (or ice cream sundae depending on how Florida's "winter" was shaping up that year). Now, we still do PJ rides, but we plan them ahead of time and we basically drive all of Okaloosa and Walton County. My senior year of college, we were in the car so long we had to stop for snacks and bathroom breaks. I think those are probably some of my fondest memories of life in Destin.
#2: Christmas Eve Service
I know there are tons of families that attend church on Christmas Eve, especially in the south, but I just love how my family does it. We used to go over to my grandparent's house and Grandma would make her famous seafood gumbo. Then we were go to their church for the Christmas Eve service. As we got older, we wanted to go to our own church to see friends and stuff, so then Grandma and Grandpa would come with us. Now, we eat with them at my parent's house and go to my family's church. It's evolved over the years for sure, but I still love seeing family and friends and celebrating Christ's coming together!
#3: PJs on Christmas Eve
Every year when we get home from the Christmas Eve service at church, we open one gift and it's always new PJs. I love this traditions because then we all go upstairs and change and come back downstairs by the warm fireplace and my dad reads the story of Jesus's birth from the bible. My parents always did a great job of focusing Christmas on Jesus, rather than materialistic things or Santa. I don't think there's anything wrong with Santa or gifts (we get plenty of them, and we're so thankful), but I have always admired how my parents focused on Jesus as we were going to bed on Christmas Eve. They helped us keep our priorities straight.
#4: Secret Santa
When my sister Carlee was probably in middle school or late elementary school, she spent all morning one Saturday putting together a PowerPoint presentation. None of us knew what she was doing, and then she gathered us all in the living room to reveal her big surprise. She'd put together Secret Santa for our family! She was so organized and had a plan that worked perfectly! We still follow her rules and do Secret Santa every year. We also pick a theme each year. This year, the theme is Flea Market Flip. We can only spend $15 and it has to be a gift from a flea market, thrift store, or garage sale.
#5: Lots of cooking
Pretty self explanatory...we bake...a lot. Now we give cookies and other baked goods as gifts. It's fun, and it's fun to go home at Christmas now and see what each of us likes to do in the kitchen.
#6: Ornaments from around the world.
This one is a bonus, since we do it all year long. Every time my family goes to a new place, they buy a Christmas ornament. Then, when they decorate the tree on Thanksgiving weekend, we can look back at all of our ornaments and remember the places we've been. Other than that, all of the ornaments are homemade. It really makes it a special tree that way.
Morales Family Christmas Traditions
It's been so fun to start new traditions with Jason in the three years we've been together. It's also been fun to see what traditions we bring with us from our families!
#1: Birmingham ZooLight Safari
This tradition began our first year of dating. We went to the Birmingham Zoo's Christmas light extravaganza the night before we both went to our prospective parts of Florida for the Christmas holidays. We've gone back every year. We love that we get to see new things every year, and I always love riding the train. I'm excited to continue this in the future, especially when we have kids that are old enough to enjoy it!
#2: Alabama Theatre Christmas Movie
We always go see a Christmas movie at the Alabama Theatre. If you live in the Birmingham area and you've never been to any of these, YOU MUST GO! Even if you don't live in Birmingham, it's worth traveling for. They show family-friendly Christmas movies for $8 a person and they sell yummy snacks and hot chocolate. Before the movie begins, they bring out a guy who plays the organ and you sing Christmas carols and it's decorated just beautifully. Our first year we saw It's a Wonderful Life, and last year we saw Home Alone.
Our the first Christmas that we were dating, we'd only been dating for about 3 months. At that point, we didn't really want to get each other sentimental gifts, or even big extravagant gifts, so we opted to do something a little different. We both chose items from Compassion International's website and World Vision's website that added up to about $50 and went to a developing nation to help families there. We loved doing this so much, because in all honesty, neither of us needed anything. We've done something similar every year since. This year, we sponsored a foster child and we're so excited to deliver her gifts to her! We got so into it this year that I even took some of Jason's Christmas gifts back so that we could go all out! Christmas is about gifts, yes, because we are celebrating Christ's life and that is the greatest gift we will ever receive. But Christmas is also about giving, and I think we forget that too often.
#4: Christmas Concerts
Jason and I LOVE live music. He worked in the live music industry when we were dating and engaged, and we both love going to concerts together. We always try to go to at least one Christmas concert each year. This year, we'll be going to see Act of Congress at Workplay this coming Saturday!
#5: Ornaments from around the world
This tradition was adapted from the Sansom family tradition. Jason and I visited some friends in Chicago about a month before he proposed. That was our first real trip together, and we bought our first ornament on that trip as well. Since then, we've been collecting ornaments from every new place we visit together. Someday, I hope to have a full travel/homemade tree like my parents have, but until then, we'll keep our matching gold and silver glitter ornaments around to fill in the holes...we'll call them placeholders :)
What are your favorite Christmas traditions? I really want to know! Where do they come from? Tell me in the comments section...I can't wait to read about them!