Start This Christmas Tradition Now - Your Future Self Will Thank You
When my children were little, I started a small gift tradition on the morning of Christmas Eve. I did it joyfully for two little boys filled with wonder for the season. I didn’t know it then, but that small present wasn’t just a gift for them then – but for each of us now.
Today these growing teens tower above me and few holiday traditions remain from their younger years. Yet this one has lasted, and I'm so grateful.
Each year on the morning of December 24th, they’d awake to find three gifts under the tree: a new pair of Christmas pajamas, a Christmas book and an ornament for the tree. They’d instantly rip the paper open and race upstairs to place their pajamas and book on their bed in anticipation of the magical night to come. We would spend the day crafting gingerbread houses, baking cookies, and watching Christmas specials. In the evening, they would place the new ornament on the tree, balancing precariously on tippy toes to find the perfect spot.
Those ornaments are magical gifts to us now. Every year it was carefully chosen for each of them, a tiny, inexpensive gift that told a piece of their story. Family vacations included a quick stop in the gift shop so I could secretly choose one for that year. If I couldn’t find one, I’d improvise. Sometimes it was a trinket that perfectly captured the highlights of the trip; other times, it was a hotel key card from a memorable resort. My goal was never to win any decorating awards but to have a tree that captured our memories.
One early year it was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a favourite character that permeated their days with toys, television shows and birthday party themes. Other years it reflected their favourite movie or book. Sometimes it was a small-framed hanging photo of a special event: the day we picked up our new puppy, the first day of kindergarten, a special sports season or concert. There were even ornaments to honour lost loved ones.
This year my youngest will hang a Philadelphia Phillies NCLS ornament to remember the experience of watching his live major league baseball playoff game. My oldest will unwrap a replica of his favourite roller coaster to remember our first family trip to Bush Gardens.
It’s never too late to start. When a friend saw my tree, she was inspired to make a photo ornament of a memory of each year of her daughter’s life. She has a shoebox full of special ornaments to give her senior to use on her first tree.
While my growing pre-teen and teenage boys have lost interest in holiday pajamas and I’m certain we now have all the Christmas books, I’m thankful there is one small gift that continues each December 24th.
Their days are often too busy for holiday light shows or Christmas specials, but this tradition remains: We still decorate our tree together with hot cocoa and cookies with carols playing in the background. As they hang up their ornament, each one brings a smile, a funny story and often an eruption of laughter recalling the memory. It’s a rare opportunity for us all to slow down and celebrate our family’s special moments. Sprinkled among their homemade creations are little pieces of their childhood. Each one is part of their story and forever part of our family’s.
And I am eternally grateful for those tiny gifts of Christmas pasts for today’s mama heart.