Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Family Traditions

I come from a very large Catholic, Italian family.  My childhood memories of the Christmas holidays are full of special family rituals and traditions. For instance, most of our holiday meals were celebrated at my Nanie and Papa's house and as is the Italian custom, it was always fish on Christmas Eve, usually Dungeness Crab!  Another tradition I remember was being allowed to open one present just before Midnight Mass because it was usually something special to wear to mass!   When Christmas morning finally came, my sister and I would run upstairs at lightning speed to find what Santa had left!  None of Santa's presents were ever wrapped!   His toys were already opened, set up, batteries inserted and turned on just waiting for their new owners to take possession! 

I am trying to instill some of these same traditions in my children while at the same time, coming up with some of our own.  For the purposes of keeping a record here on my blog so that my children will be able to refer to them even after I'm gone, I'd like to share with you some of our "Widener Family Traditions":

The Where and When:  Since none of my family live here in Florida, our holidays are pretty laid back.  There is never a fight over which set of grandparents will get to spend time with the kids!  We always have Christmas Eve dinner at Dan's parents house. As a tribute to my heritage, Dan's mom usually includes a crab casserole so that I can still feel connected to my childhood past.  She is so kind and generous to do that for me.  Unfortunately, you can't get Dungeness Crab here in Florida, so she makes it with Blue Crab which is native to where they are from...Virginia.  Christmas Day is spent here at home with just myself, Dan and the kids.  Occasionally, we will invite friends from Church to join us for dinner, but the morning is our own family time.

The Decorations:  As far as I'm concerned, the Christmas Tree is a must!  It just isn't Christmas without a tree.  Some years we get it the day after Thanksgiving and other years we've not put it up until the week before Christmas.  It all depends on what our financial situation looks like.  Have you noticed that CHRISTMAS TREES ARE REALLY EXPENSIVE!!  But they are oh so worth it!  Our tree is full of hand made ornaments and mementos of our travels.  Each year I buy a personalized ornament from the Christmas made in the South craft show

Widener Christmas Tree 2009

2008 Ornament

Advent:  When God blessed us with children that had an obsession with fire, we had to make a drastic change in our Advent Wreath, so, we went with a fabric one for the last several years.  Trust me, this was much safer!  This year, we are going back to real candles!  Wish us luck!  In addition to the wreath, we also enjoy several countdown calendars!  This way there is no fighting over who got to open the window last because each of them have their own!

Fabric Advent Wreath 2009

Advent Wreath 2010

Amelia's Advent Calendar 2010

Olivia's homemade countdown craft 2010

Amelia's countdown craft 2010

Books & Movies:  I love Christmas books!  I mean, seriously, I might need an intervention!  I keep book baskets in the living room all year long.  I periodically change out the books so that the kids don't get bored and I'm always adding new ones to the collection.  Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, I switch out the Halloween, Fall, Thanksgiving books and trade them for our holiday ones.  It makes me so happy to see these old friends that have been hiding all year long.  This year, we're starting a NEW TRADITION that I found over at The Idea Room.  I picked 23 Christmas books (some new, some old) and wrapped them.  Each night, the kids (taking turns!) get to pick a book for us to read out loud.  The best part is that there is much anticipation as to what book it is!  They spend a good bit of time trying to guess as to what book they've chosen.  On Christmas Eve, we will read the Christmas Story from the Bible (Luke).

I also keep our holiday movies hidden until Thanksgiving, then I bring them out so they are readily available.  We usually watch ALL of them, at least once during the season.  Some of our favorites are:

It's a Wonderful Life
The Bishop's Wife
The Bells of St. Mary's
One Magic Christmas
Christmas With the Kranks
The Santa Claus
The Grinch
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
A Christmas Story
The Polar Express
And many, many more!
***Some of these are not necessarily "child friendly"***

December 6, St. Nicholas Day:  Our kids leave their shoes out on December 5th!  St. Nicholas always brings them some chocolate coins, new Christmas pajamas and a holy card, rosary or other religious sacramental!  We also make Dutch Spice Cookies and deliver them to friends.  If you are looking for ways to celebrate St. Nicholas Day, please visit The St. Nicholas Center!  You will find everything you need!

St. Nicholas Day 2008

The Elf on the Shelf:  This is a tradition that we just started this year!  If you don't know what it's about, here is a great place to start.  We bought our elf on sale at BooksaMillion and we named him Clive!  Clive will have a very busy job here at the Widener Household!  Santa's in for an earful!
Clive 2010
Even with all of these traditions, the most important thing for family.  Christmas is about gathering with family and friends, spending time with each other and anticipating together the Savior's birth!  For truly, He did change the world!  His birth changed everything!  The Christmas tree in the corner of my living room is a reminder of another tree that will figure prominently later on in the life of Jesus....the one He was nailed to.

While some of these traditions are held to EVERY year, others come and go based on finances, time and energy.  I try very hard not to become overwhelmed with "doing" too much.  I'd rather just "be".  The older I get, the faster the time goes and I want to enjoy the season instead of spending the whole time so busy that I wonder where December went.

As you journey through the season, stop, think, pray, take a breath, slow down....and enjoy!!


Sarah Oldham said...

I really enjoyed reading this!
You reminded me that I need to get out my Clive. Of course, now I have to name my elf and I hadn't ever thought to. Hmmmm. He is an original from when I was a kid (lucky I scored him from my parents about three years ago). ;) Gotta give him a 1950's name. Maybe I'll be cheeky and call him Elvis.

Sue Elvis said...

Thank you, Nancy for sharing the elf on the shelf tradition. I hadn't heard about it. I can't think of a better name for your elf, Sarah than Elvis!!!

aspiring... said...

Bravo! All of it! The whole post just put me in another world, Nancy :) ! Ditto, Sarah, i really enjoyed reading this. You touched on so much that meant so much to me it took my breath away. Love and peace and prayer, aspiring...

Barb, sfo said...

I love reading about traditions in different families. I wish that blogs had been around when my oldest kids were little, so I could use these ideas!!

I'm going to talk about our St. Nick tradition over at my place.

Wishing you a very blessed Advent & Christmas.