December 19, 2016

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Making Holiday Traditions

When I was a kid, I used to long for "traditions."  I vaguely defined that as long-standing meaningful and wonderful Christmas observances.  I would incessantly borrow library books about Christmas crafts (I never made) and look longingly through seasonal magazines.  I befuddled my mom by telling her I wanted to have traditions.  She had no idea what I meant.  Now that I'm grown up and have my own kids, I finally understand.

First of all, it turns out that we did have traditions.  It's just didn't recognize them as traditions because it just felt like regular stuff people do for Christmas.  I thought of traditions as great presentations that are made with pomp and circumstance and connected back through the history of Your People.

My family's traditions included things like going to midnight Mass after an unsuccessful nap attempt, eating all the same great foods we had for Thanksgiving because we all loved them so, our stockings and tree decorations from all the different places we lived.  I loved when my mother took out the three china choir children as a decoration.  Later it was a tradition for my young brother's best friend next door to come over at the earliest opportunity to see what my brother got.

Now that I have a little family - and friends with families - I see how easily these traditions are made.  Anyone can have great family traditions.  Here are a few tips that will hopefully keep even low-energy moms afloat if you have a child who nags you for traditions like I did.  Fear not!  You can help create magical Christmas memories that will last a life time and traditions that will be passed down for generations.

Recognize your traditions!  Those normal things, like going to church, having a meal, decorating, already are among your traditions.  If you haven't called them that yet, start talking about them that way and they'll cherish these things with no extra effort on your part!  You don't need to plan, create, execute anything new.  If you usually begin to decorate on Thanksgiving weekend, say that "It's our tradition to decorate on Thanksgiving weekend."  They will look forward to it and it will suddenly become even more wonderful.  If you typically have pancakes on Christmas morning, call them "The Christmas Pancakes" and voila!  Instant tradition.  Soon, you can institute the practice that the child closest to thirteen years old always makes "The Christmas Pancakes" and, not only will you never have to cook breakfast on Christmas ever again, they'll look forward to the year it's their turn!

We get our tree on the later side - it's often on sale then, too!

Some of our traditions now include going to an early Mass on Christmas Eve (so we can get back in time to put the chickens away).  The first thing we do when we return home is to let a child open the first gift - a beautifully decorated box containing the baby Jesus and an angel.  These are added to the nativity set and we sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.  Then we eat dinner (which I have cleverly made really simple and stress free for me).

It's super easy to keep traditions going.  Anything you do once for Christmas with small children will become a compulsory Christmas institution ever after.  That's all it takes!  They will remind you and you will be forever bound to this practice.  Watch a Christmas movie you love with your family.  Drink cocoa and eat pop-corn while you watch.  I guarantee, at least one kid will ask the following year, "When are we going to watch THE Christmas movie?" while another offers to make the pop-corn.  In fact, it happens so easily, you'll have to be careful to not accidentally do something fun that you don't want to have to do every year!

The cookies are wrapped in foil on the right.
St. Nicholas was foolishly energetic the first year he filled shoes at our house.  He brought St. Hildegard's "Cookies That Bring Joy" (recipe below).  It is now a wonderful tradition, but, St. Hildegard has to find time to secretly make them for Saint Nicholas - and when it that going to happen????  But somehow she always finds time.  I suppose that's why she's a saint.  St. Nicholas also decided to personalize those gold coins with adorable self portraits this year.  Lovely, but prudent?  I'm not sure.  If you want to make some like them, the Shower of Roses site will help you!

As your kids get older, you won't have to do as much.  My friend, Carol, assures me that the past couple of years she just brings out the boxes of stuff and sits back to watch her three kids run the Advent and Christmas show!  Her kids make it happen!  She doesn't have to do anything.  Obviously Carol is my inspiration!

So, if you work it right and use the proper marketing and sales techniques, you, too can create a collection of memorable family traditions that your whole family will look forward to and will eventually happen with very little effort on your part.  That will be handy as you become old and tired.

If you do happen to want more ideas for lovely things you can institute - at some effort to yourself, visit my friend Karen's blog at Catholic Home Front.

As promised, here is the recipe for St. Hildegard's "Cookies that Bring Joy."  St. Hildegard was a twelfth century Benedictine abbess and foodie.  You can learn more about her and get more of her recipes in the book, From Saint Hildegard's Kitchen: Foods of Health, Foods of Joy by Jang Fournier-Rosset.  (If you click through and buy from this link, I may eventually receive some small monetary benefit - so they say.  It hasn't happened yet.)  I was given the recipe by my friend, Maria, who is very holy and so, I'm sure she received it directly from St. Hildegard herself!

St. Hildegard's Cookies That Bring Joy

12 T + 1t Butter
3/4 C      Brown sugar (as unrefined as you can find, such as Sucanat)
1/3 C      Honey
4            Egg yolks
2 1/2 C   Spelt flour
1t           Sea salt
2T          Spices that bring joy (1T Nutmeg, 1T Cinnamon, 1t Cloves)

Melt butter on low heat.  Remove from heat and add sugar, honey and egg, beating lightly.  Add flour and salt; combine gently.  Refrigerate.  Roll out onto a floured surface, quite thin.  Cut into desired shapes.
Bake at 400° for 10 - 15 minutes, until golden brown.

(You could make substitutions to the recipe, I suppose, but then they won't be St. Hildegard's cookies and they might not bring you joy!)


  1. It looks like the "joy" part comes in those spices and I have to heartily agree...those three bring me much joy!
    Great ideas! It is always good to keep in mind, when instituting any tradition, how easy it would be for a kid to take it over by say age 10 to 12. Lazy mom hacks!

    1. And, by the way, I may institute your pretty box with Baby Jesus's in it this year since we are doing Christmas Eve Mass. Our Christmas Eve traditional meal is pizza (take out). :)


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