Start a Christmas tradition- take photos in front of the tree to see how a child grows copy

Creating Christmas Traditions

on December 24 | in Christmas, Friends & Family, Holidays, Quotes | by | with 20 Comments

Some people have Christmas traditions that predate their existence.  Ask many folks about their favorite holiday memory and they can easily recount traditions passed down and instilled so deeply that they cannot imagine a holiday without them–dinner tables overflowing with family recipes, delicate vintage glass ornaments carefully hung on evergreen branches, or maybe a quirky derby hat tree topper.  For some, the Christmas season resonates the loss of loved ones. Many of you shared your heartfelt stories with us in the comments of Ben’s post about loss last week.  We appreciate so many of you sharing those pieces of your intimate histories with us.

As for me, I have none of those types of Christmas memories and certainly none of those traditions.  For religious reasons, my immediate family never celebrated a Christmas that I can remember.   Christmas day in my childhood home was, at best, uneventful and at worst a bleak, stressful day filled with emotions over all the things we weren’t allowed to experience.  The running joke in our family was to sing the Merle Haggard song “If We Make It Through December.”  One year in particular stands out in my mind.  My grandmother bought me a basketball goal as a non-Christmas gift.  My father assembled it for us on Christmas day, but during installation the shiny white backboard with the perfect red stripes snapped clean in half, leaving jagged fiberglass edges sticking out like two halves of a broken heart.  As the tears started flowing my dad quickly rebounded and used the broken pieces as a template, tracing around them with a thick carpenter’s pencil and taking his circular saw to an old piece of plywood from the shed. That weathered plywood basketball goal stood for years in our driveway, where it was impossible to dribble a ball on the pea gravel anyway.  I could play a decent game of H.O.R.S.E., though.

As I got older I eventually drifted from the religious pedagogue of my childhood.  I floated along for a while, unsure of my place in the holiday world.  I attended Christmas parties with my friend’s families and witnessed their traditions but I didn’t celebrate my first official Christmas until 2003 when I became engaged to my husband.  I even have a “My First Christmas” Hallmark ornament to commemorate the occasion. Christmas traditions didn’t begin to evolve for me until we moved into our current home, which at times feels like a close relative to Kevin McAllister’s house in Home Alone.  Our stately red brick neo-colonial home screams “Christmas traditions begin here!”

Our son was two years old when we moved in to our new home;  nearly three when we celebrated our first Christmas in this house in 2010. It was the best Christmas I had ever experienced. I could feel the magical spirit of Christmas that I had been desperately seeking for so many years.  Seeing it through my baby boy’s eyes, I finally understood what all the fuss was about.  The magic of the holiday culminated in a single photograph that I took one night in 2010.

What began as a tutorial on how to take glowing photos of your Christmas tree has turned into one of my most cherished Christmas traditions. Since that night I have taken a similar picture of my son in front of our tree every year, and I plan to try to capture this image until he’s at least eighteen.

Maybe even forty.

I love that the tradition began organically, without much planning or thought, but blooms stronger every year as our son gets older.  And taller.  This collection of images gives me photographic evidence of his growth throughout the years.

After that near perfect 2010 Christmas season, my husband and I made a pact to always be home for Christmas.  We want to spend Christmas morning alone as a family opening gifts and enjoying our time together.  We want our son to have holiday memories filled with warmth and love and twinkling lights.  Memories of sugar cookies and hot chocolate Polar Express parties with his friends.  Memories of the happiness and comfort and peace that is the Christmas spirit.

Memories of home.

From all of us here at FOLK magazine, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

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20 Responses to Creating Christmas Traditions

  1. Mimi says:

    Lovely post Beth!

  2. Wonderful tradition Beth, thank you for sharing! I know what you mean how Christmas comes alive once again when there is someone to share it with and for us it’s a little boy as well. Happy Holidays to you!

  3. Sara says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you.

  4. Oh, Beth! I think it’s perfect! Matt and I both come from families that celebrate Christmas in the oddest of ways, so like you, we have set out to make our own traditions. I love yours! I was feeling a little down this morning, and this picked me right back up…thank you my friend!

    • Beth says:

      Ah, that makes me feel so much better! I was worried my post might be just a little too depressing for today, but I’m happy to hear that it was uplifting for you, Jessica! I hope it’s helpful for many others out there who feel like they are not in the norm with Christmas traditions. Know you’re not alone!

  5. Bliss says:

    I was an only child Beth, with extended family 2000 miles away. My parents always made Christmas nice and my memories are happy, but the one thing I really wanted I didn’t have – siblings – and it always left me feeling a bit empty. So as an adult I find particular joy knowing that the holidays for my 6 kids will never feel empty because they have each other.


    • Beth says:

      So, so sweet. I grew up with a big extended family, and seeing them all get together on Thanksgiving are some of my favorite childhood memories. You are blessed, Bliss! Merry Christmas to your family!

  6. Oh Beth, my experience was so similar. We were allowed to have a modified Christmas. Gifts and dinner but no decorations, no carols, no Santa… It’s a long story but I have *so* enjoyed celebrating a full-on Christmas since my husband and I started dating. Like you, all of our traditions began organically and I love watching my children grow up with them, and anticipate them, every year.

    A very merry Christmas to you!


  7. Amy Renea says:

    perfect Beth…perfect…

  8. While I celebrated Christmas growing up I am still trying to figure out what traditions (old and new) that I want my boys to grow with. We like to spend Christmas at home too…this year we’re going to try making s’mores and opening one gift on Christmas Eve. We also started the Elf on the Shelf this year.

  9. What a beautiful story.. this makes me want to savor every moment of Christmas, realizing how truly blessed we are to be able to celebrate every year. I LOVE the pictures of your boy in front of the Christmas tree! What a wonderful and meaningful tradition!! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  10. This post is amazing. Not only did you get through the uncertain times, you carved your own way and made what you truly desired happen. Kudos! And I’m so glad you’re going to carry on the traditional tree shot with your son. Don’t you find it amazing that the one tradition you chose went viral? I can only imagine what havoc you’d create with even more! :)

    Merry Christmas Beth!

  11. Ann says:

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your past. Not an easy thing to do. I feel like I know you a little better…and your home is beautiful. Hope your Christmas was wonderful…Ann

  12. Lucy says:

    What a beautiful story. I love the magic of Christmas. I love making the magic for other people. My daughter stopped believing in Santa this year. We woke up Christmas morning and Santa had been there. There were a few surprises for her with a stocking full. After we opened our gifts from each other, she had the saddest look on her face. I know she was thrilled with all of her gifts. She got most of what she asked for. It was the magic that was gone. She had tears in her eyes and said she had a stomach ache. I was heartbroken for her. It’s such a wonderful thing to believe. I hope I can teach her that you can still believe in Santa even though he’s not a big, fat man in a red suit!!

  13. Kelly Eclectically Vintage says:

    We celebrated Christmas every year – memories of my dog Rex knocking our tree down on Christmas morning, my barbie cruise ship and my sis and I bartering on who would hang the teardrop Shiny Brite ornament that we both loved! A lot of dysfunction too – so we always stay home too – and decided to create amazing memories for our girls. Your son is a lucky boy and will look back on these years with love for his amazing mom and dad!

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