When my husband and I first became parents, we realized we really didn’t have that many Christmas traditions. My family gets together for a dinner on Christmas Eve, but other than that, we really didn’t have any ready-made events to attend. We didn’t belong to a church, we didn’t have a lot of friends who had young children, so we felt very much on our own.
I’ve always loved Christmas, so I figured this was our chance to create a holiday that contains all the things I enjoy about the season. My husband and I checked the local paper, local parenting blogs, and tried to find out what was available around town. We also talked about what we love most about the holiday season.
My son loves Christmas lights. So my husband and I decided that the first thing we’d do is decorate our house at the end of every Thanksgiving weekend. So after the turkey and all that digesting, my husband gets out the ladder, and he and my son get creative with the lights. Each year it’s different. And always a little unusual! But always fun and festive.
The first weekend in December we try to catch the lighted boat parade at our local harbor. We bring a picnic dinner, sit on the jetty and watch the boats go by. We’ve also started marching with my son’s school in the Downtown Holiday Parade. We sing carols and wave to the bystanders. It’s a fun event!
And then there’s the tree. We always cut one from a Christmas tree farm way up at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains where we live. The view up there is gorgeous and the weather is usually crisp and bright. The thing is, their trees are small and scraggly, especially because we have so much drought around here. But we persist and find the best tree we can, and try to turn its scraggly bits toward the wall.
And then there’s the city! Each year we spend a weekend in San Francisco, where I lived for many years, visiting our favorite Christmas sights. There’s the giant tree in Union Square, the amazing gingerbread creation in the St. Francis Hotel, concerts at Grace Cathedral and chocolate and Christmas carolers at Ghirardelli Square.
We splurge and stay at the Omni Hotel, which offers hot cider and gingerbread in their lobby, along with gorgeous Christmas decorations and sometimes even a visit from Santa!
And there is more, of course. We have to bake and decorate sugar cookies—that is a must. And we decorate the house, set up the crèche and talk about Jesus’s birth and life, read piles of Christmas stories and drive around town, with hot cocoa in our travel mugs, looking at all the wonderfully decorated houses. On Christmas Day we invite family over and make an off-beat, non-traditional Christmas dinner of Italian food to celebrate my husband’s Italian heritage.
We started with no traditions and now our Christmas season feels packed. And warm. And perfect.
If you’re like we were a few years ago, just starting out, wondering how to make your holidays merry and bright, my advice is to just start trying things. Look in your local paper or online for events, and see what feels most like Christmas to you. Make the things that bring you joy a priority, and I’m sure you can create a magical Christmas season!