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As I’ve mentioned, I love the holidays, and a large part of that stems from the fact that my family had a lot of family traditions around Christmas. When I was young, we would go to my Grandma’s on Christmas Eve and I loved going to her very old church with its stone steps, huge stained glass windows and burning incense.
Before bed, we left out cookies and milk for Santa, and a carrot for his reindeer. In the morning, all that remained were cookie crumbs and a nibbled carrot nub.
And on Christmas morning, my sister, brother and I weren’t allowed to go downstairs to open our gifts until my parents woke up, but we could open up the stockings that Santa had left. So, we would all crowd onto someone’s bed to open each of the individually wrapped gifts in our stocking (I now realize that having to unwrap 15 tiny gifts was a stroke of brilliance by my mom – it probably bought my parents an extra 20 minutes of sleep!)
Now that my son is 3, I’ve been thinking about what traditions I want to create for my own family. And, since my husband is Jewish, our family gets to celebrate twice during the holiday season: For Hanukkah this year, we lit the menorah that my mother-in-law gave us for our first Hanukkah together, and my husband said the prayer very slowly so my son and I could repeat it back to him. We also gave my son one gift—a children’s book about a family that celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah. (I’m planning to put it away when the season is over and bring it out again next year.)
To get in the Christmas spirit, we took a train ride to a tree farm to cut down our evergreen (an event we’re already planning to do next year) and I hosted a sugar cookie decorating party with some working mom friends and their kids, all younger than 5.
And while I’m all for making new traditions, I also want my son to experience some of the same things I did, too. So, this year we’ll leave out cookies and milk, and a carrot for the reindeer—and I hope my son is just as excited to see those crumbs on Christmas morning as I was.