Three Christmas Traditions Your Kids Will Love (Because No One Else is Doing Two of Them)

One reason Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year is because of the many family traditions associated with the holiday. The list is long and varied.

The simple task of selecting and decorating a tree for your home can be a fairly involved tradition. Watching classic Christmas movies and TV specials made for many enjoyable evenings when our kids were younger. The time-honored practice of giving gifts isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Then there are Christmas Eve candlelight services, baking, caroling, and cooking and eating nice meals with the family. And don’t forget a run to the mall the day after Christmas to exchange gifts that don’t fit, return any duplicates, and redeem gift cards. Also, our family likes to play games, especially ones that are fast-paced and loud.

Chances are that you and your family already participate in some of these familiar rituals. But maybe you’re game to try a new activity with your family this Christmas. You never know. It just might turn into a treasured tradition that adds a new dimension to the holidays and makes this time of year one that everyone looks forward to.

I’d like to share three Christmas traditions from our family. One we’ve been doing for just four short years. It isn’t all that novel, but it has turned out to be great fun for our entire crew. Another is a little more original. Amazingly, it’s in its seventh year and has spilled over to involve a number of friends. The third is new for us this year. I’m not going to force it to become a long-standing practice, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a bonding experience.

Gingerbread House Contest

The first of the three traditions I want to share is a contest to make ginger bread houses. We buy two kits that you can find at any hobby or craft store. We divide into two teams—usually guys against the girls. We lay out all the supplies: candies, icing, sprinkles, candy canes, and gummy bears. We then set a timer and let the construction begin. There’s usually lots of hooting and hollering as we banter back and forth. At some point both teams get a little more serious as we try to make these crazy constructs hold together. When finished, we have fun “judging” the best and worst in all kinds of made-up categories. We conclude by taking photos of the teams and their creations.

Last year ended in fireworks while we were taking pictures. As we were admiring the girls’ cute little gingerbread house, we realized that one of the walls was slipping. I quickly turned on my phone’s video recorder and caught the implosion and laughter to follow. I’m sure there will be plenty of friendly reminders of the incident when we begin the fun this year.

Lord of the Rings Movie Marathon

Seven years ago, we had our first Lord of the Rings marathon. My older boys were in their upper teens and decided it would be fun to pick a day close to New Year’s Day to watch all three of the award-winning Lord of the Rings movies in a row. They got up early (as in 5:00 a.m.) and started the first DVD. They took a thirty- to sixty-minute break between films and, sure enough, finished the last show by 7:00 that evening.

They thought it was so cool that they invited friends to join them in year two. This time they watched the extended versions of each film. By year three, word had gotten around. Now we have twenty to thirty teens in our basement each year to partake in this Carman family tradition. People start asking about it in October and November so that they can put it on their calendars. We’ve even had friends show up from out of town.

Rachael serves pancakes during the first intermission and pizza during the second break. I try to watch one of the movies in its entirety and pop my head in at other times to make sure everyone is doing fine.

What’s neat about the event this year is that my two younger boys can now participate. I made them wait until they were older before we read the books and watched the movies. This year will be their first viewing of The Return of the King and their first year to join in the Lord of the Rings movie marathon. They can hardly wait.

24-Hour Comic Book Production

Apparently my kids value a good tradition. This year my two oldest sons are trying something brand new, just the two of them.

Let me start with a little bit of history. My oldest son is a writer and philosopher. My second son is an artist. Two years ago they used a big chunk of their summer break to collaborate on writing and illustrating a full-length comic book for submission to a publisher. I helped them interpret the documented guidelines, and they worked long and hard to complete their self-initiated project. Quite frankly, I was impressed with the storyline, the images, and the philosophy involved. I was also blown away by the sheer determination, discipline, and perseverance the two young men showed through it all. And they learned much about the book development process.

This year my sons have concocted a plan to produce a comic book in just twenty-four hours. Here’s their schedule. They plan to start at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, January 2. They will write and illustrate for twenty-four consecutive hours, with the goal of finishing by 10:00 the next morning, which also happens to be the day of this year’s Lord of the Rings movie marathon. So they will watch the first movie in the background as they finish up their comic book work. They will then sleep during the second movie and wake up in time to catch the final film of the trilogy.

I have a feeling our family is going to be talking about this one for years to come.

Traditions are bonding experiences. And Christmas traditions are like super glue for a family.

What is the most bonding Christmas tradition that your family practices?

Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!

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© 2014 Davis Carman

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