It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Yes that’s right folks I’m already singing Christmas tunes. I can’t help it, I’m that crazy Christmas lady that you all love to hate. Why am I writing a Christmas post before we celebrate Halloween? Well because this post isn’t so much about Christmas as it is about family, love, connection and traditions and……..because I make out a holiday calendar right now…….. and because we have so many traditions that start in October, today I thought I would share our family traditions in hopes that it would motivate you to make your own. Traditions aren’t just for that annoying mom who takes too many pictures of you and your siblings in the same clothes every year (No really my mom made us take cheese ball pics ever year of us hanging an ornament on the tree), or the family that cooks the same meal each birthday or holiday. They are for everyone and can be anything!! Something as simple as a weekly meal at home with your family can create such unity and memories that will last a lifetime.
So kick back with a cozy mug of hot cider or Cocoa and enjoy the Hawthorne Homestead’s Holiday Tradition List!!
We start off our October with family pictures. Yes, every year we do family pictures. Some people think that is a lot. I used to think that as well but my husband’s family always did it yearly so he wanted to continue it on (again a great memory that he wanted to bring into our family). I’m so glad we have started this. Just looking back 3 years ago when our oldest was only 4 months is amazing. We have these beautiful memories and are blessed to have one of our closest family friends document it all. She is the most amazing photographer and if you are local to lane county I highly recommend her (ashleycookphotgraphy.com).
Pumpkin Hunting and Carving
I normally try to grow our own pumpkins but this year I failed miserably (or shall I say certain Daddy Bear mowed them down 3x so they didn’t make it). We also love to take the kids on a horse drawn hay ride at Thistle Down Farms. They enjoy hiking out and picking just the right pumpkin and making their dad struggle to carry them all back :). I’m so glad that husband of mine is such a great sport!!
Harvest Festival At Our Local Church
Every year, a few days before Halloween, the church around the corner hosts a harvest festival. It’s so sweet and family oriented and most of all safe and fun for kids!! We play games and get treats!!
Halloween at Aunt Sissy’s
My little sister (known as Aunt Sissy to my boys) bought our grandma’s house a few years ago after she passed away. My grandma used to have Halloween at her house every year. My aunt would bring a big crock pot full of her famous potato soup and all of my cousins would go there to trick or treat and have a big bowl!!
My sister (who loves Halloween) was so excited to keep this tradition going!! So now I make a big crock pot of home-made chicken noodle soup and home-made biscuits (a tradition that I used to do every year when it was just me and my hubby handing out candy to little ones), my aunt still brings her famous potato soup, and all of my cousins come and bring their kids!! My grandma is truly smiling down on us right now and it makes us all so happy!!
Holiday Bazaar Browsing With My Mom
Every year (the weekend before thanksgiving) my mama and I go bazaaring (is that a word?). The small town that I grew up in explodes with signs all around saying “Turn here for home-made goodies” and “church bazaar”. We go from location to location and share fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and yummy coffee. It’s more of a social thing for us since I get to see so many people who I haven’t seen in forever. FYI-don’t take your baby if you go to one of these or you will never leave!! I decided to take my first baby with us one year and I couldn’t get out in under an hour at each location!! Those old grannies love babies and if they watched you grow up then they love them even more!!
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Spice Donuts
First off let me say that my husband and I are so blessed to have our families be so close. My dad and my father in law actually went to school together growing up!! Our moms are so close they just got back from vacation in Nevada and are planning another to Hawaii…….or Mexico……..or who knows they are too busy having fun!! Because of this we ALWAYS get to spend thanksgiving with both families at the same time. We don’t have to travel to two locations which if you have kids, you know how hard this can be.
There is something so special to me about Thanksgiving. I still get nostalgic when I smell stuffing being made. It reminds me of waking up early to the smell when my mom would be filling the bird at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning when I was little. Of course I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep so I would get up and wait for the Macy’s Parade to start!!
Now my boys get greeted on Thanksgiving morning with a lovely smell!! A few years ago I saw this great recipe on The Barefoot Contessa (ahem…….isn’t Ina just devine??). It’s for Pumpkin Spice Donuts and they are to DIE FOR!! I just add pumpkin spice along with the cinnamon. Please make them……at least once!!
I normally wake up really early Thanksgiving morning, doing the same thing my mom did when I was little. Thankfully I do most everything the night before so I get going on these donuts!! Of course my sugar monster, Mr. Precious is up the second he smells them baking. I let him enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and a donut fresh out of the oven while we wait for the parade to start!!
Black Friday Shopping
My best friend and I have been celebrating black Friday as the kick off to our Christmas season for 13 years!! Sadly the last few years they have changed it to starting on Thanksgiving night. We both refuse to recognize this or cater to the poor employees having to work on a holiday. So now we sleep in and slowly meet up when it’s convenient and stroll the stores in the late morning of Black Friday. It’s funny, we never really buy much or take advantage of the ridiculous buys. We have always done it just because we LOVE seeing everything so festive. We love being together. And most of all we love the memories that we get to remember from years past!!
Grandma Marion’s Kahlua
This is one of my favorite traditions that I am so glad I started about 7 years ago. My Grandma Marion was one of the most amazing women I have ever know. She raised 4 girls on her own because my Grandpa was a Navy CB and would be stationed in the Antartica for a year at a time. She was straight out of Boston and you would know it the second she talked to you because she kept her awesome accent (even though she had lived on the west coast for 45 years!!). She was a feisty Catholic that taught me how to crochet, smoke a cigar and appropriately use the F word!!
She also made an amazing kahlua that was enjoyed every year at their annual Christmas Eve gathering. I vividly remember stealing sips from my mom’s drink when she wasn’t looking!!
3 months before we discovered that my grandma was suffering dementia I thought it would be fun to have her over to teach me how she made that famous drink. She carefully wrote out the recipe for me (she struggled with it even though she know it by heart for so many years). I still have that recipe card with her barely legible hand writing and I will forever cherish it.
Every year after that my mom, my sister and I have continued making kahlua the day after thanksgiving. This gives it enough time to brew and be ready for the big Christmas Eve gathering that is now held at my house!!
Bring out the Christmas Decor and Set up the lights!!
The Saturday after Thanksgiving we always sleep in and the head up to the attic in our Jammie’s. We bring down all of our Christmas decor and the outside lights. Daddy Bear (bless his heart) heads out side to decorate our house and the boys and I start setting up our village and decorating as much as we can before the tree comes. It’s so fun sitting in the living room and looking at the village the first night.
Another reason we get our family pictures taken in October is because I like having our Christmas Cards made and ready to mail out the Sunday after thanksgiving. This way it’s done and out of the way and I know everyone will be getting it the beginning of December.
Buddy The Elf
Sometimes I kick myself for this train wreck of a tradition that I started. As if I need one more thing to remember at this time of year!! But it truly was so fun for my big boy last year!! I am always trying to find new ideas that promote good character rather than the ridiculous “oh look Buddy is being naughty and pulled out all the toilet paper” ideas.
Christmas Tree Hunt in the Snow
My husband and I have been doing this for about 8 years. We both did it when we were kids too. It costs $5 for a permit (vs $60 for a tree at a lot). We head up to the mountains about an hour and a half away and when we reach the snow, we know our tree is somewhere close. Then we get out and walk all over looking until we find the perfect one!! Of course every year I insist that we can fit the perfect one in our small house while my husband reminds me of our 7 ft ceilings (my eyes are bigger than my ceiling height). When we get home of course it’s like the Griswold’s tree and he has to cut off a ton from the bottom!! We always cut a disk of wood off the bottom on the tree and make an ornament out of it. For the last 3 years I write the year on one side and then on the other I write all the great big things that happened that year. I love looking at the first one we made. It says “brought home baby” and “bought our first home”.
Baking and Crafts
I am a crazy lover of baking and crafts but I don’t make enough time to do it the rest of the year. Something about Christmas time forces me to settle down and do it, especially now that I have kids!!
We always do a gingerbread house and bake tons of cookies. We have a designated cookie making day. My best friend of 15 years brings her 3 kids over (2 of which are the same age as mine) and we turn my kitchen into a complete disaster. I’m never more happy to have an extremely dirty kitchen as I am on this day.
Any day that our kids are spending together brings a smile to my face but this one is extra special for her and I.
I also like to always do at least a couple of crafts during our “school time”.
Last year we glittered pine cones to put on the tree and made bird seed ornaments as gifts from my oldest. He was so proud and excited to give presents last year. Especially because he made them. He was even more excited to hang some outside for our birds too!!
Friday nights are always our family movie and home-made pizza night. Starting around the holidays we always do Christmas movies. Our favorites are Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, The Grinch, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas.
Christmas Light Hunting
Ahhhh this reminds me of my husband and my early years. That’s when we started this tradition. We would buy some hot cocoa and drive all over town late at night. Looking at mansions that we will never afford and their beautiful lights. You bet we bring the babies every year even if they are too little to appreciate it.
Last year my sister and her husband were so excited to join us and will continue the tradition with us and their babies from here on out!!
This day is pretty special to us. It all started 10 years ago when my husbands best friend and his brother ended up without Christmas Eve plans. This was a big deal because they had a tradition every year of their life of attending a huge Christmas Eve bash so they were pretty sad. So I decided we would have Christmas Eve for them at our house. The word got around and we actually had about 5 more people Attend who didn’t have plans either. Then next year those same people all asked if we would be hosting again. Of course I couldn’t say no!! That year my husband came home from work and told me 3 guys wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas because of the day that it fell on. I wouldn’t have it and insisted they came for Christmas Eve as well. Every year it has snowballed and more and more people attend. It’s an open house so starting at 4 people can roll in whenever. My husband smokes a ham and we just have appetizers and delicious drinks (this is when we break out the Kahlua that we made in November!!) and goodies!! Now that we all have kids it has become even better!! I do a hot chocolate bar, my brother In law dresses up ……….I mean Santa comes, and gives all the kiddos a little gift. Kids talk about Christmas Eve at our house throughout the year now and it literally brings tears to my eyes!! This year we are planning on buying more outdoor lights and extending the entertaining area to the outdoors by the fire pit and play structure.
Another fun thing that happens after everyone has gone home is the boys open their matching home-made Jammie’s that their Nana makes them. It’s so cute to see matching jam jams in the morning for pictures.
Of course Christmas Day is another day that is incredibly important to us. I know that I talk a lot about the festivities but on this day especially we make sure to celebrate what this day really is about. We wake up early but slow and I always make home-made cinnamon rolls!! My mother in law LOVES cinnamon rolls too so I always take an extra pan to her. I Think I may end up making another pan for my sister and her husband and my mom and dad this year since we have agreed to not do gifts (hmmmm hopefully they aren’t reading this or I just ruined the surprise!!).
After drinking our coffee and enjoying our boys as they open presents (we currently buy 4 gifts and follow the want, need, wear, read idea. It works out great and doesn’t add a bunch of toys. We also do stocking stuffers but it is almost all consumables like fun organic bath soaps or neat art stuff) we take our time getting ready and head out to my husband’s parents. We enjoy a few hours with them and they have so much fun with the boys!! I think my father in law is more excited to spoil these boys and see them on this day than anyone!!
After this we head to my parents to spend the rest of the day with my parents and sister and brother-in-law. We are so excited that my sister is expecting so next year we will have at least one more addition to our Christmas festivities!!
When the day is done we head home with sleepy boys and full tummies to enjoy our tree for one of the last nights it will be up. This is when I feel a little melancholic because I know another year is coming to an end.
New Year’s Eve Trip
This is a new tradition that we started last year and enjoyed it so much!! About a week before New Years my husband said “hey lets get out-of-town and rent a place to celebrate”. I was so excited but to my dismay it was so hard finding anything available last minute and especially on a holiday!! We found a room right on the beach at the coast and Daddy Bear and the boys and I spent 2 glorious days watching the waves, going to the aquarium, eating good food and just lounging. It was so nice. I planned a little better this year and booked an entire house (it cost the same since I did it in advance!!). I think we will stay a little longer this time too!
So there you have it friends. I’m sure most of you think we are pretty crazy or that we book ourselves too full and need to be more simple. I can assure you that everything we do is with love and simplicity. We want our kids to always cherish and carry on the memories of their childhood. The holidays are magic and we want them to experience every second of it.
Some other traditions that I will be adding next year are volunteering at the church’s free thanksgiving dinner, and having the boy’s do blessing bags (these are bags that they will fill with their own toys that they will leave for Santa to take back with him to give other kids).
Now it’s your turn!! I can’t wait to hear all about your family traditions and how long they have been going!!
I hope you enjoyed and Happy Holidays!!