As the kids get older, it’s harder and harder to find the time to spend together around the holidays. Case in point — this weekend I am heading to Raleigh, N.C., with my oldest for a swim meet.
But around this time of year, we try to make a point of doing things as a family. One thing that makes it a bit easier is the holiday traditions we started when the kids were little. They have great memories of these traditions so they are more willing to make them a priority.
You would think that they would outgrow seeing Santa, but every year they insist that we head up to the center of town for Santa’s arrival on a fire truck the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The main road is closed and there is free hot chocolate, Otterbein cookies, mediocre entertainment and the lighting of the village Christmas tree. No one in the family would think of missing this event. We see all of our friends from the community, and it puts us in the Christmas spirit. This year, the kids spotted Raven Dennis Pitta, which was a total bonus.
Another tradition is the trip to the Christmas tree farm to chop down our tree. Unlike going to a tree lot, this takes time and becomes a real family event. The kids love to reminisce about past years, like the one it snowed and everyone got stuck in the mud on the farm’s sloped driveway. We always have difficulty agreeing on a tree and everyone claims that whatever tree I like is the tree we get.
Chris and I also attempt to run the Celtic Solstice 5 miler ever year. Held at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park in the middle of December, this is a great way to burn off a bit of the holiday cheer as well as holiday stress. At the end of the race, they serve delicious minestrone soup, cookies and hot wassail in a warm tent. We’ve never taken the kids, but I bet eventually this is something we will all do together.
Another one of my favorites is the Christmas concert that the kids’ school puts on every year. We only have one child left at the K-8 grammar school, but I bet the others will want to tag along to see the performance. The kindergarteners are so adorable singing Christmas carols and the older kids always seem to find talents they never knew they had — singing solos, doing readings and dancing the annual Candle Dance. This year, Jonah is a cow in the nativity scene. Nothing beats a school production to put you in the spirit.
Lastly, we love to try and fit in a visit to 34th Street in Hamden. While some light displays get old after a couple of years, we never get tired of the Miracle on 34th Street. Every year it’s a little bit different from the Natty Boh Christmas tree to bicycle wheel snowmen. Even my teens ask when we are going back. The best part is, it’s not about commercialism, but rather neighbors keeping up a tradition.
If you are looking for a new tradition to start with your family this year, click here for our readers’ holiday favorites. We asked them to share their favorite places to buy a Christmas tree, train gardens, light displays, performances and more, and they had plenty of great ideas.
I hope your family finds plenty of time to spend together this season.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 15, Lilly, 14, Adam, 14, and Jonah, 10.