03 December 2007

Parent Hacks admin: Presents for you!

It's holiday time, which means that I'm about to get sentimental on y'all. Parent Hacks was born in December 2005, so at this time of year I tend to think about just how far this site has come. 1800+ posts, 11,000+ comments, 20,000+ subscribers, and an untold amount of wisdom and smarts. I like to think I'm a bit smarter -- and hopefully a better parent -- for just hanging out with you.

So, as a thank you for everything you do here, I have something special in store for the holidays. Every weekday between now and Christmas, I'll give away a goodie, or I'll share a holiday hack. Because you deserve presents! You do! You're Parenthackers!

To kick off the festivities, I have five sparkly copies of The Daring Book For Girls ready to send to five loving homes. If you haven't heard about this book (is that even possible?), read my review, then answer the following question in the comments:

What simple holiday tradition does your family enjoy the most?

I'll choose five winners at random tomorrow evening, December 4! Good luck, and thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. You're the best.

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It is hard to pick which of our traditions we enjoy the most -- one very simple favorite is that we get to start playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving which our daughter looks forward to all year. (While Mommy and daughter love this, Mom has already had enough of "If we make it through December" -- yes, our daughter's favorite Christmas album is Merle Haggard!) A Mommy favorite is that we go through the toy box and pick items to share with other children. This tradition got expanded this year though -- the "sharing selections" picked out Saturday were our fourth of the year, most of which have gone to Iraq. Then there is decorating, crafts, and of course, making cookies!

Opening and reading holiday cards. My 2 year old especially likes looking at photos on cards and naming the family and friends.

We light the advent wreath. It's a simple tradition, but so deep in meaning. Thanks for the contest- I, too, have learned alot from your blog!!

my favourite Christmas tradition is the picking out of the Christmas tree. We go to a local tree farm with my parents (they have a truck to get said tree back home)and we wander through the woods in the snow with a thermos of hot chocolate and a saw. It's usually freezing and there is always the risk that the truck will get stuck down an old woods road and we'll have to call for help. And of course, there's the requisite male "my tree is better than your tree because" repartee between hubby and dad. Actually, as I read this back, it sounds like a disaster, but I really do enjoy it.

Our favourite part is decorating the tree. Digging out the box of holiday ornaments and exclaiming over each thing that is brought out of the box; remembering the Christmas that we got that ornament, etc. And then turning the lights off when it's all done and oohing and aaahing over the tree. Pure bliss.

Every year after putting on our Pj's, we grab a cup of hot cocoa (coffee for my hubby and I) and we pile in the car to drive around and look at Christmas lights. We have a 3 year old and a 6 year old who love this! This year my son wanted to go the very day we put up our lights. So we discussed waiting a little closer to Christmas so other families had time to put up their decorations. Oh you can't forget the Christmas music in the background! It's always lots of fun and a non expensive way to spend time together.

What I look forward to the most was seeing what my husband comes up with when writting the holiday letter. In the past he has written it in the voice of the dog, our unborn child, and his intercity students. We are told by others they look forward to it each year.

So far my favorite is making the paper chain with my girls! They LOVE it and it's so cute to see them show everyone who comes over their paper chain on the tree. Simple, but fun, yes?

S'Mores on Christmas Eve by the fireplace!

I picked up a great fabric Santa-with-pockets advent calendar at an after-Christmas sale a few years ago. Every night after the kids are asleep, Santa gets a couple of jellybeans for the next morning. My older son (4) loves seeing what new treat Santa has for him every morning.

We haven't had much time to create traditions yet - my husband and I have been married for 4 years and my son is just under 2. But what we're enjoying is finding what traditions we want to bring from our respective families into our new family and what traditions we want to start new. From my husband's side, we have our son putting the last ornament on the tree. From my side, we have opening on present on Christmas Eve (usually a special pair of PJs). And a new tradition that I want to start with my family is all reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" together.

Our Advent Calendar is the tradition that we look forward to. We fill it with little treats and toys and have a blast opening them all!

My mom starts making baklava. She really only makes it during Christmas, but it's worth the wait - it's the perfect super-rich holiday food and everyone loves it.

My family most enjoys our traditional Christmas meal of stuffed rock cornish game hens, mashed potatoes, cheesy broccoli casserole, and fresh bread.

The typical follow-up is a family game accompanied by pumpkin pie.

Food, fellowship, and fun--a family tradition.

My husband LOVES Christmas specials on TV. One of our traditions has been to watch every Christmas special, possible, especially the classics. He is partial to a particular version of A Christmas Carol and searches for it every year. Now that we have a DVR, he records everyone of our favorites and we watch each one of them, even if it means the kids get to stay up a little later on a...gasp...school night.

Baking cookies. My family has, for years, given cookie plates to family friends. Baking and assembling those trays brings the happiest feelings!

watchhing christmas movies, and making christmas cookies!

This is our kiddo's first Xmas so we're still establishing our holiday traditions. We had a lot of fun setting up our tree yesterday though. It's a small one-foot tabletop tree that hubby and I have had for years. So neat to see her little eyes light up and to have her smile while we put ornaments on it and lit it up.

Making gingerbread houses and cookies!

We put up the Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Mom and dad have a glass of wine, we put on Christmas music, light a pine scented candle and decorate the tree together. We have a 2 year old and a 6 month old, and with all the traveling we are expected to do over the holidays, it's great to have a special night just with the girls.

We do Advent readings and light the candles. We also bake a cake on Christmas day. Nothing fancy, but we really try to downplay the whole "Christmas is when you get stuff" mindset.

We also try to downplay the mindset of "giving until it hurts". Special gifts showing that you care and know the person make more sense than just buying lots of junk. We still have fun and enjoy the times, but without so much focus on stuff.

Pancakes on Christmas morning...

Okay, I'll admit it. I don't actually like Christmas all that much. Between having to get presents when we've just paid way too much money to redo some plumbing, and trying to be in five places at once, the holiday gets to me. (Not to mention, well, last December was the 10th anniversary of my father's death, which makes the holiday kind of rough for me.)

But. My daughter LOVES Christmas with every single fiber of her being. She loves getting the tree. She loves getting Christmas cards. She loves decorating, and thinks that we need more decorations, particularly if they are pink and sparkly. (Yes, she's five, why did you ask?)

So, really, my favorite holiday "tradition", if you can call it that, is finding joy in Christmas through my daughter's love of the season. I can't bah-humbug it so easily when she is all but dancing as she puts ornaments on the tree. Maybe we'll even sing carols.

We also have books that we love to read. Every Christmas eve, we read Twas the Night Before Christmas, a beautifully illustrated version of the Christmas story as found in Luke, and Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant, a Christmas story that even Scrooges like me enjoy.

Every year right before Thanksgiving, we take pictures for the Christmas cards. We have a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a 150 pound English Mastiff - things usually wind up in laughter in a pile on the grass. We usually come in when our fingers are numb and are cheeks are aching from laughing so hard. We look forward to it every year.

Our one and only Christmas tradition thus far is watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve.

Our favorite early holiday tradition is pulling out the holiday books and the Christmas music. And I can't tell if I'm influenced by the stores or not, but as my daughter gets older (she's 3.5 now), I find myself starting earlier each year as well - rushing to the fun stuff with abandon, like she does.

Every Christmas Eve, I read a story to my kids from one of their great-grandmother's books - Albert Bigelow Paine's "Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn." My father read the same story to me out of the same book, and his father to him, every Christmas Eve. More than any other tradition, this one reminds me of the passage of time and the value of family and tradition.

We love picking out the littlest Christmas tree we can find and baking Christmas cookies.

Simple tradition? Just slowing life down and putting on the tunes from the holiday folder of itunes! :) I can get to feeling bah humbug sometimes but a little Mariah signing "All I want for Christmas" makes me smile and hum along every time... :)

opening presents at oma's house!

My sister and I used to play parcheese in the mornings on the days between Christmas and New Year's after all the stressful holiday prep was over and we had some time to relax. It was a really good bonding time, and I'm planning on doing the same in our family as soon as my baby is old enough.

My family has enjoyed, since I was a very little girl, "cruising" around distant neighborhoods (it felt so far away!) to look at Christmas light displays. We called it the Christmas Cruise and it always came a couple of nights before Christmas, when we kids could hardly wait any more.

The kids open presents in their new PJs from Christmas Eve. We let them stay in them all day while we eat and play and just hang out together as a family.

We consider ourselves so lucky that our kids have four grandparents still alive and kicking, and so our favorite tradition is traveling around during Christmas week to share the magic of Christmas with kids.

LOVE this site and recommend to all my friends!

The best tradition we have is putting up the Nativity. Last year, my 18mo old repeatedly took Baby Jesus and moved him all around the house- she had so much fun with it... This year again she is glad to have it back out and she has her own kid friendly now!

Each year for 6 years now we host an open house, about 100 e-vites go out and 60+ people come to visit over the course of the day. We have mulled apple cider and mulled wine (usually from home made wine) lots of home made and store bought goodies. We ask a couple of neighbour girls help with the serving and we rent all the glasses and plates (environmentally it's better and they go back dirty so no clean-up!) It goes on for most of a day with our friends staying till late in the evening, a great way to start off the season!

Every year we teach the kids to make a new decoration. Last year were table-top cardboard trees; this year we cut up the front of old Christmas cards into strips and made paper chains out of them. I keep what they make so we can re-use them as long as they last because I know the kids will enjoy seeing how their skills have changed.

The most simple, and powerful tradition that we have is to simply be at our own home for Christmas morning. There is nothing better than being where you're comfortable and finding that Santa has shown up:)

We hid an almond in the rice pudding. Whoever finds the almond wins a prize. If you win the prize, you need to provide the prize for next year.

We have a holiday game night with all the extended family that we don't spend Christmas day with. It is a great low key Christmas event that is a favorite young and old.

A Chanukah tradition here - if the timing works out, we call my mom and sister on speaker phone and all light the candles while singing the blessings together. This started when I went away to college and has continued since - a nice way to still "be together" since we usually are not in the same state during Chanukah.

Hmmm....Our favorite holiday tradition? Well, we're a pretty new family (my daughter is 12 months) so we're just begining our traditions. But, as a child, I always loved getting new ornaments. Each year my parents bought me one or two new ornaments to put on our tree. I hope to do the same for my daughter!

By far, it's opening the presents. No, really! We draw out the 'opening' as long as possible. We take turns going around the room with everyone opening a package, admiring the gift, and thanking the giver. It takes hours.

So far, we love decorating the tree. My 2-1/2 year-old son loves to help put the ornaments on. I agree with dewayne too, just being here Christmas morning is wonderful.

I don't know how simple it actually is, but one of my favorite traditions is our family's Christmas caroling party. This is our 10th year! We invite everyone we know, have lots of food, and then wander around our neighborhood singing carols to whoever is brave enough to come to the door and listen. Then we come back to our house to decorate and eat gingerbread cookies.

There are a couple traditions that are my favorites. Since my first-born was old enough, he's had a small tree in his room every year. Now that his little sister is old enough, they both have their own trees. Since the beautiful lights on the Christmas tree are one of my favorite things, I wanted to share that with my kids. They love having their Christmas tree night lights all season long.

We also all look forward to picking out a special ornament for each of us every year. We try to pick something that commemorates a special event of the year, like our first canoeing trip with my son, the year we bought our new house, or the year we went to see Dora Live!

They're small things, but they make us the happiest.

My favorite simple holiday tradition is the advent calendar. My mom made a hanging-quilt one of a tree, where you pull out the ornaments day by day. My husband and son do this every morning, and this year, my daughter will get to join in the fun. I love watching how much joy they get from something this simple!

When you say holiday season, do you include thanksgiving? My favorite thing is serving thanksgiving dinner at a local soup-kitchen kind of thing. It's a sit-down dinner and I usually volunteer to be a waiter, although I have in the past also enjoyed being a dish-washer. My family has volunteered the same place doing the same stuff since I was 9 or 10. Little kids just sit with people and enjoy a thanksgiving meal and folks who are not often able to be around kids enjoy their presence

We are still making up our traditions as our family is still pretty new. So far going to midnight mass is the thing I look forward to most every year. (That, and waking up to the baked French Toast I make just for Christmas Morning.)

Oranges in the toes of our stockings. And when my mom was growing up, they had a coal oven, so Santa would put a layer of coal on top of the goodies as a joke on Christmas morning.

decorating cookies with my mom and sister. we've dedicated a whole day to sugar cookie cut outs every Christmas season for as long as i can remember. now that i've got a daughter, she's being included too, and i just love passing the tradition on. :)

I love that we get to start new traditions this year (and some last year). So far, my favorite is just that we open ONE present on Christmas Eve. That one present holds us all over until the morning!

We buy eggnog the Saturday after Thanksgiving and have a toast to start the Christmas season.

I've been buying Christmas books for my girls since the first was born 7 years ago. We got them all out last night and will read one or two every night before bed from now until Christmas. Last night "Auntie Clause" by Elise Primavera was the choice. I realized I must have purchased more than one each year though because while we should only have 14 books (one for each of my 3 girls per year) we have WAY more than that. This year I decided to pick a book that reminds me a little of what the girls were going through that year. For my youngest whose first word was "Bob" I chose a book called "A Snowman Named Just Bob" and wrote on the inside about how funny it was to see her calling everything (especially the family dog) "Bob." Hopefully those notes from mom will be special when my girls are raising a family of their own.

My daughters each get new pajamas on Christmas eve, and they wear them while we have hot cocoa in front of the fire and read holiday stories. Prior to the holiday we also love to bundle up and stroll around our neighborhood at twilight, gazing at all the lights and decorations.

Awesome giveaway! thanks!

My favorite tradition is collecting ornaments everywhere we travel, and being able to talk about the fun times as we decorate the tree with the ornaments.

My family has specific foods that MUST BE A PART OF CHRISTMAS...most notably the breakfast casserole. We only have it one morning a year, I don't know why! We also read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" every Christmas eve before bed.

We are giving the Daring Book for Boys to my 12 year old brother-in-law for Christmas. I would love to be able to give the Girls one to my sister-in-law!

Our favorite tradition is making gingerbread houses. We started it a few years back, and now do it every year. My in-laws have a Christmas open house every year, so we do the gingerbread houses the weekend before, so the houses can be on display.

We really enjoy taking our kids (now 3 and 2) caroling. We try to go to people that can't get out much. The kids don't really sing, but I hope it gives them the idea that Christmas is about bringing joy to those around them.

Hands down it would be eating chinese food on Christmas eve. Since my dad's a pastor, things were always especially busy for our family on christmas eve and morning, and what started out as a convenience decision 30 years ago turned into a classic family tradition.

We have a lot of traditions in my family, but one of my favorites is the one we started when my husband moved from England to the States just to marry me. It's the tradition of the "Christmas Cracker". Everyone gets a cracker and opens it to find a joke, a paper hat and a toy of some sort. The whole family has gotten into this and we wear our hats and read the jokes out loud at Christmas breakfast and dinner (each at different families' houses).

It's been nice to incorporate this tradition into our family and I think (hope) it makes him feel just a little more at home.

We enjoy making the Christmas cookies. This is something we do with friends, and then share the cookies with our neighbors. It always brings smiles all around!

Melvin the Elf arrives at our house every year about two weeks before Christmas in order to report back to Santa how the kids have been getting along. He's a small stuffed figure who turns up in a new spot every few days, and my kids are absolutely THRILLED to figure out where he'll be next. I thought it was sort of creepy at first, a sort of "Santa Spy", but my cousin-by-marriage assured me they'd get a kick out of it. Sure enough, every morning before the holiday it's the reason they get out of bed, and it starts the season out with an air of fun and charm. On Christmas morning, he's hitched a ride back to the North Pole on Santa's sled, but he's left a note to let us know he'll be back next year...

I love Christmas traditions, so it's hard to pick. One that is simple and very sweet when the kids are small is to act out the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. My dad, now a grandfather of 4 and a wonderful sport, still ends up being the donkey that Mary rides on to Bethlehem. :)

Our children are almost 2 and 4 so we are still early in starting our traditions. So far we have enjoyed taking the kids to holiday horse parades, letting them decorate the tree and holiday baking. Plus the holiday music starts playing right after Thanksgiving and the kids are already recognizing the songs and singing them with us!

Every year, our family goes to the Holiday Parade of Lights. We pack some hot chocolate and snacks, bundle up and watch the festivities. It's always the first weekend of December, so it gets us in the Christmas spirit. (We went last night!)

My favorite holiday tradition is how my mom and I would go to my grandmothers (Her mom) on Christmas Eve, that was always a bit of a country Christmas - loud, Southern accents, good old Southern biscuts, playing tag in the house; and then I (now that my parents are divorced), would go to my dad's mom on Christmas day, which was a completely different world. Quiet, still packed with family, but yet, more "upper class" than the other side of the family. Just seeing how my two sides of the family differed and how they were connected by me was something that I always thought about, but I still enjoyed this tradition that started 20+ years ago.

Ooooh, I can't decide between two so will share both. Once December begins, we love putting ornaments on our felt tree calendar. One goes up each day until the star on Xmas eve. My wife loves decorating the real tree. Digging through the boxes of ornaments brings up wonderful memories of Xmas past.

When father and his two brothers were young, their parents devised a way to make Christmas morning last a little longer. The parents (and eventually the kids) put rhyming clues on each gift, and the recipient had to guess the gift (or get close) before opening it. I have enjoyed this tradition all my life (both the guessing and writing of clues), and now my wife and I do it for our kids. Sometimes the clues are full blown epic poems, and other times they are just as simple as the name of the "person" giving the gift. A great way to enhance both the giving and receiving on Christmas.

Spending Christmas Eve at my inlaws house with the whole extended family all together. It's complete utter chaos! And I love every minute of it.

I've had a stocking since I was little that has one tiny pocket in it...I always love finding out exactly what my mom devises to put in there, from tic tacs to a watch to gift cards to cash! I want to sew one into our son's stocking so he can have the same experience!

Driving around looking at all the lights. Usually once a year we drive through one of the "winter wonderland" displays and all the kids love it from age 8 to 8 months. But every time we are driving at night, we take a little longer to get home because we'll drive through different neighborhoods and look at all the decorated houses. It's free, it gets everyone in the spirit, and it keeps everyone entertained.

We have a new one this year that we found last year from Chris's site at In the Trenches of Motherhood:

http://inthetrenchesofmotherhood.com/?p=63

I wrapped up all of our holiday books on Nov. 30 (plus some extras, like a holiday craft flagged in the Toddler's Busy Book) so I had 25. Then they all went in a basket. Pretty!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/migennes/2084943528/

Every day, my 3-year old gets to open one. Most days are stories, some are crafts or poems. You could supplement with your holiday movies or CDs if you can't make it to 25. My son loves opening one thing each day. It helps spread out the season. Plus, a lot of the books have a Christmas message, so he is learning about the spirit of Christmas.

Finally, I didn't have to buy anything. (This is a very lean year for us.) I just used books we already had. Next year we'll have some more books from Christmas presents this year. And, I used wrapping paper I bought on the cheap last year at the post-Christmas sales. If I hadn't had enough I would have supplemented with dollar store paper. After the holidays this year I will stock up on more paper and probably a bigger basket if I find one I like at a decent price.

I'm glad you asked this question. I was actually planning on sending you the link to Chris's site in the hopes you'd promote it. We are having so much fun with this new tradition.

Because the holidays were a time of uber-stress in my birth family, my husband and I worked hard to create a peaceful holiday. On Christmas eve, we have a lovely dinner and then, after dessert, open gifts. It's just our little family, and we've found there's no Christmas let-down the next day. I leave the big dinners and Christmas morning extravaganzas to the rest of the family!

The tradition I love is our stockings. The rule in my family has always been we wait until EVERYONE is ready to open gifts. Stockings, however, can be pulled down whenever you want. And so the morning tradition is the kids pile downstairs as soon as parents allow and tear into their stockings. A pair of socks or gloves, a toothbrush, a couple of small toys (mini lego sets, markers) and an orange in the toe. For me, it is an almost magical window of time - everyone is moving at their own pace, everyone is thrilled and content with very minimal gifts, there are conversations in every corner, and we are all snacking on oranges waiting for the whirlwind of gifts and brunch to follow, where we all drift away to different parts of the house. But those oranges and stockings draw us cozily together, if only for a few hours.

My kids love choosing the candles to put in the menorah.

they also enjoy Christmas dinner with our celebrating friends. I'm not sure if that qualifies as simple, but it is family-centric.

One of my favorite traditions is food related. When I was growing up, we always had cupcakes with candles for dessert on Christmas (my mom's way of reminding young kids that we were celebrating Jesus' birthday). Unrelated to Christmas, my husband's family had a great birthday tradition of making an elaborate fruit salad ("fruit bowl") for breakfast on each person's birthday. So we've combined these two together, and we now have a fruit bowl every Christmas morning.

Making cookies! I'm so excited because this year, my son has gotten into making cookies, too (or making dough as he calls it).

Favorite holiday tradition: making cookies. As long as we use pasteurized eggs, my daughter can help with every part of the process from mixing to rolling to cutting to icing. it's a great activity.

We've pared down the gift-giving in recent years, but one thing everyone looks forward to is the Yankee Swap. It's loud, it's contentious, and every year we squabble about the dollar limit, but it's SO much fun.

We watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on Christmas evening. It's something cozy and relaxing to look forward to while hopping from one relative's house to the next.

Decorating the tree at my moms! All of our ornaments have something special associated with them. There is a goofy paper and cotton ball Santa I made when I was a 1st grader, several 1st Christmas ornaments and lots of luv! I love how old, fancy, shiny and delicate they all are. I can remember applying each of them with my family over the years. Always a different experience for one reason or another but always fun!

Midnight mass on Christmas eve, and then off to grandmom's for a late late night snack and home for bed to wait for santa :)

My family is from Australia, so the tradition is church outside on Christmas Eve followed by a big dinner of fresh seafood.

Okay- our tradition lacks class, taste, profundity, and style.

Because we spent many a holiday driving to or from family, Jim and I have enjoyed an annual Christmas gas station hot dog for the past 13 years.

We started eating them out of sheer necessity, but somehow it's become a favorite tacky tradition. The hot dogs are as revolting as gas station hot dogs can be. They've usually seem to have been rotating on the perpetual grill since Christmas eve, 1969. And somehow, they're always really tasty in their steamed buns (Christmas miracle? I think so).

This year, we're planning to celebrate Christmas at our house... but I'm sure we'll make a visit to the nearest gas station mini-mart.

I can't pick just one! Decorating Christmas cookies, Advent calendar, fresh-cut Christmas tree, opening one gift on Christmas eve, and Christmas crackers after Christmas dinner (we picked that one up from my husband's English family).

Sampling each and every cookies the night after our annual cookie exchange!

We do Advent each night with the candles and a reading, even singing carols...my girls love it! Thanks!

I'd love a copy of this book! I love decorating the tree and lighting the menorah the best.

Opening one present on Christmas Eve. The 1st year we were married my husband and I agreed to order sushi on the 24th. We each got each other a sushi dinnerware set for our Eve gifts without knowing it! It was very funny.

Nearly every year we go look at the lights on a funky street in Austin--37th, where the residents have put lights everywhere! At one house, visitors are invited to walk around their backyard and another neighbor decorates a bush in his front yard to look like a VW Bug.

We go to Mass at midnight every Christmas Eve, which is the most magical time. Our oldest is two this year, so he'll probably even be able to stay awake for part of it. :)

On Christmas morning, the whole family gets together for gift-giving, and it's the kids' jobs to pull all the presents out from under my grandparents' massive tree and distribute them around the room. Everyone gets a little pile, and we take turns opening one present at a time.

There are so many Christmas traditions I love, but I think my favorite is watching "A Christmas Story" on Christmas Eve and laughing (still, again, year after year after year) at little Ralphie and his crew. Love that movie. :)

Decorating the Christmas tree is my favorite part of the holidays... my grandmother used to let us pick out a few ornaments each year, and she would paint our name and the year on those ornaments. Each year it's great to look and see what "phases" I was in... a few years of Minnie Mouse... then teddy bears, etc. I plan to do the same with my children- my daughter is 1 this Xmas, so we're starting this year. Happy Holidays!

We have a latke (potato pancake) contest every year. The winner gets the golden grater (spray painted grater) until the next year. We have had some pretty creative latkes but the winner is always the traditional latke.

I love putting on christmas music, making hot cholocate and decorating the tree together as a family. It is really the best time of year.

Every year on Christmas Eve, our family gets into our coats, hats, etc and we find a place in the backyard where we can see the stars without any interference from trees. Once we've picked our spot, we sprinkle "magic oats" for Santa's reindeer (a sensational mixture of Quaker rolled oats and craft-store glitter). You see, the reindeer will smell the oats and see the glitter sparkling in the moonlight--extra insurance to find our house! By morning, helpful birds will have helped clean up the oats--adding to the who-ate-them(?)mystery! This next part only works if you have hardwood floors, a fireplace, and (I learned the hard way) no curious dog: If I have extra glitter, I sprinkle a bit right in front of the fireplace and then make one perfect footprint in them with my husband's big Doc Marten boots. Magic!

Our favorite tradition is getting into our jammies with our favorite blankets, grabbing hot cocoa and candy canes and driving around looking at the Christmas lights. Free fun that my kids never bore of.

My mother remarried when I was in college. To help me and my brother get to know our new stepbrothers better, we started a tradition of playing board games on Christmas eve - we play different ones each year, but each requires some level of creativity, like Dictionary, Cranium, or our favorites, Wise and Otherwise (same principal as Dictionary, only with antiquated sayings) and Tabloid Teasers (again, same basic concept, only using tabloid headlines).

Every year, the little ones get to pick one present to open on Christmas Eve. (Most years, there's also a game under the tree that the entire family opens to play after dinner, too--always great fun!)

There is much deliberation and some direction from the parents to packages that contain toys or books, so no one ends up with a sweater to play with all evening. In the rush to open a bunch of presents on Christmas Day, it's easy to overlook individual gifts, so this gives them the opportunity to take it slower and appreciate what they have.

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