When I think back on my childhood Christmases, one memory stands out above all others. I was probably ten and we lived in a suburb of Denver. One cold December night, we—my mother, stepfather, two older sisters, and me—bundled up and drove downtown, where we walked around looking at the lights and the courthouse Nativity scenes. Then we went home to sit cuddled on the floor together in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate.
I don’t think my mom was intending to create lasting memories that night; that’s just not her style. I, on the other hand, have a running commentary in my brain during special times, saying “Oh, I hope the kids remember this night, this moment forever!” I set out to create traditions and memories that will bond my [tag-ice]family[/tag-ice] together, especially during the holidays.
What makes a moment special enough to be enshrined in your memory? It’s different for everyone. Neither of my sisters remembers that night in front of the fireplace, while it is one of my most treasured [tag-tec]childhood[/tag-tec] memories. But here are some ideas to get you started:
Be together. You can’t make family memories by leaving the kids with a sitter while you go off to yet another adult party. Yes, we all want—heck, need—those adult-only times, but don’t make them the focus of your holiday celebrations. You need to spend time with your children. Whether you are looking at Christmas lights, decorating cookies, or watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special, do it together.
Make it unique. Do something new and different. Make a new kind of [tag-self]Christmas[/tag-self] cookie. Explore how people in other countries celebrate Christmas and incorporate some of those traditions. Make paper lanterns and chains as they do in China. Leave out barley for the Wise Men’s camels as they do in Spain.
But stick with the traditions, too. While we tend to remember unique activities, we need traditions in our holiday too. My family goes out to a Christmas tree farm to get our tree every year; the kids wouldn’t consider anything else. And while I sneak new Christmas cookies into the mix each year, I also always include everyone’s old favorites.
Talk about your memories. Your children won’t remember the time they were two years old and played a sheep in the church’s Nativity pageant—unless you talk about it. By talking about your memories, you will plant them in your children’s brains. Of course, scrapbooks and videos will help too if you have them around.
As you talk about your memories, invoke all your child’s senses. If you’re making fudge together, talk about how it smells, feels, looks, and sounds as you stir the pot, and then how it tasted when you’re done. Appealing to multiple senses will make the memory “stick” better.
Plan ahead. If you want to make Christmas cookies or fudge with your children, you will need to have the ingredients on hand and think in advance about what steps each child can do. If you want to visit Santa Claus at the mall on Saturday, make sure no one has a basketball practice or Scouting service project that morning.
But be spontaneous too
. Sometimes those special moments just pop out of nowhere. Go with the flow! My two younger kids wanted to walk home after church Sunday night. It was relatively warm and I was wearing comfortable shoes, so we walked home in the dark singing Christmas carols. This just may be my best Christmas memory of the year…
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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