Blog: Mrs. DeWitt’s Dozen Ways to Create Christmas Traditions with your Kids
Featuring Mrs. Sally DeWitt
HCA Administrative Assistant
Mrs. DeWitt, our blogger of the week, loves students of all ages. She is one of the “best of the best” in speaking their language—whether at home, in the classroom, in the office, or as they grow up into positions of leadership. This first week of December, she shares a dozen ways to make Christmas come alive for your children, build traditions, and point them to Jesus (truly, the reason for the season)! Mrs. DeWitt, a 6th generation Floridian and former 4th grade teacher, works here at HCA each day as Administrative Assistant to our Headmaster. She loves to make cookies, decorate with palm trees, and spend time with her two grown-up daughters and her husband Richard. We know you’ll enjoy her memories, and we hope you’ll bring some of her ideas and traditions into your own home, no matter what ages your children may be.
1. Create memories surrounding your Christmas tree (do more than just plop it in the stand)
Every Christmas, we had a live tree in our home, and it became tradition over the years for our two girls to go out with their dad to get the tree. All three of them loved this, and in fact, this tradition still stands today. This year, Danielle (age 26) picked out our tree with her dad, as usual, and then they also chose one for her home, too. Whether you have a live tree or an artificial one, I encourage you to create your own. Put on Christmas music (over the years we listened to Kids Praise Christmas, the Carpenters, and Kenny G), and be sure to pull the AC down to make it feel colder while you work and make these memories!
2. Get a good family photo each Christmas (you’ll be glad you did)
We always took a family picture, made copies, and put them in Christmas cards with frames. Through the years, they were always different, and it was fun to look back at the cards and the photos. (It still is.) Why not start this tradition for your family if you haven’t already? You can do it with store-bought cards, homemade cards, or just do it all electronically!
3. Make special keepsake ornaments for your kids (or students or friends or relatives)
As a 4th grade teacher so many years ago, I made ornaments for all my students with mason jar lids. I would wrap the rim in yarn (or you can use ribbon), attach a photo of the child to the center circle, snap it all together, and write on the back with a sharpie. Two of our current HCA parents, Scott Lassen and Missy Davis, were my 4th grade students who received these. Missy shared with me recently that she still has her ornament. “I keep it hanging in my room year around! It’s so special to me!”
4. Head to the kitchen (such great memories are made here)
Back when my girls were little, we didn’t have gingerbread house kits available, so we made our own with graham crackers and frosting, and used sugar ice cream cones as trees for the front yard! Your children will love being creative with you in the kitchen or at the dining room table, whether they’re in preschool or much older. Back in the day, we also made snowmen out of large marshmallows, put them together with toothpicks, used red construction paper for the hat, black licorice for the eyes and buttons, and so on! You can also make these using pretzels to hold it all together, an Oreo and Rollo for the hat, mini chocolate chips for the eyes, and so on! If you also let your children help shop and select the ingredients, that makes it even more memorable. (There are so many more opportunities now for things like this, so just check out Pinterest.)
5. While we’re talking about the kitchen…
There’s nothing like homemade Christmas cookies, decorated with frosting and sprinkles by your kids. Don’t worry too much about how the cookies look, or if they eat a few as they go along. That just makes it more fun! Homemade gifts have always been a hit with our friends and family, and they still are. What I do these days for my student aides in the office is make them their own personal cookie-pie. I buy rolls of cookie dough and disposable pie plates, cut the rolls of dough in half (make two pie plate cookies per roll), decorate each cookie-pie with a student’s name, and add a candy cane. You can also make a big cookie in a pizza pan and write “Happy Birthday Jesus” – using a candy cane as the “J” in Jesus. This can be your birthday “cake” for Jesus!
6. Use handprints to decorate (and then compare them from year to year)
One year when my girls were young, I was the elementary room mom for Mrs. Angie Canning. I made a Christmas tree skirt with her students’ names and handprints on them. (You can use a plain tree skirt and put the kids handprints on it with paint.) Angie still puts this under her tree each year, and she shares: “This special gift has always meant so much to me. Every year when I get it out of storage, I place my hand on top of each one of the hands on the back and pray for them. Some of them I have built lasting relationships with, and some I have not a clue where they are. But one thing is for sure, I still pray for each of those kids that blessed my life that year. I loved this gift so much that I gave the same gift to Mrs. Attard when she taught my daughter Abigail in K5.” Wow, I love that!!!
7. Be creative with simple things (and you don’t need to spend a dime on this one)
Every year, I would have each daughter pick out a favorite Christmas card sent to her or to our family. I would trace each girl’s hand on the center of the picture on the card (best part of the picture), cut it out, put the date on the back, and hang it with a ribbon on our tree. If you do this each year, eventually when you have enough, you can make a wreath with all of them and give it to your child on his or her first Christmas away from home or in a new home!
8. Pile the family in the car (or the van or SUV or whatever you have)
Every year we would all go out together and look at all the Christmas lights around town, even if we didn’t get to it until the days after Christmas. We drove through lots of neighborhoods, and then we also started going to Tradewinds Park (on Sample Road) to look at the beautiful lights there. Make it all a tradition! We did this for so many years that as my girls started to drive, they started loading their friends into their own cars and went out to do this on their own.
9. Put Jesus in the center of your home and celebrations (this year and every year)
We had a lot of different nativity sets in our home, and I encourage you to do this! Both of our girls had a nativity and little tree in their room. (I remember when Deanna was only 8-months old, her first word was “pretty” while looking at her Christmas tree!) We would read and re-read their Christmas story books, and even as very little girls they would play and re-enact the story with their nativity sets. You don’t have to spend much on this, but it’s so important for them to be able to touch and feel the nativity pieces—and tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Point your kids to Jesus! You can even do this for the little ones with dolls and blankets, or a hand-colored / cut-out nativity. With your little kids (and big kids, too), visit a drive-through or walk-through nativity (such as Bethlehem Revisited in Coral Springs) this Christmas and celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to be our Savior.
10. Plan to make Christmas Eve extra, extra special
We always went to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve and then came home and had “Italian Stallion” and garlic rolls for dinner. We let the girls open one gift on Christmas Eve (usually pajamas so they could be in their cute, new PJs on Christmas morning). Your own family traditions and memories are so very important on Christmas Eve. No matter the ages of your children, it’s never too late to start or continue these special times together—which they’ll remember for a lifetime. I’m sure of it.
11. Remember how much kids love fun (not to mention the adults, too)
Every year on Christmas Day, my mom and dad would hide a clue for a present on the tree (for each of the girls), which led to a mini scavenger hunt! I remember rhyming clues which led the girls to the kitchen, to the dryer, to the swings, to a tree…and guess what? Our girls loved this tradition so much as they grew up, that they now do it for my husband and me on Christmas, making us go hunting for a gift!
12. Just one more…
There are so many ways to create Christmas traditions and memories with your children, and this last one is so important. Since Jesus is the reason for this season, be sure to make Him the CENTER of all you do! Share His love! Either before or during Christmas break, reach out to someone else. Plan with your children to go visit someone who needs cheering up, take cookies or a meal to a neighbor or elderly person, or support a child in need. Pray with your kids for the child that received your Operation Christmas Child box. Pray for those around you. Ask your children and yourselves this question: “How can we thank God for all He’s done for us? What can we do for others this Christmas? How can we share the love of Christ that He has so generously shown to us?”
I pray that you and your family will take the time to celebrate with each other and remember the real meaning of Christmas!
Merry Christmas…from the DeWitt family to you and your families!