Before Frozen 2 became a reality, Elsa and Anna fans had to settle for the two Disney shorts featuring our favorite Frozen characters, Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Without any spoilers, the latter follows Olaf on his quest to find a holiday tradition to share with Elsa and Anna. He bounces through Arendelle singing:
Love and joy and peace on Earth and tidings of good cheer
Do you have tradition things
For that time of year?
When it comes to our own “tradition things,” we’re sharing some of our editors’ childhood traditions they plan to bring to their own kids as well as new traditions born from blended cultures and life’s realities. If you’re a parent without the fondest of holiday childhood memories, maybe you’re focused on creating new memories and traditions for yourself and your children this year. We know holiday traditions aren’t always what you see in the movies, and we’re sharing those stories too.
On Bringing Back Childhood Traditions
On Christmas Eve growing up, my three brothers and I were allowed to open the gifts we bought for each other on Christmas Eve. When we were little, this usually meant we opened junk from the elementary school flea market, but it was something we always looked forward to enjoying together, as one of our favorite Christmas movies played in the background. Now that my girls are old enough to pick out special gifts for each other, I want to continue this tradition.
Also, my mother-in-law always read my husband and his sisters The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. My husband has adopted this as his special moment with the girls before they go to sleep on December 24, even bringing the book from home to the hospital so he could read it to our baby daughter when she spent her first Christmas in the hospital with RSV.
We’re living far from family, which can be hard around the holidays, so I’m excited to continue traditions and create some new ones, especially since this is our first holiday season as a family of three. Growing up, to celebrate Hanukkah, we always lit the candles and made latkes, though I haven’t done that in many years. I’m looking forward to doing that with Millie this year! And I’m excited to do holiday baking with Millie. I’m hoping in future years we’ll be able to celebrate with extended family.
On Making New Traditions
I met my then-boyfriend, now-husband, back in 2013, and I knew after our first date that I’d marry him. He’s from Ghana and has been in America since he was 18, but when it comes to holiday traditions, he stayed true to his original upbringing. Unlike in my family, it did not take four hours to open presents, one by one, letting each person have their turn opening and enjoying each gift.
For the last few years, we’ve been shifting and adjusting our holiday traditions to make room for a tradition that includes both of our cultures. Since we have a son, we want to make sure that our holidays moving forward are memorable and ever-evolving for our family. We’ve decided to always include meals from the other tradition, make sure to spend at least a little time alone (even without the baby—thanks family!) on the actual day, and now, we’re dedicated to leaving a little room in our holiday vacation for just the three of us back at our home.
Because my husband, Sean, usually works on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas, we don’t actually have a lot of traditions that are common. I try to do the best I can to make things feel special with the boys. The one thing we always do together is getting a tree and decorating together. To go along with this, we also buy two to three new ornaments each year for each kid—not heirloom or super fancy, but something that is reminiscent of who each kid is at this time in their life.
So, Shea this year (age 4) got an art easel ornament, a Daniel Tiger ornament, and an Aquaman ornament. Arian (age 6) got a Harry Potter ornament (he just started reading the series), a dinosaur ornament, and a globe ornament because he wants to be an explorer. I make sure to write the year and initials of who it belongs to on the bottom, and each year, when we pull them all out, it’s a walk down memory lane of our babies, who they were, and who they’re becoming. Our tree is never cohesive and cute, it’s definitely not Instagram-ready, but it’s a very clear depiction of who lives in this house. I hope years from now when my kids are with their own little families, they can smile at these ornaments and remember that their parents always let them be exactly who they are.
When I think of holiday traditions, I go back to the first Christmas I spent with my husband (then-boyfriend) over a decade ago. He couldn’t take time off of work that year, and I was about to go on a month-long trip to Vietnam, so we were in Chicago by ourselves. At first, I was a little sad at the idea of missing my family’s huge feasts (egg rolls are a Vietnamese tradition no matter the holiday), but then I got excited at the thought of uninterrupted time with this new guy I’d been spending time with.
We cooked Cornish hens and made chocolate mousse, then watched When Harry Met Sally. Later that night, we caught a movie with other friends who didn’t have plans, walking past the lights in downtown Chicago on our way home. I could almost hear the tinkle of bells as we walked, silently making plans to spend even more holidays with one another. It sticks in my memory as one of the first true “family” moments I made with my husband.
This year, faced with the almost-certainty that we won’t be seeing family for the holidays, I turn back to that Christmas so long ago. We’ll open gifts by the tree while drinking mimosas (apple juice in a fancy glass for my daughter), then eat way too many croissants while she explores her new toys. We may play in the snow or snuggle up for a movie. We’ll FaceTime with our families. There will likely be a nap somewhere in there. It won’t be glamorous, or necessarily filled with big moments, but it’s tradition nonetheless. Quiet and special, like that first Christmas we spent together.
My husband and I are starting a new holiday tradition this year: white elephant gifts with a twist. The twist is that while the gift needs to be humorous, it also needs to be something the other person will actually like or use. The holidays are fun and magical, but they can also be stressful, so this is our way of making sure we remember to lighten up and laugh at ourselves.
My husband is a plastic grocery bag hoarder (please tell me I’m not alone in this), and I always throw away the excess of bags I find stuffed into random corners in our pantry or under the sink. So this Christmas, my husband will be getting his very own Plastic Grocery Bag Holder and Dispenser. I know, I know … he’s a lucky man. Why does he hoard them, you ask? He uses them to take his lunch into work. These are the things you don’t know about someone until you marry them. So, he’s getting a little bonus of a lunch box too.
I’m actually more excited to open my white elephant gift from him than my real gift to see what he’s going to poke fun at me for doing—I certainly have my fair share of quirks that drive him crazy too.
As an adoptee, my family didn’t focus on traditions from my birth culture, and this year I will be doing more celebrating more Colombian traditions to make sure my children feel a strong connection to their culture. This will be the first year that we will be celebrating El Día/El Noche de las Velitas, which is a Colombian tradition from December 7-8 where candles are lit around 7 p.m. This is a celebration that coincides with the Immaculate Conception and the lights signify a path for the Virgin Mary and to give thanks. I’m excited to start this new tradition and celebrate my family’s Colombian culture more fully.
In addition to that, we will be celebrating big on Christmas Eve as per usual and will keep our tree up until Three Kings Day.
This year has seen a seismic shift in terms of my neighborhood block. Where once my oldest was one of two kids on the street, now my girls belong to a pack of 12. We’re harnessing the creative energy of this built-in community and looking for ways to start traditions from our own front lawns.
One way we’re coming together this season is by shooing the kids out on our porches at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. We’ll ring bells and blast Christmas tunes to cheer Santa on his way! There’s also talk of my next-door neighbor donning a certain cherry-red suit and strolling down the sidewalk at a distance. Fingers crossed he’s up for the task!
Whatever your holiday traditions, or traditions-to-be, we hope your season is full of joy and peace and tidings of good cheer, surrounded by people you love (just like Olaf says).
What holiday traditions do you plan to share with your kids?
This article was originally published on December 12, 2019 and has been updated for timelines.