Building our own Christmas Tree
... a young mom's attempt at beginning Christmas Traditions in her own home.
Growing up, we never really had those usual family traditions... baking cookies, lighting of the Advent wreath, reading Christmas books, decorating the Christmas tree together. It wasn't really anybody's fault: in the past, we would typically celebrate Christmas with our extended family, and our traditions comprised of opening gifts, Noche Buena, etc. Our grandparents and extended family made these traditions for us. We were the recipients and the participants.
And in recent years, we've had to spend the holidays working. Our restaurant always gets busy this time of the year, so in the past, there wasn't really time to slow down to think about these "traditions". Working was the tradition. We were usually so busy that my mom would only be able to put up the tree on Christmas eve! Having time for Christmas eve dinner and Noche Buena was a luxury.
I guess it never really mattered to us, because with just 9 of us (Dad, Mom and the 7 dwarves), it was already a party. We looked forward to just being together, and that in itself was the biggest gift that our parents gave us.
This Christmas season is different for me, because for the first time, the Christmas season is SLOW (last year was supposedly slow, too, but with a newborn, it was still incredibly busy!) We were supposed to spend Christmas in Baguio, but at the last minute, Bianco showed symptoms of the measles, and in this day and age, it's always better to err on the side of caution, so we cancelled. Instead of rushing, packing and driving, we've spent the last few days here at home. The time gave me room to think of traditions we can do from year to year to make our kids really FEEL Christmas at home.
Building our Tree
We kept our tree bare this year, and it wasn't intentional at first. I was supposed to decorate the tree with younger ornaments (what we have at home are a bit older, more on the mature side), but I never got around to it. The ornaments I window shopped for online were beautiful, but we didn't have the budget to buy more ornaments this year. The bare tree grew on me. I loved that I didn't have to police my two toddlers to stop tinkering with the shiny things on the tree.
And I particularly loved the idea of a tree "growing with its family". Keeping it bare made me reflect about what I really wanted to portray in our tree, and for me, I wanted to our memories to fill our tree. So I Googled ideas for DIY ornaments, and Inio and I went straight to work.
Christmas tree frames A super easy and doable idea were these Christmas tree frames. All you need are popsicle sticks, a few pompoms, and a working printer to print out photos.
I actually wanted to buy actual picture frames that can hang in the tree, but these were such a cute alternative, and very cheap, too!
I love the idea of having our photos up on the tree, so every year, we can see our family grow. Hand Sculpture Ornaments I also found a super cute idea to make hand ornaments with our kids' hands. I made two for each kid, then made one of each into a Santa, and the other one of each, I let the kids paint on it themselves. It turned out so well, and it was a lot of fun to make. I won't deny how challenging it was with Inio helping though. Why do IG accounts make it look like it's soooo easy and fun to do it with their kids!? I was doing my best to be patient but I was grinding my teeth almost the entire time!!! Goodness!!! Hahahaha at least he had fun.
I wrote down their names & the year so we can keep these and watch their hands grow with time.
Writing letters to grandmas Since we're spending Christmas at home without our extended families, I wanted the kids to write letters to both their Lolas and added them to the tree. We'll send these to them this week! The boys can't write yet, but we can collect these and watch them get more refined in their Christmas cards in the future. I also really liked that we incorporated our loved ones in this activity.
Christmas cookies A good friend and neighbor gifted us with a cookie kit and it was such a fun activity! The cookies certainly didn't come out perfectly, but Inio and I had a great time. We gave them to our part time helper to take home to her 7 kids, as we already had too much food at home.
Guess what? All of these activities made us feel the Christmas spirit in our home, with close to just a couple of hundred pesos spent on materials! Just exerting a bit of effort and creativity does so much!
All in all, this wasn't originally the Christmas we had in mind. I miss my siblings and our usual cold Christmas by the fire place, but I'm grateful for the time to slow down to put these little traditions together. As a young mom, building our own traditions in our immediate family is so exciting, as we make Christmas our own.
Next year though, I definitely want to build on this and add more Catholic customs and traditions, like putting up and lighting an Advent wreath, building the manger for the Baby Jesus, and reading more Christmas stories. What's great about being a young family is that there are more years to come to fine-tune all these traditions. I hope our kids will always feel the warmth of Jesus' birthday through these customs.
I guess this is growing up. We're relying less and less on our parents making Christmas feel magical for us, and beginning to create that magic at home ourselves. These years, I'm witnessing this fascinating crossover into adulthood, and I'm enjoying every bit of it. Some folks want to stay kids forever, but to me, making this magic for my kids is so much more enjoyable and worthwhile than opening presents and receiving envelopes. If this is what it means to grow old, then I warmly welcome it, as long as I make my kids and husband happy in the process.
Merry Christmas, everyone!