I love traditions! Maybe because I come from a sappy, sentimental, love-dovey family–and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love that my dad prays before we open gifts, that my mom makes cinnamon rolls for breakfast and minestrone soup for lunch. I love how when anyone in my family gets a BIG gift, they are actually given a tiny little box with a message that says “Go look in the garage!” or something like that. I love how I now experience traditions from my side of the family as well as the Tompkins’ side.
We’re at a great point in our family where the kids are young enough that we can easily begin traditions in our home that we want to continue for years. Some of you may remember last year that we began a tradition of counting down to Christmas with our very own advent calendar. I strung this garland and added 25 little boxes. Each day, we take out a piece of paper that tells us something we’re going to do as a family that day. We haven’t been quite as intentional this time as last year (sometimes Trent and I decide that afternoon what our evening activity will be) and we missed several days when we were on vacation, but for the most part we are sticking with it. Here’s a close-up of the little boxes.
One classic is hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles.
It’s a big hit.
We started a new tradition within the tradition: each year I’ve tried to buy the kids a Hallmark ornament representing something about their stage in life. Last year Sydney got a Baby’s first ornament and Carson got Buzz Lightyear. (The year before he got Elmo.) This year, instead of just giving him his ornament (Bolt–the dog from the Disney movie) I set up a treasure hunt around the house with clues. The “treasure” at the end was his and Sydney’s new ornament. It was easy to do and fun for Carson, so I definitely plan to do it again. Here he is posing his dirty little hand with the ornament. 🙂

Another wonderful tradition we are apart of is with Trent’s mom, Linda. Each year in December, she takes each of her 4 grown children and 2 daughters-in-law out to lunch–individually–to spend some quality time and ask how she can pray for us in the coming year. There have been a few years when one kid or another can’t make it work into the schedule, but she is consistent in asking and in praying. She brings her notebook of last year’s requests and finds out how the Lord has answered those prayers. Since having my own kids, this tradition has impacted me even more greatly, and –surprise!–brought me to sentimental tears the last few years. I’m so blessed to have married into such a godly family, and this is one tradition that I can’t wait to start when my children are older.
What are your favorite traditions? I may want to borrow them. 🙂


  1. My mom used to make a grid of fake window panes on our huge picture window and “paint” fake frost/snowdrifts in the corner of each pane. Cheesy, but beautiful! It always got me in the mood for Christmas.

  2. Ok, the part about your MIL praying for you…choked me up completely! What a beautiful gift and a wonderful tradition. 🙂 We’re in the process of starting our own traditions, too…so I might ‘borrow’ some of yours as well. Love the advent garland/gift thing – Yeah! 🙂

  3. I want to steal all your traditions! I think I shall design a treasure hunt for Henry!!! And can you make me an advent box garland thing? Thanks. 🙂

    This is our very first year just us with the kids and we are very excited to start some traditions of our own for Christmas morning. I’ll let you know if anything spectacular happens. 😉

  4. 1-Dave would take his girls on there own date in Dec. and other times during the year.

    2-We also would get the girls an ornament or two every year and put them in seperate boxes to store.
    When they married I gave them there box and added lights,and a Christmas decoration or two that was there favorite growing up.
    I continue that tradition still to my kids and grandchildren.

  5. 3-I had someone tell me when the girs were very little that the best guests I would ever have is my own family. As they grew I began to take out my china,glasses and all that was special. We at times would even get dressed up.

    4- Talent program to give at grandma’s house. It could be a song,poem,trick or a joke.Sweet memories. Working on one for this year(:

  6. We do the Hallmark ornament thing too! (Do you think it’s cause we both worked there?:)) Anyway, I LOVE your 12 days of Christmas idea…may have to buckle down and do that one year! And you have completely inspired me with the luncheon prayer thing. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about dates with the kids and praying that God would give me a great way to streamline it all. He gave it to me through you and your MIL! You gotta love how He works. Love you dear friend and Merry Christmas!

  7. We have so many, and it’s funny because they’ve actually changed over the years…but they are still tradition!

    1-Christmas caroling. Started when we were in elementary school and we always went with another family that also had three kids. In those days, we’d sing to the elderly people from our church. When Aris and I were first married and had Theo, we didn’t live near family, and no one else was really interested in going, so I made plates of Christmas goodies and the three of us delivered them and sang to our friends. Now, there are other families in our church that want to join us, since 4/5 of my original family live in the same town and started doing it again, so I opened it up. We now go and sing at retirement homes, and last Sunday night was the night this year. There were 55 of us! It’s (by far!) my favorite tradition because it made us focus outside of ourselves as kids, and is helping our kids do the same. So fun! Plus, getting 50+ people in our house afterward is just hilarious.

    2-My mom always took us into downtown Portland to see all the store fronts and Christmas decoration. We dressed up a little bit and always ate out somewhere a little nicer than we were used to. I think we purchased a few gifts, but mostly it was the pleasure of visiting the massive library, seeing the Meyer and Frank train and enjoying the bustle of downtown. We have done this once with our kids in downtown SF, but it’ll be something that we really make a tradition when Silas is about 7 or so. I love it, and they do to, but at this stage they poop out so quickly that it’s a lot of work for a very short time.

    I have so many others, but this is turning into a blog-jacking! Sorry! Love your advent idea!

  8. oh- i got all choked up reading this too. Mostly about the part where your dad prays before you unwrap gifts- what a great, great idea. This year, our first christmas with baby Jo, marked what i sincerely HOPE will NOT become a tradition: me & husband arguing over who has to assemble the gifts. gr. I’ll give you one guess as to who ended up assembling them…….

  9. Jen, this is a great idea. (just now clicked through to your blog in my post-New Year’s trip relaxing sit-down!) In Denmark kids get ‘calendar gifts,’ where they get a little gift each day (usually in the morning) from Dec 1-24. It’s great for getting them up those dark winter mornings, but I love, love, love the idea of giving the gift of a family experience to come that day instead of always sticking to small presents, which–let’s face it–sometime end up being small toys they hardly look at afterwards!

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