Expanding the family can inspire new Christmas traditions

With a new addition on the way, are you thinking about adding new traditions to your family holidays? Or perhaps your growing family has you waxing nostalgic for the traditions you celebrated when you were a child.

For Melissa Johnson, a mother of one from Austin, Texas, welcoming a baby to the family has renewed her interest in all things Christmas.

“I’ve always loved Christmas,” Johnson says. “But it’s a holiday that feels very child-centric to me. After our son Carter was born, that’s when I became inspired to celebrate in a bigger way. This will be Carter’s first Christmas, and it motivated my husband and I to bring home a fresh-cut tree. Each night we make a few more ornaments out of red ribbon and wooden beads.”

Johnson says she’s thinking about reestablishing some traditions from her childhood, including hayrides on the Christmas tree farm, making eggnog from scratch, and collecting mercury glass ornaments.

For Britt Alm, a San Francisco resident who is expecting her first child this summer, the holidays are an opportunity to create traditions that are unique to her and her husband. One of those centers around winter solstice, the longest night of the year, which takes place on Dec. 21. Alm has a specific vision for how to celebrate the solstice, which marks the transition from fall to winter on the astronomical calendar.

“How I picture it is that when our family gets home from work and school, everyone lights a candle or two on the way in the door. No one turns on any lights inside. We’ll invite a few friends over, and that evening, the house will be filled with candles. We’ll make a winter stew with root vegetables and seasonal greens. I’d love for there to be some form of live music,” she says.

“Then you let the candles extinguish throughout the night as you go to sleep -- safely, of course. You brush your teeth by candlelight, and you tuck each other in by candlelight. You go to sleep until the next day, and when you wake up, the first light marks the change of the season and the lengthening of the days.”

Whereas Alm has always celebrated Christmas through smaller family gatherings, her husband Brian Reyes grew up in a large Filipino family where Christmas was the cause for an annual family reunion.

“In the Philippines, celebrating Christmas begins as early as September. My family celebrates en-masse, with about 30 people gathered at an auntie’s house, where they serve a full-on meal. That’s one of the only times we get to visit together during the year. We traditionally attend a midnight mass on Christmas eve.”

Regardless of the size of the gathering, Alm and Reyes both have fond memories of nestling up close to the fireplace and falling asleep under the tree while trying to wait up for Santa.

“We’ve been talking a lot about the Christmases from our childhoods and how to establish our own traditions. It’s really exciting to think that this time next year, we'll be spending Christmas with our new son or daughter,” Reyes says.