Holiday Traditions I Just Can’t.

The holidays (and by holidays, I’m going all the way back to Halloween because that’s the gateway drug of busy season) are a busy time of year under normal circumstances, and throughout the ages.

Things just get hectic.


Nowadays?  Between blogs and Pinterest, you can Making Memories yourself into a stress induced coma.  And about the only memories you’ll make are those of Mommy yelling.    (This is a FANTASTIC post.  Read it.  Seriously.)

On the flip side, I sometimes feel like I see people going too far in the other direction.

In the name of Simplify and Being Present (both awesome, btw), people scale so far back that sometimes I wonder where the magic in their holiday season went.

Making magic takes work.  Creating memories oftentimes makes messes.  It’s just the way of the Universe, you know?

As with anything, it’s about balance.  Do some things.  Cut out others.  Pick your favorites.  DO NOT TRY TO DO IT ALL.  But for Pete’s sake, please do something.

Around here, I’m a sucker for tradition.  We do a Jesse Advent.  We pull a giant stack of Christmas books out of the attic and read them constantly.  I basically only allow Christmas movies and cartoons during the month of December (you can watch Sophia anytime!).  The more vintage, the better.  We do Operation Christmas Child boxes.  We bake.  A lot.  Heck, I even put five boxes of tinsel on my tree.  Want to talk about messy work?  There.  But hot dang I ADORE it.  Pretty sure every tree I ever have from now on will be dripping in tinsel.  Even if I find it everywhere.  Everywhere.


There are things, I can not.  Will not.  Under no circumstances. Do.  Ever.  Sorry kids.  Take it up with your future therapist.  And then get back with me when you have your own kids and let me know how it went.

1.  Carve Pumpkins.  



Carving pumpkins is the worst.  It’s messy.  It’s sticky.  It takes forever.  And seriously, it’s HARD.  All those pretty, creative pumpkins you see on Pinterest?  Lies.  And the kids can’t do it on their own.  So guess which sucker is stuck carving like 6 pumpkins AND cleaning up the mess?  Exactly.


 {Hi bitty Henry!}

My kids have lucked out the last several years because young, naive cousins who have offered to carve pumpkins with the them.  By all means.

2.  Gingerbread Houses.


Have you guys ever tried this?!  It’s insane.  The dumb house doesn’t stick together.  You gotta sit there and hold it until the end of eternity for the icing to dry, and even STILL it falls apart.  And then you’re fighting with your kids that they can’t eat the stale 3 week old gumdrops off the roof.  I did a gingerbread house once.  ONCE.  (Although I have considered trying it again when my friend Julie suggested using hot glue to put the graham cracker part together.)  Not worth it.

3.  Making pretty cookies.


I love to bake.  I bake a lot.  I bake yummy foods.  But pretty they are not.  My friend Tracy makes the most incredible sugar flood icing cookies.  You want a killer chocolate chip cookie, I’m your girl.  You want it to look like the Taj Mahal?  Talk to Tracy.  This also applies to rolled sugar cookies that you let kids cut shapes into and sprinkle colors onto it.  I somehow manage to always burn those.  And they all look like swollen manatees.  With pink sprinkles.

4.  Elf.  On the Shelf.


I can’t.  I just can’t.  I get that lots of you do it and think it’s awesome and fun and totally memory making and all that.  But I can’t. I don’t have the time, energy, or creative wherewithall to get on board with this. Someone actually bought the kit and brought it to Thanksgiving for us.  It was a sweet gesture.  And I even considered adding the elf into our traditions…in a simple, I don’t have to clean up the mess kind of way.  But about two pages into the book, I looked up at the kids and said “Sorry guys.  I just can’t.  I can’t add another daily thing.  Mom’s gonna take this back.”  Luckily they didn’t seem to care.  Which validated my decision.

I’m sure there are more things I’m not thinking of right now.  But my point is, it’s okay to opt out of some stuff.  Nancy Reagan knew what was up.  Just say no.

(But say yes too.  At least sometimes.)

Do you have traditions you refuse to do?  What are the traditions you love year after year?    




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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    HA …this cracks me up. I refuse to do the elf too for a few reasons. First of all I think it is super creepy. And just like you I can’t add one more thing to my daily to-do list. Especially when it includes making messes that I’ll have to clean up. My boys do enough of that already! :)

  2. 2

    My Elf, Bartholomew, is a voyeur. He just sits in the same place for days on end doing nothing but watching the insanity. Grandma and Grandpa got him for him 3 years ago when we were an adorable little family of 4. Now we’re a great big adorable family of 6 with 19 month old twins. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Sorry, Bart! My boys aren’t totally without holiday cheer. We are doing more art projects and family cuddles around the fireplace with holiday movie favorites. This year, outdoor decorations are probably just not going to happen. It’s currently sleeting and I’m staring at the box that houses the Christmas tree and presents that need to be wrapped on my day off.

  3. 3

    I have a friend who rocks Elf on the Shelf {EOTS} I’m super happy to let her. And I applaud her hilarious efforts, even though some of the antics Elfis gets in to are above the heads of her younguns. If you must EOTS on FB and Instagram daily, go for it. Not me.
    There’s lots more we do, but not over the top. I have no energy for that and I get virtually no help on any of it. Kids are 22 and 23 now, so we’re in this awkward in-between stage of doing what they remember and them not being around much to notice.
    I agree, though. Don’t pull back so much and be fully present that there isn’t any jolly in the holiday. You can be fully present the rest of the year.
    Great post as always!!
    Kimber´s last blog post ..What is Your Desire?

  4. 4

    I love this post! This is me exactly! I sometimes feel guilty for skipping some of these traditions, but between life, baby, work, husband…there is no time!

  5. 5

    This is hilarious. I actually just talked about elf on the shelf today on the MOB Society, and how I can’t get in on the whole elf on the shelf idea. I agree, you just have to do what feels right for you and your family.

  6. 6

    I totally agree, we have to pick the traditions that work for us…at each season of life. The gingerbread house activity is definitely more fun when they’re older, and when you glue the house ahead of time and let the royal icing “glue ” set overnight. Makes it so much easier when I have gingerbread house making parties! Gluing it right before you decorate is just asking for disaster. I learned that with my first one! :>

  7. 7

    This, yes, exactly. We don’t do half the stuff I see everyone and I hate that stupid Elf, it’s just super annoying. But we do a simple advent and see friends around this time. We try to focus on being together as a family more and doing more seasonal stuff that way. Other than that simple is my middle name! I think kids only know what is in front of them. If you keep it simple, they don’t know to be disappointed and that will be whats special to them. If you want to go all out, then that will likely be what they remember and adore, you know? I’m counting on it because we missed Christmas almost altogether last year because we moved countries on the 23rd!! I think our kids are gonna be fine :)

  8. 8

    I feel the exact same way, especially about the pumpkins!! No carving here, thanks.
    And the Elf thing really, really, really bothers me. Because all the crazy is NOT what the point of that tradition was at all. Sorry folks, the elf was meant to be special and fun, not naughty and ridiculous. Our elf moves and that’s it. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Also, sometimes he “really must love that spot since he keeps going there for the past 5 nights!” Not sprinkle sugar, or flour, or what have you everywhere so that I have to clean it up! Good grief.
    Yes, I am super judgy about it. I can’t help it! I bet the Mom that came up with it in the first place is in disbelief! {Whew. Sorry. It bothers me, obvs.}

  9. 9
    Carrie R. says:

    The only traditions I can really think about that we do every year is carving pumpkins and the Elf on the Shelf (though I admit I often forget to move him). We have smaller traditions like new PJ’s on Christmas Eve, driving around looking for Christmas lights, going for hot chocolate, and do forth. But those don’t require too much thought or effort.
    What I do love doing is finding something new to do every year. The year before last I made my own advent calendar out of toilet paper rolls and Christmas wrapping paper (yeah, that took me forever). Every day, my oldest would pull out the slip of paper I had put in and do whatever activity was on it. And last year we did “The Minivan Express”. We did the whole shebang of tickets on the boys pillows, hot chocolate and popcorn in the van, Christmas music blaring as we drove around looking at Christmas lights, and we ended the night at our town’s Christmas tree to take pictures.

    So I do go a little overboard on some things, but not all. I am not a cookie baker. I can bake me some pies and cakes, but no cookies. It’s not so much that I can’t do it, it’s that I don’t like to do it. I don’t do tinsel and I don’t do gingerbread houses (I’ve been interested, but fear it will only lead to frustration. And plus I just don’t like the idea of old candy and icing sitting around the house).

  10. 10

    I’m with you on the Elf deal. It just requires more than I can muster up each day. We do a Christmas box that gets open each day with a simple activity that we do and a short reading. New this year is an Advent dinner on Sundays with the candles and a special reading.
    Lindsay@littlehousebigworld´s last blog post ..Embracing the silent, holy, calm, and bright this Christmas

  11. 11

    Love this. Btw, pre-fab gingerbread house = best invention ever! They are the only kind we will do now because the other kind…well, they make me curse!

  12. 12

    We definately do not do Elf on a shelf. Really? I hate cleaning as it is.
    The only Christmas thing we have to do is Christmas Eve with my extended family.
    This year we are focusing on family. Tonight we will go to my granddaughter preschool Christmas event which will be hysterical I am sure. Next Saturday we go to the church I grew up in annual Christmas Craft Fair for kids, we missed the last couple years and want to start that tradition back up.
    There will not be very much presents under the tree but there will be alot of new memories.


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