How to Have An Old Fashioned Family Christmas!
These days Christmas can become very busy, very stressful and very commercialized. If you find yourself longing for a time when Christmas was quieter, simpler, and perhaps held more focus on what is truly important, then this year, you might want to observe some of these Old Fashioned Christmas Traditions!
- Have a Real Christmas Tree!My research tells me that the tradition of decorating Christmas trees started in Germany around the 16th Century.Today most people have artificial trees but When I was a little girl there used to be Christmas Tree Lots on every corner. I have so many sweet memories of going with my family each year to pick out the perfect tree. We always had to find a pinion pine because we knew that kind would fill our house with “Christmas Tree Smell!” I remember my dad holding them out so we could look all around and make sure the tree didn’t have any bare spots. I can still remember the joy I felt wandering through the rows of trees on the lot, in and out and around – tromping through the snow and just having fun with my family!
You can bring an old fashioned Christmas feeling to your home by having a real Christmas tree! Take a family outing to a Christmas Tree Lot to find the perfect one and build some sweet memories of your own!
If you are really ambitious, and want to be even more old fashioned, you can obtain a permit from the Forest Service or appropriate government agency and take the family to the forest to choose and cut the perfect Christmas tree.
- Use Old Fashioned Decorations on Your Tree
Pop some corn and thread it onto a string to make popcorn garlands for your tree. You can do the same thing with cranberries to make a fragrant and festive garland of red. Make a paper chain garland to add lots of color to your trees. Your local thrift store might just have some vintage Christmas ornaments that will add lots of old time charm (The horse drawn sleigh ornament in the featured image is a treasured inheritance from my father’s childhood Christmas tree in the 1920s). Hang candy canes on your tree and make your own ornaments with the kids using paper, glue and glitter and things from nature.
- Sing Old Time Christmas Carols
Silent Night is one of the most popular Christmas Carols of all time. It was written in 1818 in Germany by Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber composed the music. Other familar carols from around the 19th century or before are Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, Hark the Herald Angels, and The First Noel. Print out copies of the lyrics and have a family sing along or go caroling through your neighborhood or just find them on a CD and play them in your home and car throughout the Christmas season.
- Read the Story/Poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”
The story was first published anonymously in the New York Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823 under the title “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” I memorized the story as a kid just because I wanted to and I can still recite it pretty accurately. It has become a classic and kids still love it today as much as they did when it was first introduced almost 200 years ago.
- Read the Classic Short Story “A Christmas Carol.”
Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. It is a touching story about the true meaning of Christmas. I like to use this with my school kids and my oldest daughter, Hillori likes to collect movie versions of the story. She has everything from “The Muppet’s Christmas Carol” to more traditional “true to the original” versions of the story.
- Attend “The Nutcracker Ballet”
I attended the ballet two or three times as a young girl and I loved it! Every year I want to go again, but Christmas time seems to bring so many other things that I need to spend my money on, that I haven’t been able to attend as an adult. Russian composer Peter Tchaikosvsky wrote the music in the early 1890s,
Ivan Vsevolozhsky and Marius Petipa adapted the story for the ballet, and Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov choreographed the dances. The Nutcracker was performed for the very first time at The Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 18th, 1892.
Your kids will love this ballet, especially if you have any little aspiring dancers in the family!
- Send Christmas Cards by (Snail) Mail
The first Christmas cards were created in the UK in 1843 by government worker Sir Henry Cole. Together with his friend, artist, John Horsley they created and sold the first cards. A few years later when Christmas Cards came to the US, many people couldn’t afford them and so would often make their own.
I remember helping my mom with her Christmas cards every year, going down her list and addressing each card and checking them off in the “sent” column. Then each day we’d anxiously watch for the mail to come, open the cards she’d received in return, check them off in the “received” column and hang them together in a pretty holiday display.
Sending Christmas Cards is a fun thing to do as a family. In an updated version of this tradition, families take annual family photos that they then design into a card. You can still find boxed sets of card if you look or making homemade cards as a family is a wonderful old fashioned Christmas tradition idea!
- Hang Christmas Stockings and Fill Them With Old Fashioned Treats
Hanging Christmas Stockings from the mantel for Santa to fill with treats and gifts is an old time tradition in many countries around the world. It’s not known precisely when the tradition started, but it has been a practice in the US since the early 19th century and maybe even much earlier.
I remember as a little girl, I would receive nuts, oranges and quarters in stockings, because those were the things my parents had received in their stockings when they were children. I loved those gifts, I really did, but I do remember thinking them to be just a bit odd. I even sometimes (but not always) gave them to my children. As an adult I like to think how these treats held a different value for my parents than they did for me and certainly than they would hold for the children in modern times.
Transportation and refrigeration advances made citrus fruit widely available in the late 1890s. My parents were born in the early 1920s so citrus fruit was still a rather new commodity to their families and therefore valuable. The value of a quarter was definitely greater when I was a child than it is now (sometimes I would get a 50 cent piece!), and was of course all the more valuable when my parents were children. Putting these items in your children’s stockings can present a great opportunity to discuss history and the real value of things.
- Celebrate Christmas with Fruit Cake and Ribbon/Hard Candy
Ancient Romans were the first to make a sort of “fruitcake,” but fruitcake more like what we know today dates back to the Middle Ages. We didn’t have much fruitcake around for the holidays when I was a kid, but every Christmas we would go to visit my Aunt Murel. The things I remember about my Aunt Murel (other than what a sweet lady she was) are that she would always kiss you on the lips when you went to visit her, she had some kind of condition that made her blink her eyes all the time, every visit she would offer us “sody water” and at Christmastime she would always offer us fruitcake!
Hard candy on the other hand was plentiful in my childhood home! We always had a dishful around for the holidays. The story goes that in the early 1670s a cathedral choirmaster created sugary sticks to keep the kids quiet in church. Through the years hard candy has been made into ribbons, disks, canes and many other shapes.
The candy cane, which was once white, somewhere along the line began being adorned with red stripes. Today the candy cane has become a popular icon of the Christmas holiday! I have a cute Santa mug that I fill with Candy Canes each Christmas and my grandchildren love to choose from the assortment of canes that now come in every color of the rainbow!
- Go Sledding or on an Old Fashioned Sleigh Ride
I remember, that lying around the garage of my home as a child, there was an old fashioned sled like the one in the first picture below. I don’t really remember using it but I definitely remember it being there. Sometime through the years my dad must have tossed it, thinking of it as an old worn out, outdated piece of equipment. If I had that sled today I would consider it a treasured heirloom! But guess what? You can still buy an old fashioned sled like that today. Curious, I googled it and found several companies that offer them for sale.
A sleigh ride in a horse drawn carriage is also a fun old time tradition. Our city and one of the local businesses offer rides to view the local Christmas lights display. Find one in your area and take the whole family for a truly old fashioned Christmas experience! (And sing “Jingle Bells,” written by James Lord Pierpont in 1850s)!
- Enjoy an Old Fashioned Family Christmas!
If you have additional ideas that I didn’t think of, please let me know in the comments. Also, if I got any of my history wrong please let me know. I checked several references and tried to keep it to simple names and dates for the most part.
So that is my list of fun ways to enjoy an Old Fashioned Family Christmas!
I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays!!