8 months ago

12 fun family Christmas tradition ideas

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories from childhood?

I’m guessing that if we could all sit, sip on some hot cocoa and share with one another, several of us would mention holiday traditions as some of our fondest memories.

Sitting around the fire. Attending Christmas Eve candlelight services. Reading The Night Before Christmas. Placing the star or angel on top of the Christmas tree. Visiting Santa. Eating turkey, dressing and mac-n-cheese until even our Christmas snuggie gets a little well, snug.

I’m getting so sentimental right now. It’s really weird (I know), but I can smell what my grandmother’s street smells like at Christmas if I close my eyes. Even now, in this moment, I smell burning embers from a neighbor’s fireplace mixed with warm apple pie. That’s how engrained the holiday traditions are from my childhood. Anyone else relate to that (potentially concerning) level of nostalgia?

Now that I’m a momma to two little ones, I want more than anything to create those same wonderful memories for them.

Speaking of traditions, in my quest to form some really fun ones in our family, I wanted to share some that I discovered in hopes it will help you out if you are looking for some, too:

***(Some of these might be a little late to do this year, but it’s never too soon to start planning for next Christmas)

(1) Hand-make an ornament each year as a keepsake and 3-D memory! – This could be as simple as cutting a wreath form out of some green construction paper and writing your name on the back. Each year as you unpack all of the Christmas ornaments, you will have special treasures just waiting for you to discover!  It is also fun to watch as a child’s artwork changes over the years.

(2) Giving project – Did you know that in December, Children’s Hospital hosts a “Sugar Plum Shop” for all of the children who are patients in the hospital near Christmas? Each family is able to visit the Sugar Plum Shop, select gifts for their children (even children who are not patients of the hospital!) and provide them incredible Christmases. This is such a beautiful and important tradition. You can volunteer your time, gifts or funding to this organization to help them continue to bring smiles to the precious children spending their time getting well over the holidays.

Of course, this is just one example of the many ways we can get involved during the holidays. Women’s shelters need food/gifts, homeless shelters need volunteers and schools are always looking for ways to give families an extra helping hand during the season. Churches typically maintain ongoing lists of needs in the community if you are looking for even more specific recommendations.

Adding a giving project to our yearly traditions is a way to remind our little ones (and ourselves) of the requirement and importance of sharing our blessings with others.

(3) Gingerbread memory book – A few years ago, my grandmother and I started a tradition of making gingerbread houses a couple weeks before Christmas. Since gingerbread houses are not permanent (just imagine the vermin that would invade your house looking for that bad boy at the first sight of Spring!), we decided to capture our memories in the form of a scrapbook. Each year, we make gingerbread houses and then catalog the photos in a big scrapbook.  It is already such a joy to look back at those special moments together!

(4) Cookie decorating – This is a tradition that can also be used as a service project. Consider packaging up some of your homemade deliciousness and taking a box to an elderly friend, or someone who may not have family at Christmas. A fun activity for you that your family could turn into such a blessing for someone else.

(5) Record your yearly family highlights – Each year, sit down with some hot cocoa and chat with your family about all the things you did that year.  Where did you go on vacation? Who was born? Who got married? What fun activities did you do? Did someone graduate? List it all on a piece of cardstock and begin a Family History Scrapbook. It will become one of the most fun traditions and best ways to preserve your memories as a family! Plus, how sweet will it be years down the road to pull out your memory book and relive all the magic!

(6) Pajama/Christmas light night – OK. This is one of my favorite ideas! Get the family matching pajamas (or not … depends on how fun you wanna make this tradition), whip up some hot cocoa or cider and pile into the family vehicle. Then, spend the evening driving around, listening to Christmas music and scouting out all the beautiful decorations in your town!

(7) Write a letter to your children – Each year, choose a day close to Christmas (or even Christmas night). Sit down somewhere quiet and write a letter to each of your children. Share stories about them from the year, from Christmas and offer some encouragement for their future. Then, when they are 18, combine all of your letters in a book, and gift it to them on Christmas morning. Not only will this be their favorite gift (maybe ever) but it will be something they can return to often.

(8) Operation wise men/women  – Christmas Shopping for others! Consider taking your children to a store to purchase three small gifts for other children. These gifts could be for some of their friends or children they’ve never met in need of some extra love. These gifts can be very inexpensive (think Dollar Tree, etc.); it’s the thought that counts. When you get home, allow them to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree. Over the next few days, allow them to take the presents to the children or tell them the story of when the child received their gift.

The importance of giving is a concept that can easily get lost in the shuffle at Christmas time (especially for young children). So, instilling the value of giving early and remembering to treat others is a great way to mold their character early on. These memories will stay with them forever!

(9) Advent – For each day in December, wrap up a Bible verse or encouraging message. Sit as a family and open the package together. Discuss the meaning and pray together. This tradition is strategic for laser-focusing the attention to the true meaning, while still involving the fun past time of opening a gift. Regardless of whether or not you are on a faith journey, you can take some time to yourself during the season to rest and rejuvenate. Take advantage of those extra off days from work to restore your soul!

(10) 12 Days of Christmas scavenger hunt – Beginning on December 13 each year, hide small gifts throughout your home and provide clues for finding the presents. You could even switch off the “hider” of the gifts each day. These are meant to be small presents (think: Dollar Store, etc.) to build up excitement for the big day!

(11) Family appreciation craft – Get each family member to write down on a decorative piece of paper something they love, something funny or an encouraging thought about every other family member. Collect each family member’s messages and compile them on a fun ring for them to read.

(12) Happy Birthday, Jesus! birthday party – This has become my family’s favorite tradition! My kids almost get more excited about singing “Happy Birthday!” to Jesus (and equally giddy about gobbling up his delish birthday cake) than they do the gifts laying in the floor behind them. Hosting a small birthday party is an excellent way of putting the birth of Jesus in central focus and on a child’s level.

Funny side story: After we sang the birthday song and began to pass the cake around last year, one of my daughters came to me with a concerned look on her face. She certainly got my attention when she whispered: “Mommy, why didn’t Jesus show up for His birthday party? Did you forget to send Him an invite…?!?!” Oh, the joys of tiny tots. Needless to say, it was a perfect opportunity to begin explaining the whole life of Jesus, not just the tiny babe in a manger.

I love all of these meaningful traditions where the family all gets involved.  This one is another that your children will be able to look back and reflect on all year long.

What are some of your favorite family Christmas traditions?  Please share in the comments for others to see!

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

37 mins ago

Ivey allots $26M to help stabilize farmers and cattle producers

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday allocated $26 million to help stabilize businesses in the state’s agriculture industry.

The funds will establish the Alabama Agriculture Stabilization Program, which will be administered by the Department of Agriculture and Industries under the leadership of Commissioner Rick Pate.

Ivey’s apportioning of the $26 million comes out of the $1.9 billion Alabama was given as part of the federal government’s CARES Act that was passed in March with the goal of helping the country get through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19, numerous farms and processing facilities have struggled to remain open and sell their products,” Ivey said in a statement on Wednesday.


“Establishing the Alabama Agriculture Stabilization Program is not only the right thing to do to protect our farmers, but it also key to stabilizing Alabama’s economy,” she continued.

The Stabilization Program will split the money among seven categories.

Those categories, per the governor’s office, as follows:

1. Direct Payment Business Stabilization Grants to Cattle Producers- $10.5 million
2. Meat Processing Plant Reimbursement Program- $1.5 million
3. Poultry Farmer Stabilization Grant Program- $4 million
4. Catfish Processor Reimbursement Program- $500,000
5. Fruit & Vegetable Processor Reimbursement Program- $500,000
6. State Supplemental CFAP Grant Program- $8 million
7. Nursery Grower Reimbursement Program- $1 million

“I want to thank Governor Ivey for her continued support of Alabama agriculture and for providing much needed assistance to farmers and processors adversely effected by COVID-19,” remarked Pate.

The specifics on how farmers may apply for the assistance are not yet available.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said on Wednesday that ALFA “will continue to work closely with Commissioner Pate and the Department of Revenue to provide details on how to apply for assistance as soon as they become available.”

“We appreciate Gov. Ivey and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate working with our members and other stakeholders to assess losses resulting from market disruption and identify urgent needs for stabilizing Alabama’s agricultural economy,” added Parnell.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

1 hour ago

Documentary shows Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as model of excellence for rest of nation

A documentary film being released digitally this week focuses heavily on the State of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program as an example of sterling quality that other states should emulate.

The film, titled “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America,” lasts about one hour, and over half of the running time is devoted to extolling the virtues of Alabama’s Pre-K program.

The film was funded by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation and produced in partnership with FireStarter Interactive. It is designed to lay out the positive effects of investing in early childhood education.

“Alabama is one of the shining stars, not only in the southeast, but in the country,” says Joe Squires, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) around the midpoint of the movie.


Starting at Zero features footage of Governor Kay Ivey and extended testimonials from former Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross, former Business Council of Alabama Chairman Jeff Coleman and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

Many other Alabamians affiliated with the First Class Pre-K program are also featured, including students, parents, teachers, and employees of the Department of Early Childhood Education.

Multiple individuals featured spoke to how investing in early childhood education is not just the morally right thing to do, but is also the best thing to help the economy.

“Children who have the benefit of quality pre-k education are better prepared for a future education,” remarks Canfield in the movie, adding that good pre-k puts children on a path to be capable members of Alabama’s workforce which is currently on track for a shortage of qualified workers.

First Class Pre-K has long been one of the Yellowhammer State’s most lauded policy accomplishments.

(Starting at Zero/Screenshot/Contributed)

“Alabama is a model for what other states can emulate,” Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) says near the end of the documentary.

Bullock details in the picture how he invited then-Secretary Ross to Montana to inform the key policymakers in his state how Alabama had built such an enviable program.

“Our children are our future, and what we do as a state today will determine who we are as a state tomorrow,” says Ivey in the documentary.

More information on the movie, including how to view it, can be found on the film’s website.


Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

1 hour ago

Jack’s offering free coffee to teachers August 17–21 — ‘A small way we hope to say thank you’

Jack’s Family Restaurants is celebrating teachers as they kick off the 2020 school year by offering free coffee at all of its locations from August 17–21.

According to a release, all teachers can receive their free coffee from Jack’s, in the drive-thru or in the restaurant, Monday through Friday until 9:00 a.m. with a valid school ID.

No purchase is necessary to redeem the offer, and teachers can choose between a hot or iced regular-sized coffee, limit one per guest.

“Being a good neighbor and supporting the communities we serve is part of the Jack’s DNA,” stated Jack’s CEO Todd Bartmess.


“Offering free coffee to our hardworking teachers as they kick off an unusual school year is a small way we hope to say ‘thank you’ for everything they do,” he added.

Founded in 1960 in Homewood, Alabama, Jack’s Family Restaurants started as Jack’s Hamburgers in a walk-up hamburger stand that served burgers, fries, sodas and shakes.

The chain over the past 60 years has grown to almost 200 locations in four states across the South.

This is merely the latest in a long line of examples of Jack’s continuing to support its local communities as the chain grows.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Michael Jordan speaks to Univ. of Alabama football team — ‘Winning has a price’

Basketball legend Michael Jordan on Tuesday spoke via video conference to the University of Alabama football team.

The program, led by head coach Nick Saban, routinely has some of the most successful, well-known athletes and leaders from across the nation address the team each summer in preparation for the fall season.

Previous examples reported by Yellowhammer News include the late Kobe Bryant, as well as speakers from the business and political sectors such as world-famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Alabama Athletics shared a one-minute video clip from Jordan’s virtual visit. Players seen in the video were socially distanced and wearing masks at the team facility.


“This guy — I have the most respect for, of anybody, as a competitor. This guy is a great competitor,” Saban said introducing Jordan to the team.

The Crimson Tide coach also praised Jordan in recent months during the premier of the popular 10-part documentary “The Last Dance.”

Jordan spoke to the team on Tuesday about what it takes to be a champion.

“Winning has a price,” the six-time NBA champion said. “You have to put forth the effort every single day.”

“Coaching can only give you the motivation — they can give you plays and they can give you all that — but at the end of the day, you’ve got to have self-determination. You have to want to be the best,” Jordan advised.

He added, “If you’re all on the same page and everybody wants to win, that’s the whole process. If you guys are sitting there putting on that Alabama uniform, your attitude is about winning. Winning is a part of me. I will do anything to win. Your energy should be towards winning.”


Alabama Football also shared this famous quote from Jordan in a tweet: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

The program, led by its players with support from the staff and administration, are currently trying to save the 2020 fall college football season.

RELATED: Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Alabama’s small business community needs Congress’ support

Affordable health care has long been a cause of concern for small business across our country with the cost of coverage has consistently ranked at the top of small business owners’ concerns. And now, amid a global health crisis, health coverage is more important than ever. As someone with years of experience working in the healthcare industry and alongside businesses, I have seen firsthand how the small business community faces unique challenges when it comes to employer-sponsored benefits.

There is no doubt that each employer wants to give employees the best benefits possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes small businesses competitive, attracting a more skilled workforce and helping to keep employees healthy. However, the large majority of small business owners run on extremely small margins, and as health care costs continue to rise, it is even more difficult to provide employees with quality health care coverage.


Alabama is known for our friendly small business community, inviting many small employers to plant their roots in the Yellowhammer State. This is why we’re proud to have over 380,000 small businesses that employ over 765,000 of our state’s residents. Small businesses are, and always have been, the backbone of our economy. Alabama laws historically promote competition and small business growth but despite this, we still need our federal lawmakers to support us, especially at a time when businesses are struggling.

Today, with the pandemic continuing to spread across our state, small business owners are struggling to stay in business, and they are bracing for the full financial impacts of COVID-19. It is a devastating situation to be in and our small business community cannot survive on its own.

Fortunately, we have very dedicated small business champions in Washington, D.C. who have been working tirelessly to ensure any federal COVID-19 relief includes small businesses.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Senator Doug Jones and Congresswoman Terri Sewell supported bipartisan legislation that in 2019 repealed an Obamacare tax known as the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). This erroneous tax increased the price of health insurance for small business owners. Now we need them to further continue that work and work to implement policies that will continue to lower the cost of health care for small business owners, their employees, and their families, especially at a time when having health care is so crucial. A healthy workforce that is ready, and able, to get back to work is vital to our state, and country’s economic recovery.

Small business owners want to continue to provide health care for their employees, but they need Congress’ help to do so. I ask that our elected officials continue to come together to support Alabama’s small business community, especially when it comes to lowering health care costs and making health care more affordable — both as we continue to overcome COVID-19 and long beyond.

Curtis Cannon is a Managing Partner at Axis Recovery and has over 15 years of experience working with health insurance companies, brokers and consulting firms.