Starting Traditions

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If there's one time of the year that I'm happy to be an early parent, it's during the holidays. A time to see the lights, the Christmas trees, and the tacky blow-up reindeer through a long-forgotten perspective, and to remember when holidays weren't about obligations and chaos.

Justin and I typically aren't fans of tradition for the sake of tradition. We've always tended to see through the smoke screen; to ask "why?" more often than most.

Except, apparently, when it comes to starting our own traditions. And then we're all in.

So far we've established quite a few Christmas-time traditions in our cozy little three-person family.

Although Justin and I had quite a debate pre-Noah about how extensively we'd promote the idea of Santa Claus, it's firmly been established that Santa has a place in our home. And I was the one pushing for that. Mostly because I don't remember being disappointed, or even angry, when I found out that Santa didn't really exist. It made sense. In fact, it made me look more realistically, more analytically, at life from that point on. I learned to ask more questions and demand a logical answer, rather than blindly believing that an elderly man with questionable cholesterol breaks into our house every year via a non-existent chimney and accept cookies as payment. (But leaving the door unlocked? Unheard of.)

But what I do remember is lying awake every Christmas Eve, willing myself to hear distant sleigh bells. The energy bouncing around my moonlit bedroom.

How can I take that away from him?

Yet I'm surprised at the twinge of uncomfortableness I feel about Santa. We read about Santa, sing about Santa, recognize Santa, but he's just a character to him — much like Mickey Mouse or DJ Lance Rock. I've never explicitly said that Santa is a living, breathing person who will set foot in our house. Even though the child in me is all for believing in magic workshops and itty bitty elves, the parent in me is having some trouble with the lying. I've never brought him to sit on Santa's lap, I've never used Santa as a threat ("No peas? No Santa!"), and I feel this weird resistance that I'm trying to fight.

Does anyone else feel this way?

All things Santa aside, I still don't want to raise a materialistic child. And this child — the first grandchild, first great-grandchild, first nephew, first great-newphew, first son — isn't lacking in the materials. This child, who regularly has toys and clothes delivered to his doorstep via mommy's job, is no stranger to gifts.

So Santa brings three gifts every year: something to read, something to wear, and something to play with. Mommy and Daddy then buy one special present. Last year our special present was a play kitchen, and this year we bought him a dollhouse. (FYI: We bought it in a Cyber Monday sale.)

In case you're wondering, Santa is giving him these B.Toys Stackadoos as his something to play with, and this incredible Wizard of Oz scanimation book as his something to read. (We're undecided about the something to wear portion, and his stocking will most likely contain some little play figurines and a new Thomas train.)

Another tradition is weeding through his toys and donating them to less fortunate kids, which Noah was surprisingly willing to do this year. Although, to be honest, we do a lot of donating throughout the year, too.

Justin and I don't exchange presents. In fact, we never have — again, with the anti-tradition. Oh, except for last Christmas when Justin bought me a Nook Color and 3 hours worth of spa treatments, and I bought him...nothing. Because WE DON'T EXCHANGE GIFTS. I never knew it was possible to feel so excited, humiliated, and guilty all in the exact same moment.

We did start a tradition last year, though. We exchange an ornament that symbolizes the year for us — and nothing else. (Nothing else, Justin.) So that way we have an entire tree full of memories and milestones to look back on.

We couldn't make any final decisions on an advent calendar this year (although it wasn't for a lack of research), but I like the idea of doing something like this and filling each pouch with an ornament to hang each day. Or maybe with a craft or activity to do.

Do you have any unique holiday traditions? Are you anti-Santa? Pro-Santa? Weigh in!

Phototography: Nikki Addimando and Chris Grover; Photo Styling: Noah Horton