Monday, December 14, 2020

Not Just a Mom: Holiday Traditions

 Good morning friends!! Today we are doing our last monthly Not Just a Mom post for 2020. In some ways this year has crawled by, and in other ways it has absolutely flown by. Would you agree? Here are the topics we covered this year:

and today we are looking at our special holiday traditions! 

Two years ago I wrote a post about our holiday traditions, and honestly not much has changed since then. Just the kids who are participating in the family traditions look a little older (or weren't born yet!). Here's a look at what our family like to do to celebrate the holidays:

1. Christmas Lights-- we love to drive around and look at other people's Christmas lights/inflatables. The kids especially love the inflatables-- and so do Devin and I! I think they're so fun, and not to mention an incredibly easy way to make your yard look festive. So far this year we have driven around to look at lights 3 nights after dinner. We usually do one big night where we go somewhere special for lights. 

The places near us that go big for lights are Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, McAdenville, and the US National Whitewater Center. We've been to almost all of them and they're all great! The Speedway is fun because there are so many lights to drive through and see, and they usually have a petting zoo and Christmas Market set up. 

2. Go See A Christmas Play-- Devin grew up going to see the Nutcracker every year with his family and I grew up going to see A Christmas Carol. We want to keep that tradition so our kids have those same fun memories. I don't know that we need to see the same play every year, but I'd like for us to go see something together. One of our local playhouses is doing a live stream of "It's A Wonderful Life" this year, which may be our best bet since we can't go in person. To be perfectly honest, I don't think either kid is at an age yet where they are able to sit through a whole play anyway.. so live stream is actually perfect for this year! We are planning to get all dressed up anyway, have a "nice" dinner at home, and then "go to the play". We'll see how it goes 😉

3. Bake and Decorate Christmas Cookies-- Every year I beat myself up over not getting my grandma's sugar cookie recipe before she passed away. Making cookies with her was my favorite holiday tradition when I was growing up!! If you have a family recipe you love-- go make sure you have that recipe written down somewhere safe! Anyway, we don't have my grandma's original recipe anymore, but Lily Grace and I like to bake and decorate Christmas cookies. Liam and Devin are the official taste testers 😊 We use Rachel Parcell's family recipe and they are soo good! This year we just used store bought frosting because it was easier and the kids don't care anyway!

4. Homemade Ornaments-- My parents Christmas tree is still full of the homemade ornaments we made as kids. I love it! I love that my mom has kept them and that we get to see them each year. When my kids were super tiny I had them make handprint ornaments, but this year their hands were too big! We made ornaments using their pictures this year instead-- I'm sharing them on Wednesday so make sure you come back to check them out!

5. Christmas Eve Pajamas/Books-- Every year on Christmas Eve each family member gets a new set of pajamas and a brand new book to read. You are not allowed to pick out your own book, but a family member has to take the time to get to know what you'd like to read and buy it for you. I usually buy the kids books myself and then one child goes with one parent to buy the other parent's book. This year Devin and Lily Grace went to the bookstore to buy my book together, and Liam went with me to buy Devin's. On Christmas Eve we open them up, snuggle up together on the couch and read our new books together. I love this tradition so much!

Look how tiny they were!! Sweet Liam was not even 3 months old here! He had hardly any of that red hair we love so much 😍

6. Meeting Santa-- Usually we make a reservation at the mall to meet Santa. This year is going to look a little bit different! We are fortunate enough to have a close friend who offered to dress up as Santa for our kids so they wouldn't have to miss out. I mean how sweet is that? The plan is to meet Santa this coming Saturday. I cannot wait!

This picture is from Pinterest, but shows you the idea behind kalenderlys.

7. Kalenderlys-- Prior to COVID Devin and I used to do quite a bit of traveling. Two years ago we went to Amsterdam in the fall and both fell in love with the Netherlands and Dutch culture. While there, we stumbled across a Dutch Christmas tradition called Kalenderlys. It's basically a candle version of an Advent calendar. There are different ways to do them: you can have one big wide candle, one skinny taper candle, or 24 small candles and light one each day. The concept is that while the family is sitting down for a meal together during the Advent season, they light the candle and watch it burn down to the next number, or day represented by the candle. I made this one two years ago:

and while it looked beautiful on our table throughout the Christmas season, it took foreverrrrrr to burn down to the next number. Much longer than it took us to eat a meal together as a family. So we would walk away from the table leaving the candle lit in order to let it go down to the next number.. only to completely forget about it and come back to it having melted down like 3-4 days worth 😳😂. Last year I forgot to make one (I blame having a newborn and forgetful mom brain), but this year we have started it back up! I decided this year to go with the thin taper candle because it burns much faster. 
I took this pic in portrait mode not realizing it made the numbers blurry, but I promise they aren't blurry in person-- sorry!
I saw this picture on Pinterest too and thought it was adorable! I love the idea of one candle per day, then the kids can easily see how many days are left. We have a friend who is a talented carpenter that I may ask to make one of these for us for future years. It would make a beautiful table centerpiece.

We also have these book Advent calendars for the kids and they are LOVING them! Liam gets excited when he sees his and says "book! book!". He doesn't sit long enough to listen to the stories, but his sister does and I will keep them for future years. Maybe next year he will be able to sit long enough?

We HAD a chocolate Advent calendar.. but one morning at 6 am Lily Grace snuck into the kitchen and ate almost the whole thing. That little stinker!! 😂

The date was December 3rd, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the Advent calendar-- haha!! 

So those are the traditions we celebrate in the Darrell house each year. It's fun to see how even though the traditions haven't changed, the kids sure have. 

Next year our monthly link up is going to be a little different-- two of our hosts from 2020 were not able to join us for Not Just a Mom 2021. While Ashley and Sarita will definitely be missed, we are also excited to announce that we have some new friends joining us in 2021!! Here's a look at who will be joining us next year:

I am really looking forward to NJAM 2021 with these wonderful women! Here's a look at the topics for 2021:

Thanks for reading along today. Don't forget to link up with us if you blogged along with the theme!

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See you back here on Wednesday for some homemade ornament ideas, including pictures of what we made this year!


  1. I love your families’ traditions!! Lily Grace and her cookie is just adorable!! I hope you, and your family has the best start to your week!

  2. We went to our local light display but we couldn't get the music to come through the radio! That was frustrating. Love your traditions!

  3. So many fun things, I love seeing the different things that people do. That light show at the motorway looks awesome. My parents have been to Charlotte a couple of times, they like Nascar and my dad even got to drive a car.

    1. Ahhh I got to ride along in one of the cars once! It's normally not my thing, but that ride along was a blast!

  4. I'm still DYING over Lily eating all the advent chocolate LOL!

  5. I think it is a riot that Lily Grace ate all the advent chocolate! I wish we had more places around us that did lights up big-- especially ones we could drive through.

    1. Such a little stinker! Maybe you need to become the people who put the lights up ;)

  6. I'll miss you all too! I'll join when I can. My little one did that advent calendar demolishing when she was little as well LOL. LOve that candle tradition!

  7. I love the idea of going to see a play every year. I took my oldest to see a local small ballet of the Nutcracker she was not a fan of it. I want to take her again to see a larger ballet version in hopes she will like it.