Ryan grew up with artificial trees (I can't call them fake since technically they are in the shape of a tree just not living). I grew up with real trees (or as Ryan would say, recently cut down trees). He let me have my real tree since I'm willing to fork over big bucks for a great artificial tree on sale after the holidays. See our real tree in the far right window of the house...beautiful!
I lived in Germany for a few years as a kid and every year we took part in the local traditions, like Advent Calenders. Our good neighbor's here in VA are from Germany and asked if we would let them get the kids Advent Calenders. Of course I said yes since I was planning on getting them some myself. It was extra special this year because the tradition was explained to them by Germans and I got it on video. J-Man is super excited to open his calender every day, as is his big sister.
Update: Another German tradition is a visit from St. Nicolas on December 6th, who leaves treats and toys in children's boots. Our home was visited this year and we were all pleasantly surprised.
Ryan's parents own this super ugly, green avocado colored, paper mache angel from the 1970s that they continue to use every year as their tree topper. Ryan would fight with his sister as to who would get to put the angel up, so his parents came up with, "One for show and one for keeps." Meaning, one child would put the angel up for show, it would come back down and the other child would put it back on the tree for keeps. Brilliant!! It switches every year so each child can put the angel on and there are no fights as to who's turn it is that year. We're going to have to do some serious calculations to figure out a way for all three of our kids to put the angel on and make it fun!
As far back as I can remember, my sister and I made Christmas cookies with our dad. Mom was never involved other than taking our pictures. This is something I'm continuing with my kids, although Ryan takes the pictures now. Justin got to help this year and I can't wait for Liam to help in a few more years.
The kids get to decorate the tree every year, with the help from mom and dad in the form of moving ornaments around the tree to even them out since they seem to get clustered at the bottom of the tree. This is something I always did and our kids enjoy putting the ornaments on so much I have to fight them off of the ornament box so they don't break anything!
This year the kids will open a new family game each and we'll play them both on Christmas Eve. We'll leave carrots out for the reindeer, and Daddy will read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in to the kids right before bed. Watching Olivia this year and Justin as well is such a blessing. Seeing the excitement in their eyes and joy on their faces is just wonderful. Some say you can spoil a child, but not at this time of year!
One family tradition that is brand new is Mr. Pop-In-Kins. He's a special Elf who pops in and out of the house watching the children's behavior. He then reports back to Santa on Christmas Eve with any and all naughty and nice acts the kids displayed. Olivia and Justin enjoy searching for him every morning. Watch out...he can't be touched or he loses his magic and must report back to the North Pole immediately to have it restored.