Strapped in her stroller, my 1-year-old watched in wonder as my husband and I put our tree together Sunday evening.
Then, he turned on the lights.
I couldn't get her out of the stroller fast enough. She wandered over to the tree, gazed up and down it, and started smiling.
Christmas season officially began at our home this weekend, and with it, we launched into our holiday traditions, from watching a holiday movie while we decorated the tree to making candy as gifts to opening the "countdown" calendar.
Traditions help ground children, build their sense of family and provide a feeling of security.
Plus, some of them are just darn fun to pass along year after year.
We started making truffles to give to neighbors and teachers three years ago, mainly because they looked easy and they looked so pretty in a magazine I saw. Now, my friends ask, "When are you making the truffles?"
It was a tradition I started, one I hope my daughter enjoys passing on to her kids. We've expanded it a bit, making candy, including chocolate pops.
Last year, we added an elf to our traditions. Yes, the Elf on a Shelf. I hesitated starting it so late in my children's "Santa" years, but it seemed fun.
When the elf didn't show up Dec. 1, the kids started to ask questions. I said, it wouldn't appear until our tree was up. Sure enough, Monday morning, the kids started looking for it.
(They haven't found it yet! It's up in the tree. I may have to give them a hint.)
It's not like elves haven't played a role in our holidays. For years, new PJs have appeared on the doorstep Christmas Eve, courtesy of the elves as a reminder to go to bed early.
Each year we also make a trip to Mesa for one neighborhood's "Candy Cane Lane" display (every house on the street is bedazzled in hundreds of lights).
And each year, we also "adopt" a family, and make purchases for them. After church Sunday, we did the shopping. My 6-year-old wanted to know where they were all going to sleep Christmas Eve in our house. I had to chuckle.
This year, I've started a new tradition, one I grew up with.
After we decorated the tree Sunday night, I gathered all the holiday-themed stuffed animals and set them up under the tree. We used to do this at my parents on Christmas Eve. I can't remember why, but to me, the tree looks much better with "friends" under it, waiting for Santa's arrival.
Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune