christmas traditions

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i am grateful that christmas comes every single year. each december i get some stress bubbling up in my gut as i think about alllll the fun and festive and special things i want to experience and share during the holiday season. and then i remember there really always is next year.

there's such an abundance of worthwhile and wonderful things to do this time of year, and my intense love for christmas along with my stalwart loyalty to traditions makes the holiday season full to overflowing. this year (mostly because of my travel to the states right before the big day) i've forced myself to pare down and simplify and cut out. and just look forward to many more christmases to come! i have a feeling that with our kids growing up, it's only going to get better in the future.

today i wanted to share some photos i've snapped of spectacular london christmastime and a list of christmas traditions that we usually observe and totally love. some i've made sure to make happen no matter what, and some i've chosen to forgo this year with excited anticipation for next year. ian and i are excited to continue to let our family traditions evolve as our family grows up.

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traditions i just could not pass up doing this year...

  • pick out our own, real live christmas tree, string white lights up and down each bow, and decorate with ornaments handed down from both my and ian's childhoods
  • make a gingerbread house from scratch (this is one ian had growing up that we've adopted in our own family)
  • new christmas pajamas for the kids - this year we decided we are going to give them as gifts on december first
  • fill in our advent calendar with a new ornament opened each day (ian's mom made us an exact replica of the one he and his siblings loved growing up!)
  • visit santa! (growing up we wrote letters to santa and santa always responded. i'm excited to do this with my kids probably starting next year - when moses really understands. this was a great learning experience for me as a child - we were encouraged to not just tell santa what we wanted for christmas, but rather to ask him questions about life at the north pole and offer profuse gratitude for all the wonderful things he had brought us in the past!)
  • have a breakfast-food celebration for saint lucia day on 13 december
  • go on a date night to a festive dinner and to see light displays
  • send christmas cards
  • host a white elephant gift exchange party (this year we did this with ian's coworkers)
  • do a family service project
  • donate money we have saved up/earmarked throughout the year to a worthwhile cause that we have taken the time to really learn about
  • take a trip to a festive location (our first year in london we did a big german christmas markets road trip, the next year we went to copenhagen, last year we went to brussels/belgium, and this year we are going to cologne, germany. next year we plan to stay in england and visit a bunch of national trust sites!)

    on christmas eve: 
  • have a "jerusalem supper" - we eat middle eastern food by candlelight and talk about what the last meal that mary and joseph had before they headed off to bethlehem must have been like (my family did this growing up, but we also dressed up and "went into character" - someone was mary, joseph, elizabeth, zacharias, a shepherd friend, etc etc.). we usually invite friends that otherwise may be lonely on christmas eve to join us in our home for this meal. 
  • light our german nativity pyramid, read luke 2 and sing carols ("away in a manger" and "in a little stable")
  • leave out cookies for santa and carrots for his reindeer!

    on christmas day:
  • open stockings in bedrooms first thing (santa brings stuffed stockings into bedrooms in our family)
  • open presents and don't clean up the wrapping paper until the afternoon (there's just something so happy about that mess!) 
  • have eggs benedict and orange juice for breakfast
  • go to a church service (we like to visit a different church every year. since moving to london we have been wowed by services at st. martin's in the field, westminister abbey, and st. paul's cathedral. this year we will go to a local church in our neighborhood.)
  • go on a bike ride
  • have pizza for lunch/dinner (those meals kind of bleed together on christmas!) 
  • make and enjoy a birthday cake after singing happy birthday to jesus! :) 

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traditions we do pretty much every year but are passing on this year...

  • go to the nutcracker
  • make a yule log for christmas eve desert (here's the recipe i use)
  • visit a fun light display event (we have done christmas at kew and the chiswick magical lantern festival in the past)
  • make and deliver cookies to our neighbors 
  • have friends (usually the primary children in our ward!) over for a sugar cookie decorating party
  • participate in the live nativity at the hyde park chapel visitors' centre

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i'd love to hear about your favourite christmas traditions! tell me about them in a comment!

happy christmastime to all!!!


  1. I love your list! Although I've been to London many times, I've never seen it in it's Christmas glory and these pictures are making me want to! My favorite traditions are our "kick-off to Christmas party"- we decorate the tree, the kids unwrap their new jammies, and then we snuggle up to a Christmas movie and hot chocolate together. My other is doing little acts of service every day leading up to Christmas. We started this before "light the world" was even a thing, and it's the most beautiful way to bring Christ into our every single day of celebrating. A lot of our service activities are Christmas themed (lots of christmas treats made for various people, the mailman, fire station, primary teachers, someone lonely, a widow, etc.), they make homemade cards for the missionaries in our ward and for their great-grandparents. Donate food. Open doors for everyone at church. Invite a family of kids over for the whole afternoon so their mom can have a break. My kids are still young, 1, 5, and 7 and besides my 1 year old- there are so many things these little ones can do. Sorry this is long- it's something I'm passionate about! Merry Christmas!

    1. love this so much! i'm excited for the years ahead when our kids are a little more aware of stuff like this, but we are doing some service activities with moses this year (it helps that joy school lessons are focused around service for the month of december!). i am so excited about our family service projects this year! that's really what it's all about and what makes christmas so special!
      thanks for sharing!


    1. you can fin d a list here:
      best of luck on your shoulder recovery! :)

  3. Will you also be having a birthday card for the Saviour on Christmas day? I think it's lovely when you do that.

    The pix of London at Christmas-time are amazing. If possible, please could you give some info on where each pic was taken?

    One tradition we have in our family is that we open about 3 pressies in the morning & the rest about 5.00 in the afternoon/evening. Even tho I spend Christmas day on my own I still do this & it feels so cosy with all the Christmas lights on.

    1. how could i have forgotten to put that in my list?? one of my favourite traditions. adding it in now :)
      most of the pictures in this post were taken around mayfair. the indoor pictures are from fortnum & mason.

  4. Being a Texan, at some point we partake in chili and tamales for a holiday meal. While it used to be on Christmas Eve it most often happens when we celebrate Christmas with my mom's extended family. We always aim to buy HOMEMADE tamales. They just taste better when filled with love! Also, we have a midnight snack/dinner on Christmas Eve after kiddos have gone to bed where we have wine and cheese and "grown up" snacks while playing santa (putting together the toys). Santa never has time to wrap so the gifts from him are always put together under the tree. And somewhere down the line, our kiddo decided Santa wanted puffy Cheetos as well cookies. So those are a must...

  5. We do “gifts to Jesus”, everyone writes down something they want to do or do better at that year, as a gift for Christ. Then we put them in a pretty box under the tree.

  6. These photos make my heart sooooooo happy. Please don't leave London until I can come visit you again at Christmas x


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