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020.JPGWhen my husband and I first married, our Christmases were always last minute things. We didn’t plan ahead. We’d brace ourselves, dash out to the mall and be swept up in the melee along with everyone else. We were young and had lots of energy, so we didn’t mind.

The kids came along, and things changed. I quit work and stayed home while they were little, so money was tight. We had to budget money and time, which meant planning ahead. For a few years we wore ourselves and the kids out, dragging them from first one event to another, trying to make sure they visited with both sides of the family, only to end up at home by nightfall, trying to have our Christmas with cranky toddlers who were tired and wanted to go to bed.

We made a conscious decision to change things. We began putting our time with the kids first before anything else. We started our own little traditions like watching a holiday show and having hot chocolate and popcorn, making ornaments or decorating the tree as a family. I bought inexpensive ornaments every year for them to mark the date and put on the tree. We had Christmas books and records we enjoyed.

We moved from the city to a small town. Christmas tree farms were popular. We made it a family thing to go out, cut down the tree and decorate it. For a week before school let out, I put small, inexpensive gifts under the tree every morning as an incentive to get the kids out of bed. “Look what Santa left last night!”

I made caramel corn, and we roasted peanuts. When they got old enough to buy presents, one of them always got my husband chocolate covered cherries and found me a new little Santa for my collection.

What’s funny is that out of all the memories, the ones they seem to hold most dear aren’t necessarily the years where they received the most gifts or got something they really wanted, but the little things we did. And it tells me something. Traditions like that are important. Now they have families of their own and I’m proud to say they have continued the Christmas traditions.