This post is part of the "How We Celebrate Christmas" -- a mini series showing how other families "do" Christmas. I hope you enjoy learning from other families as much as I have!
As always, this is not meant to stress us out or make us feel like we are doing Christmas wrong. Rather, my hope with this series is we can see that there are many RIGHT ways of celebrating. Hopefully some of these ideas will help you start your own meaningful family Christmas traditions.
Meet: Ashlyn and the Chugg Family
1. Tell us about your family!
My husband Kyle and I have three busy and active boys Derek(8), Dallas (4), and Cash (9 months). I LOVE Christmas. All of the excitement, anticipation, service, and focusing on the Savior truly make it the most wonderful time of the year. But to be honest this year has been a hard one for me. A good friend of mine gave me a framed quote "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful" so I am trying to apply that same wisdom with "Christmas doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
2. Tell us a favorite memory of Christmas past!
When I think of Christmas past, I think of Christmas while I was growing up. One of my favorite traditions was an annual adventure. We would gather with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles in Payson, Utah and cut down fresh Christmas trees. We spent hours wandering through the forest searching for the best tree that was just the right size. There were snowball fights, games of hide-and-seek, and my Grandma Polson always provided glazed donuts and hot chocolate.
Another favorite Christmas memory is: I always looked forward to one special present that was the last present to be opened on Christmas morning. Every year, my dad would buy a small sized gift for my mom and "hide" it in the tree. I thought I was pretty clever to spot the hidden present before my mom ever seemed to notice, not realizing that she was just playing along. We would be done opening all other gifts and still my heart was filled with anticipation for my mom to "find" and open that last special present. It taught me that giving is better than receiving.
3. How do gifts work in your home?
In our house Santa brings each person one unwrapped gift and fills stockings with an apple, orange, holiday treats, and sometimes a small toy. Last year Santa put indoor snowballs in the boys stockings and we have played with them all year long.
4. If married, do you and your spouse exchange gifts? What about sibling gifts?
In my little family we all buy presents for each other. I have a special outing with each child to go shopping and purchase gifts. I try to help them think about each person, their needs, and something that would make them happy.
5. What special Christmas Eve traditions does your family have?
On Christmas Eve we always meet my side of the family for lunch and bowling. We sing and dance to the Christmas music being played and excitedly talk about the festivities. In the evening we go to my husband's parents house and have dinner and play games. Then when we are home with our little family we put out our stockings, cornflake treats and eggnog for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. I love to tuck in each child and soak in the Christmas magic that they exude.
6. What special Christmas Morning traditions does your family have?
When I was growing up my mom would make Christmas breakfast casserole for us to eat before we could see or open any gifts. It made the anticipation all the more real and my mom says it was the best way to have us eat a good meal. We of course always ate all of our food very quickly! We don't do that in my household (yet) but when the kids wake up they come into our room and I or my husband go "check to see if Santa came" Then, together, we all go see everyone's unwrapped gift from Santa and look through our stockings. We take turns passing out presents to each other and watch each gift being opened.
7. Do you have any favorite holiday recipes that make an appearance each year?
Cornflake Holly Berry Treats
- 4 cups of cornflakes
- 1 cube butter
- 10 oz bag of marshmallows
- 1 tsp. green food coloring
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Red Hots
Warm butter and marshmallows until melted. Add food coloring and vanilla, stir. Add cornflakes and spoon onto wax paper and add 3 red hots while still wet to look like holly berries! Let cool.
Christmas Breakfast Casserole
- 1 lb of cooked maple sausage
- 6 potatoes peeled, diced, and cooked
- 16 eggs
- grated cheese
- pepper to taste
On the stovetop combine half of the cooked sausage and half of the cooked potatoes and 8 scrambled but uncooked eggs. Heat and stir until eggs are cooked. Add cheese and pepper according to taste. Repeat process with other half. Butter 9x11 pan and fill with casserole. At this point you can either warm the casserole in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or refrigerate it overnight and cook in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes the next day.
8. Do you have any Christ-centered Christmas traditions you want to share?
I always look forward to seeing the lights and nativity set on Temple Square and especially the Christus. I have 7 different nativities in my house which makes up the majority of my Christmas decor and a beautiful piece of art by Gaye Frances Willard that portrays a sacred image of Santa bowing to baby Jesus. Reading Luke 2 is my favorite way to remember the first Christmas and true meaning. I try to find teaching moments throughout the season to talk about Jesus, His love, and His example of service and emphasize why we truly celebrate and how the glorious events of Christ's birth give each of our lives meaning and hope.
9. What are some ways you have simplified Christmas to keep stress lower?
In my neighborhood we have forgone gifts for each other and instead donate to the local food bank or any charitable cause. It has made the holiday more meaningful by giving to those less fortunate.
10. Any other favorite Christmas memories/ideas/tips you want to share? We love hearing how others make their season magical but not overwhelming!
I actually love the hustle and bustle of the season. I try to fit in a fun Christmas family activity as often as possible but it just depends on timing and how often "possible" is. This year for the first time we went on The North Pole Express, a ninety minute train ride with elves, yummy hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, caroling, and a visit from Santa. It was magical. I think the yearly activities will vary depending on kids ages, family circumstances, and needs. The most important part is the memory of spending time together and the feeling of love.
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is giving gifts, thoughtful and sentimental gifts. This past year my mom moved to a different house because it became too much for her to take care of after my dad passed away. I found the amazing @linesbyash (on Instagram and etsy) to do a custom drawing of my childhood home and I am so excited to gift the prints to my mom and siblings.
Ashlyn runs The Paul Moore Foundation , an organization that helps reduce the financial burden when a parent has a terminal illness. You can follow The Paul Moore Foundation on Facebook here on Instagram here
Thanks so much Ashlyn for sharing your Christmas thoughts with us!!
Want more? You can find all the other "How We Celebrate" posts right here! There are so many real, good ideas you'll love!