One of the things that was difficult for me in having college and adult kids with Christmas was not being able to continue all of the traditions that we had formally done. I mentioned earlier that through homeschooling, we actually spent a lot of time on Christmas. Our entire December was centered around Christmas readings, unit studies, Christmas baking and cooking, and more.
As our oldest child was married and in the next two girls were in college, they were home less and less. At first, I continued the traditions during the daytime with my kids were still homeschooling. But what was I going to do about the evening and weekend traditions?
One of the things that I had to decide early on was which traditions were important enough to try to include everybody and which traditions were not. When our son was first married, we decorated for Christmas without him – four months after his wedding. Imagine my surprise when he came into the house, to all the Christmas decorations and the tree, and was nearly teary-eyed. “You decorated without us?” I was heartbroken! Here I had been trying not to impose upon him and his new wife, and I left him out of something that was very important to him. A couple of years later, our oldest daughter, our second child, was in Texas in college. The kids went together and flew her home for two days just so that she would not miss decorating.
So I learned early on that decorating for Christmas was one tradition that the kids would want to keep even as adults. Yes, this was something to keep for the entire family.
So one thing I recommend with older children is to decide with the kids what things are important enough to save for when they’re home from college and for the local adult kids, and which things would just be for the at-home kids.
This will obviously be based on trial and error like ours above as well as on what you have just found are most memorable to your kids.
Here are some traditions that we keep with our college and adult kids in part or in whole:
1. Christmas decorating night – this is a party night for our family, and nobody wants to miss it. We have purposely moved this to be Thanksgiving weekend when the college kids are home. We have continued with our appetizer party, Nativity setting up (dozens of nativities of various sizes), drawing of names for the sibling exchange (a new tradition–see future post), putting up the tree and decorating with our homemade ornaments that we made in our unit studies throughout the years, reading Christmas stories, singing carols, and just being together.
2. Our own Christmas eve – we always had a protocol of a party on Christmas eve with a few presents and lots of games followed by our traditional Christmas day. Even though once our children began getting married, I gave Christmas eve and Christmas day to my children-in-laws’ families (see future post!), everybody still wanted a Christmas eve and Christmas day at home. Thus, our own Christmas eve – filled with games, fun exchanges, appetizers, stories, songs, and staying up half of the night – continued on but just on a different day other than Christmas eve. It is not uncommon at all for us to have our “Christmas eve” on December 27, 28, or 29. It doesn’t matter to any of us, just so we have a Christmas eve.
3. Our own Christmas day – even when our kids were little, we did the grandparent thing whenever that was held, but had our own Christmas day – regardless of whether that was on the 25th. What I mean by that is that if we had a lot to do on the 25th with extended family, we made the 26th or the 27th our Christmas day. This was something that the older kids wanted to continue, and we do so today. So we have our Christmas eve whenever we can find an open evening and has the next day free – and the next day is our Christmas day. The Christmas story, exchanging gifts, playing games, taking naps, and having a Christmas dinner are all still the things that we do on our very own “Christmas day” with all seven of our children and any spouses (and now a grandbaby!).
There are other things that we intersperse here and there, like our “White Christmas night,” which I talk about in another post. We also about every other year do a big family Christmas outing, just like we used to do when the kids were little – for anybody who is available. This usually involves a local play or the Star of Bethlehem planetarium show, etc. While everybody is not available for these, we do try to open these to anybody who can come.
Stay with us as we talk about “invitation vs. obligation” in a few days!
P.S. Listen to the podcast episode,”Christmas With College and Adult Children,” in which I give all of the upcoming posts orally with a succinct handout for you! 🙂