Christmas Family Traditions: Cedar Rapids Style

My favorite time of year (minus the temperatures) is here again! As we settle back into darkness at 5pm, it’s only right that we lean into some of our favorite Christmas traditions to keep us cheerful.

Just for fun, I’ve made a list of our favorite family traditions, in hopes it might inspire something similar for your family. And spoiler alert, our tree is fake, so if you’re looking for ideas on where to get a real Christmas tree, let me redirect you!

First up, no holiday season is complete without an abundance of Christmas lights.

A tradition that we’ve started every year is seeking out residential Christmas light shows in the Cedar Rapids area. There’s an app called Festive Finder that you can download and easily see where popular stops are located. We’ve noticed that most of our favorites tend to be in the Fairfax area.

Our all time favorite is located on Driftwood Lane in Fairfax. It’s a tradition that we park the car every year and walk through the light tunnel with the kids. It’s a BLAST!

Most of these light shows run completely on donations and support good causes, so remember to bring your loose change or a bit of cash to drop in the donation bin! (Donation not required to view)

Next up, a tradition we did for the first time in 2021 was Matching Family Jammies.

I don’t think this is one we will do EVERY year, but it was a lot of fun and made for a great photo opp. If you’re like me and struggle to justify spending the money on matching pajamas you will likely only wear a few times and that the kids will grow out of by next winter, keep your eyes peeled in the days leading up to Christmas for sales.

The week after Christmas, most of these matching pajama sets go on huge discounts (50% off or more), so if it’s not in the budget this year, grab them half price for next year’s festivities!

A sanity saving tradition we had when the kids were toddlers was getting out the felt Christmas Tree and felt Snowman set.

These sets were PERFECT for toddlers who will inevitably break a valuable Christmas decoration if you let them help with the ornaments that are a bit more fragile.

Instead of sweeping up glass, the felt sets are something they can decorate over and over again and won’t break!

I would be remiss if I didn’t include sugar cookie decorating in our holiday tradition list.

Nothing fancy here, just a simple family recipe, complete with my mom’s signature homemade frosting. I don’t know how she does it, but her frosting puts Betty Crocker to shame!

This is something the kids have to age into: 6 and older get to partake in the afternoon of decorating at Grandma’s house. It keeps the mess and wayward saliva to a minimum!

We’ve done cookie decorating with the little ones as well, but I opt for a pre-made kit in that circumstance. Homemade treats can cost a lot of time and energy, so for me, pre-made has been the way to go when the attention span is shorter.

Want the fun without the cleanup? Join Cedar Rapids Moms for Cookies With Santa on December 10th!

Here’s a link to our annual event, which is right around the corner! Cookie decorating, picture coloring, hot chocolate, and pictures with Santa! Plus, shopping opportunities for parents. We partner with local businesses for these events, so come on out and support local this holiday season!

There is something “official” about the day we put the Christmas tablecloth on the dining room table and the Christmas shower curtain up in the kids’ bathroom.

These little touches around the house really add to the holiday cheer and leave me feeling reminiscent about my childhood. The stockings, soap dispensers, snowmen figurines all over the house…. I think it’s the little things like that the kids will remember when they get older.

Besides Christmas light shows, my all-time favorite family tradition is one we started during Covid as we tried to find ways to keep busy.

We call it “Christmas Family Music Game”. (We are not the most creative game namers.)

The premise is simple: we get Pandora (or whatever streaming service you prefer) queued up on the TV in our living room. Before any music plays, we all choose 3-5 classic Christmas songs (depending on how long we want the game to last), then we turn on a Pandora Christmas channel.

The songs will play randomly, and whoever has all their Christmas songs play first, wins! What do you win? The satisfaction of a job well done, I guess. It might sound hokey, but it’s been such a fun way to get our kids to care about the timeless Christmas melodies we grew up with.

When our kids were toddlers, turning this time into a “dance party” kept them occupied. Now as they get a bit older, we like to incorporate board games into the mix while we wait for each new song to come on. Add some hot chocolate, and you’ve got yourself a perfect family evening.

Last but not least, I don’t think you’ll ever hit peak nostalgia with your tradition list if you don’t force your kids to sit still for a couple hours and watch a classic Christmas movie together.

Our definitions of “classic” might be different. For me, it’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, The Grinch (Jim Carrey version) and Jingle All The Way” to name a few. I’ve still never seen “A Christmas Story” after 30 years of opportunities to do so, so it is definitely on my To Watch list this year. Here’s a list with even more ideas!

I would love to hear about your family traditions as well. Drop them in the comments!

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