December 12, 2015

Our Family's Best Christmas Traditions

Deck the Halls:

The McClendon Family has THE BEST CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS EVER!!! I would love to share this post with you and your family in hopes of helping you find the perfect traditions to build a lifetime of memories.  First and foremost we spend the better part of three days decorating the house.  Each room has a Christmas theme.  Yes, it took a few years to develop and collect the decor but since Christmas is my passion I was always at the BEST after- Christmas sales on December 26.  

The picture in the top left corner is the kitchen which has a gingerbread theme.  Everything from tea-towels to ornaments have a similar theme.  The dishes tell the story of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" but the centerpiece has the gingerbread trees to tie it all together.

The dining room in the top right picture has a winter wonderland theme.  Everything from sleds to snowmen can be found among the decor.  This is my husband's favorite tree.  Since the dishes have green trees with pink gifts, I've put small wrapped boxes in the garland that surrounds the chandelier.  I've also included small packages using pink, green, silver, and turquoise in the centerpiece to tie the dishes to the theme.  I love how the gifts can be tucked under a candlestick or decorative piece to make them a bit taller and more interesting.

The living room in the bottom left picture is my favorite.  This room has a nativity theme.  Everything from nativity sets to unique angels are used to enhance the true reason for the season.  This year, I put the green, gold, and bronze ornaments in a spiral pattern throughout the tree for something different.  I have ten or twelve special nativity sets that I have collected on my travels from countries like Japan, Egypt, Israel, Italy, and Germany but my all-time favorite is a painted roof tile from Portugal with Mary and the Christ-child.

Last but not least, is the den with a Santa theme.  I started collecting Santa ornaments the first year Mike and I married so this tree has some priceless memories on it's branches.  I have the full collection of Department 56 "All Through the House" which has been retired for several years now. I display them in a built-in book case.  With my recent redecoration of the master bedroom, I have used a tree with vintage ornaments in a leopard and sage theme. Since I no longer had a place to display my Snow Village, I wrapped open boxes and sat them inside as if a lighted village had just been unwrapped.

Traditions for a Lifetime of Memories

Almost every year I am lucky enough to set a table for 12 guests for our Christmas Eve dinner. I place an English Cracker near each plate and hide $6 under each place setting.  In advance, an almond is carefully pushed inside one of the crackers. Once the dinner is over we "crack" our English Crackers to reveal who has the almond.  The winner gets the $25 Target gift card that is wrapped on the table.  

Of course, we all have to wear our paper crowns while we play the McClendon version of "Left, Right, Center".  We each gather our 6 one dollar bills and go around the table each rolling one die.  If a 6 is rolled the person has to put one dollar in the CENTER of the table. (Notice the word center has 6 letters.)   If a 5 is rolled the person has to hand one dollar bill to the person on their RIGHT.  (Right has 5 letters.)   If a 4 is rolled the person has to give one dollar bill to the person on their left.  (Left has 4 letters.)  Got it?
If a one, two, or three is rolled then the person just keeps their money for this round.  The die continues to make its way around the table and a pile of ones begin to form in the center of the table.  Eventually two or three people are the only ones playing but the players can easily change since a roll of 4 or 5 can send those last few dollars to the person on the left or right. Occasionally one person may be the only one left with 2 or 3 dollars but the game doesn't stop there.  The winner must have the very last dollar.  With our large crowd of 12, the winner gets $72.   However, recently we have been playing two rounds with 4 dollars in the first round and 2 dollars in the second round.   That way the first winner receives $48 and the second winner gets $24.  The teenagers love this game but I must admit the little ones often win.  

In the top right picture, you will notice a pickle hidden within the tree branches.  This is a German tradition that we have adopted.  Whoever, locates the pickle on the tree gets to open the first present.  I love how everyone begins looking at the details and finding those special memories along their mission of locating the pickle.  For some, they begin looking as soon as they arrive rather than wait till its time to open the presents.  

Our family also writes Christmas cards to each person at the table.  Some make their own and others simply write corny wishes.  But I have saved years of funny and serious well-wishes for each family member year after year and we enjoy reading them to see how our lives, and passions have changed throughout the years.

Uncle Gene is also known for calling on Christmas Eve to be the voice of a long distance SANTA for the little ones.  That always brings excitement and wonder to the festivities.  The older kids and younger ones begin interacting with their favorite Santa memories.

I must mention the last few family traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation throughout my side of the family.  Mike, the patriarch, always reads the Christmas Story in Luke prior to opening our gifts to reinforce the birth of Christ as the true meaning of Christmas.  If and when the little ones spend the night at our house, Mike and I always have a few rounds of "swinging in the sheets".  We both simply take the ends of a sheet or light-weight blanket and lay those little-ones inside as we lift it off the ground and begin swinging them side to side as they lay in the sheet.  On the count of ten, we bounce the little-one onto the bed and the next little-one crawls in for their turn. This could last for hours if our strength would allow it.  We've had to make a rule that once you've had your 8th birthday, the tradition becomes a memory to save until you have your own little-one.  Another tradition my parents have passed down through the years is to always greet one another with the term "Love you BIG BIG".  We all sign our letters or notes to one another with that salutation and even my daughters had it inscribed into their husband's wedding rings.  

These traditions recreated or replicated year after year are what make the McClendon Christmas the best ever!  Whether they are young at heart or young in years, everyone loves coming to the McClendon's  for Christmas!

May you have a blessed holiday and find the perfect traditions to build into your family celebrations.   Love one another BIG BIG!


  1. I love this Paula, and you know I'm in love with your talent in decorating!!! Merry Christmas!!!

  2. I want a hug just so some of your Christmas spirit will rub off on me!!! I love your decorations, your traditions, and your all around zeal for Christmas!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU! <3

  3. Absolutely beautiful! I love all your ideas and the beautiful decorations you have in all your Christmas Trees! Very creative! We usually spend Christmas at my Mother's-in-law house with all of my husband's brothers and wives. I enjoy being with them and had spent about the last 20 years of my life doing so. We also play a lot of games, have a Hot Dog Roast every year and the shopping on December 26. Last year we played a video of when we were all young and had just started our married lives! It kind of made me happy because I'm married to the best guy in the world and sad because some of our family members are gone and we miss them. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful family and Christmas spirit!

  4. I enjoyed reading about your lovely family traditions. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family!


    Rose :-)

  5. Thanks for sharing, Paula! Have a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

  6. I'm ready to come to your home! What a beautiful celebration of our Lord's birth you have! Thank you so much for sharing your lives with us. Kathy

  7. The executive chef here was a genuinely nice person and never made us feel like we were just "business" for him. He was extremely competent and organized. Because of the natural beauty of LA event venues, we were able to get away with very minimal decorations.