Some of them date back to when I was a kid, such as eating homemade potato soup and oyster crackers and opening one present each on Christmas Eve. Afterward, the grown-ups and older kids usually play cards or board games, while the younger ones watch holiday movies. It’s a time to laugh, eat snacks and tell stories. And sometimes we tell stories that have been told so many times, even the younger family members can recite them.
But several of our traditions have changed over the years.
Before we had children, my husband and I usually bought a Christmas tree from a charity at the grocery store parking lot. The selection was limited, but so was our budget and the ceiling height in our small bungalow.
Now, rain or shine, we head out to a U-Cut Christmas tree farm.
We were all a little surprised to find the perfect tree in about 10 minutes this year. It’s usually at least an hour or more of grown-up arguments (“That won’t fit in our living room,” “That’s not full enough,” “Um, that looks just like the one I showed you 20 minutes earlier,” “I’m having flashbacks to the time you spent an entire day shopping for a stupid shower curtain.”) mixed with kids whining (“I’m cold,” “I’m bored,” “So-and-so won’t leave me alone.”) By the end the ordeal, we usually just settle on a tree that nobody in the family really loves, but, then again, nobody hates enough to argue against it. Once the tree is in our house and fully decorated, though, we always fall in love with it, no matter how much drama was involved in getting it.
Here are some other activities that make great traditions:
Brighten up those dark nights with holiday light displays: There are several places to view holiday light displays, including Pierce County Parks and Recreation’s Fantasy Lights, an all-drive-through mega display at Spanaway Park, 14905 Bresemann Blvd. S., Spanaway. It’s open 5:30-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. For more information, call 253-798-4177.
The Olympia Yacht Club’s Dancing Lights Show is free and can be viewed from the Percival Landing Boardwalk (near the pavilions) from 7-8:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 26. While the event is in its fifth year, there has been a lighted ship parade on Budd Inlet from more than 80 years, according to yatch club officials. For more information, call Jerry Budelman at 360-867-9880.
There’s also Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. This is the 25th year of the display, which now features more than 500,000 lights. The individual displays include ice-skating puffins, playing tiger cubs, the massive flame tree and the new giant Pacific octopus. The display is open 5-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 1., although it is closed Dec. 24. For details and costs, call 253-591-5337 or go to pdza.org. And there’s Holiday with Lights at Wild Waves, 36201 Enchanted Parkway S., Federal Way. For hours and admission rates, call 253-661-8000 or go to wildwaves.com.
For those who want to view displays of decked-out private homes, go to wwwb.thenewstribune.com/gmaps/lights/ to see the map of self-nominated holiday light displays in Pierce and Thurston counties that The News Tribune and The Olympian share. You can chart your own course to various homes.
Take a train ride: Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, which travels from Elbe through the foothills of Mount Rainier, is offering the Santa Express today and Saturday. Kids will have a chance to meet Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves. Seats are still available for the 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. runs reach day. For ticket information, call 888-STEAM-11 or go to mrsr.com.
For those who would like to catch the spirit of a Christmas train without boarding one, consider visiting the Washington State History Museum’s Model Train Festival, which runs Dec. 21-Jan. 1. Many of the trains will be decked out for the holidays, and Santa will visit for photos Friday-Dec. 23. The museum is at 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. For hours and admission, go to wshs.org or call 888-238-4373.
Ring in the New Year at a kid-friendly time: Every year, the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia hosts a “Noon Year’s Celebration” so that kids can ring in the new year while they are still awake. This year’s event is from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 31 at the new museum, 414 Jefferson St. NE, Olympia. Advanced registration is recommended. For more information, call 360-956-0818 or go to hocm.org.If you have a holiday event or tradition that you would like to share, go to theolympian.com/busymama and add a comment with this column.