A few years ago, my husband and I decided instead of filling Christmas stockings with uninspiring, drug-store items, we would secretly draw names with our two children to exchange $25 gifts. Before we had a chance to think through how we were going to sneak around to purchase these gifts, a memorable new adventure presented itself.

The kids and I were out to dinner and an evening of shopping for my husband. Hopped up on the excitement and secrecy of “being a Christmas elf”, plus syrup and Nutella from our favorite meal of crepes and waffles with a side of spicy chicken, we combed the aisles of Daddy’s favorite kitchen shop. There were so many gadgets he would like – dressing emulsifier, ratchet mill, onion scrapper and as I was getting educated on which stockpot to select, my wondering -mom-eye took a glance around to make sure everyone was accounted for. I was not prepared to see my 10-year-old slip two wooden spoons inside his puffer coat. I did a double-take and then laughed out loud. I turned my back to him and quietly asked the clerk to look over my shoulder. I told her I was pretty sure he just put two spoons inside his jacket, trying to buy them for me on the sly, and could she please help ring him up while I ventured deep into the racks to get out of view. She gave me a huge smile, saying she would be very pleased to help with the surprise and dashed off to help him.

My son had cash in his pocket and didn’t know what shoplifting was, so it never occurred to him that he could get in trouble. He was just trying to make sure my gift would be a surprise. Later as I was checking out, the brown bag containing my future wooden spoons would puff out his coat even more and start to slip out the waist, so the walk to the car was a little awkward for him but sentimental for me. I had mentioned wanting the wooden spoons because my grandma Clem had used them (she was a phenomenal European cook) and I would like some to think of her. Now when I use them, not only do I fondly think of her, but of my son’s tale of acquiring them, blending three generations of memories into one.

Our family started this tradition completely out of the blue… and each year it is our favorite. We’ve added it to a very busy, school ending, sport transitioning, preparation for family visiting, and cookie-baking calendar, yet we safeguard the time so that nothing will interfere with our adventure. Each year it includes the sugary sweet dinner, followed by secret agents sneaking through stores to buy all the surprise loot. There’s tons of laughter and counterespionage when our locations are compromised and we quickly hide our packages in the get-away car. And even in the hustle and bustle of the season, never has a store clerk been mean or short with us – they are incredibly helpful as they learn of our family’s adventure.

I share this to encourage you to start a family adventure with your loved ones. Traditions can start at any time, completely out of the blue and only takes your desire and creativity to keep them going.

A few other traditions we love and are happy to share to help you create your adventures:

  • This Secret Stocking Exchange.
  • Framed pictures of Santa or the family Holiday card, year after year.
  • Mad 4 Plaid family dinner party where everyone wears their favorite plaid attire.
  • Matching pajamas for Christmas morning (now arriving at Thanksgiving to get additional wear).
  • Advent devotional to stay focused on true peace for the season.
  • Favorite recipes passed down from grandparents, prepared for family and friends.