The Christmas Countdown: 7 Ideas for Creating Family Memories

dr. tamecca rogers and her sons pose for their christmas card photo, for an article on creating holiday memories

Dr. Tamecca Rogers emphasizes creating fun holiday memories over gift-giving.

The holidays sure sneak up on us quickly. I love Christmastime, and my children always get on to me because I typically like to put up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. My children think it’s too early, so they make fun and criticize a bit, but I accept all of it with a smile and a “so what.” I love the smell, feel and sounds of Christmas. Plus, everyone seems much nicer this time of year.

However, as a single mom, I have some unpopular views on some things about Christmas. For instance, my children were always well aware there was no Santa Claus, and they would have been way creeped out if I told them a little elf on the shelf was watching their every move.

We lived in apartments, so how could Santa have gotten in? We had no chimney. Would he have broken down the front door? The fact is, I worked hard and sometimes worked two jobs while going to school to support my family. I knew there would be Christmases when my children wouldn’t get what they wanted or wished for. Therefore, letting them believe that a strange, big man with a long white beard broke into houses to give children presents would give them false hope.

Clothes will be outgrown, toys will be put to the side and stepped on, and the latest gadget will be replaced with the latest device. But what will never be replaced is the smell of a home-cooked meal when you walk in the house, the feeling of a long hug, the sound of Mariah Carey’s song, All I Want for Christmas is You playing on repeat, and the sense of appreciation for family, friends and loved ones. Instead of framing Christmas around getting and receiving material gifts, I framed it around the gift of quality time with each other and incorporated my children’s love language.

My youngest child’s love language is words of affirmation, and if I am being frank, that boy also loves receiving gifts. My middle son’s love language is quality time, and my oldest son’s love language is physical touch. To learn your child’s love language, have them do this online quiz by logging on to

We often talk about each other’s love language and how it makes us feel, but in December, I create a calendar to count down the days to Christmas. Each day has an activity we do as a family that incorporates our love languages and the holiday spirit. The catch is that my children only know what the activity will be once they open the envelope and read my letter, which includes an inspirational, positive quote about them and tells them what activity we will be doing. The activities are local, and most can be done at home on weekdays. The activities don’t require breaking the bank. Here’s an example of some of our activities:

1. Movie night.

We vote on three of our favorite movies, which are typically Elf, Christmas with the Kranks and Home Alone. We watch at least two. I always fall asleep on the second one. It’s tradition. We make popcorn recipes and vote on the best-tasting popcorn. My favorite is butter popcorn mixed with peanut M&Ms. They try to outdo each other every year.

2. S’mores and hot cocoa.

We make s’mores in the backyard fire pit, and we compete for the best-dressed cocoa. We go all out with candy canes, marshmallows, sprinkles, whip cream, etc.

3. Cookie bake-off.

We almost burnt down the kitchen on this one. But the memories are priceless, and the laughs were contagious. We always come out with pretty interesting cookies and post them on Facebook to let the “like” votes judge them.

4. Utica Square.

We attend Utica Square’s Lights On event annually. It’s free, and over 700,000 lights are a great way to kick off the holiday season with so many smiles. This event is typically held on Thanksgiving, and we enjoy the food and dessert trucks, plus the photo booths. The oversized nutcrackers always take our breath away.

5. Tulsa Botanic Garden.

The Tulsa Botanic Garden is perfect for getting you in the holiday mood. The lights are beautiful, they play holiday music, and we make some excellent s’mores.

6. Rhema.

Rhema is a popular destination during the holiday season, so it is always on our Christmas countdown calendar. We bundle up and enjoy the Christmas lights and typically walk through every exhibit. A few years ago, we were able to spring a helicopter ride to look at the lights, and my children still talk about how fun that was.

7. Family photo.

I challenge the boys to create a Christmas theme for our family photo every year. The conversations are hilarious when they are brainstorming. They are very creative, but my idea always wins. Therefore, each year they are challenged to come up with a better idea than their mom.

The above list is seven daily activities; we typically count down 25 days until Christmas, so we have 25 days’ worth of activities. I usually start planning in November, but some years, the activities are planned that day. Some activities must be rearranged due to weather or whatever emergency is happening that day, and the children know the schedule can change. The important thing is that we are sharing the holiday together and making lifelong memories.

TameccarogersbiopicDr. Tamecca Rogers is Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Tulsa Technology Center. She is a writer and mom to three boys who love adventures.

Dec 2022 School Age Pin

Categories: Holidays, Parenting