It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

There are so many things to look forward to during this magical Christmas season. My family has a lot of wonderful traditions I can’t wait to do every year. I look forward to these the most.

1. Attend the Christmas at Union Station tree lighting ceremony. This event, which usually takes place the Friday after Thanksgiving, is what kicks off my family's Christmas season. We've gone almost every year since my oldest son, Sam, was born. We love to count down as the giant tree is lit, and my kids love the confetti that comes raining down. They also enjoy all the activities (particularly the cookie decorating station), and they're finally cool with sitting with Santa and letting him know what they'd like for Christmas.

2. Set up the Christmas tree and blast Christmas music. The weekend after Thanksgiving is when we set up our Christmas decorations. We make a day out of it. It's Christmas everything all day long. My kids love seeing the ornaments and other things they haven't seen since last year. It's so fun hearing their excitement as they exclaim: "The singing snowman! I've missed him!"

3. Bake cookies. Every year, my whole family gets together to bake cookies. My mom, sister, sister-in-law and I take a day to bake, making several different kinds of cookies. Once we're done, we share our goodies, so we all go home with a little bit of each kind. The fun usually involves Christmas music and lots of laughs.

4. Go shopping. Am I the only person who enjoys going Christmas shopping? Sure I'm not a fan of the crowds, but I love how festive the stores become during the holiday season, especially the mall with the smell of German roasted almonds wafting through every shop. Plus, I simply enjoy time spent with my family. We shop, laugh, take a break to enjoy lunch and shop some more. One of my most memorable experiences was going as a family to Westroads while I was pregnant with Sam in the hopes that walking would coax him out before Christmas. It must've worked because he was born a week later!

5. Watch "The Muppet Christmas Carol" and eat Subway sandwiches. This is a weird one, I know. But every year since we were in high school, my sister and I have grabbed Subway and turned on "The Muppet Christmas Carol." It was so fun that we continued doing it every year. This year will be our final one for awhile since her family is being stationed overseas soon. I will definitely miss this tradition in the years to come! But maybe we can continue it over FaceTime.

6. Buy Christmas pajamas and a new Christmas book. Every year, I take my two boys shopping for new Christmas pajamas, and we also pick out a new Christmas book to read. It's a fun tradition and one I hope my boys will look forward to the older they get.

7. Attend a big family reunion. Every year on Dec. 23, my family hosts a giant reunion in my hometown of Plattsmouth. The tradition has been going on since well before I was born. I love connecting with family members I don’t see very often. Plus, Santa comes to visit — the same Santa from when I was a kid — to give out gifts and sing Christmas carols with the kids.

8. Spend the day after Christmas in pajamas, playing with our new stuff. I always make sure to take the day after Christmas off so I can spend the day in my pajamas, playing with my kids' new toys and games. And, OK, my new stuff too. It's something I was able to do as a kid and a tradition I am more than happy to continue with my own children.

This Christmas will be a bittersweet one for my family because my sister's family is moving away, but we're focusing on the positives. We're thankful for the time we got together this season and even more thankful for technology so we can video chat together while we bake cookies or watch each other open presents on the big day. And who knows, maybe we’ll spend a Christmas in Italy someday.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

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