Real Talk with Real Moms || The Holidays


I spent last weekend bachelorette-ing with my cousins and the topic of the holidays came up one morning.  We were discussing what the plans were for this and what we’ve done the past holidays.  We chatted about what our traditions are and new ones we’d like to start. It’s something that can be particularly hard to navigate when you start having babes. We grow up in our family and have one way of doing things and one set of traditions and then we get married and start a new family with someone who has their own ways of doing things and their own traditions.  Then, as if things weren’t complicated enough, you have a baby and suddenly you have your own things that you want to do and your own traditions that you want to start.  If you’d really like a challenge, then make sure no one lives in the same state!  I find it sad that the holidays are often times characterized by so much stress and feelings of obligation to do something a certain way just because it’s always been that way. There’s certainly not a perfect approach, but below are what Aaron and I have done the years prior to Parker, the last two years with Parker and what our plans are this year.  (Be sure to check out the other posts from: Amy || Rebecca || Leah || Erin || Emily || Caitlin || Alex)


Prior to Parker ||

After we got married, we alternated flying to Austin and the East Coast for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.  If we did Thanksgiving in Austin one year, then we did it in Maryland the next year and vice versa.  It was very fair in a lot of ways, but also meant we spent most of our vacation traveling. Not to mention, it’s the most expensive time to travel.

Because we were always traveling for the holidays, it also meant that we didn’t have a lot of holiday traditions of our own.  We always had our LA Family Christmas Dinner, complete with white elephant gift exchange and lots of wine which was one of the highlights of the holiday season!

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

After Parker ||

We decided to stay in LA for Christmas the year after Parker was born. She was almost 9 months old and it was so nice not to travel.  We enjoyed the much more laid back holiday version of LA for a few days so much that we decided to do it the next year, too.  We always invited both of our families, but totally understood that it’s hard time to getaway when you have other family nearby who is looking forward to celebrating with you. The year after Parker was born we started our own traditions like tamales on Christmas Eve (something I borrowed from my own family) and Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church.  After church, we put Parker to sleep and then we watch a Christmas movie while we get all of the presents for Christmas morning ready for the big reveal! I always make cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve and then let them rise overnight.  On Christmas Day, I pop the cinnamon rolls in the oven and we enjoy them while we open gifts.  We’ve also hiked Fryman Canyon the last two years.  After Parker, our LA Family Christmas Dinner continued, but this time with everyone’s kids in tow and a Santa-for-Hire that would show up for the kids!  (It saved everyone a trip to see mall santa.)

Processed with VSCOcam with p9 preset

This Year ||

Now that we are living in Austin, we are going to Maryland for Thanksgiving (a much shorter flight from here than LA) and going to stay home again this year for Christmas, but this time with lots of family around!  I’m sure that new traditions will be created now that Parker is living so close to her cousins.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

In all honesty, I’m sure both of our families would have preferred for us to keep alternating holidays every year, flying across the country every time we had vacation, but I’ve never regretted our choice to stay home with our little family of 3 in LA.  It really allowed the holidays to be a time of rest and recuperation and it was so, so special.  If you haven’t before, maybe consider allowing yourself the space to do exactly what YOU want to do this holiday season, whatever that may be.

Processed with VSCOcam with e3 preset

What are your favorite holiday traditions? Planning on starting any new ones this year?  We let Parker decorate her own tree last year and it provided hours of entertainment!  Planning on getting a picture like this every year until she is at least 18!

If you’re into this Real Mom Series, you can see our other posts on feeding, sleep, growing your family, education, diaper bag essentials, co-parenting, self-care, relationships and more here! Also, check out #realmomseries on Instagram.

  1. Definitely a topic everyone can relate to! Growing up my grandparents on both sides lived about 6 hours away (but I’m Texas) and we would switch off off every year where we would go. It would be a 2-3 day trip and we would spend the night at our grandparents house with ALL the cousins/aunts/uncles. I think I had one Christmas growing up that was actually at my home. I never even thought about it as a I’d, and honestly I liked going on the trip because I had so much fun with my cousins (we would ALL sleep on the living room floor together – there were 10 of us)!

    Today my parents live 2 hours south and my in-laws live 4 hrs north, and we do the same where we rotate holidays. Since being married (6 years) I’ve yet to spend a Christmas at home. Honestly I love going to my families home, so I never mind going there for Christmas (my in-laws…well that’s another story). My husband and I just made a new rule that our maximum overnight stay at their house is two nights because anything more than that is WAY too stressful. This year I tried to have Christmas in austin and I invited them here, but they refused saying they didn’t want to pay for a hotel cuz our house isn’t big enough for all of them (which is true). There house can accommodate us. So basically we’re being forced there, and my father in law said all we want for Christmas is for the entire family to be here for Church on Christmas Day (insert eye roll). I’m all about church, but not forced. With all that being said, I would feel bad to go to my parents every other year willingly and then tell my in-laws we’re not going to there house. What do you think? Am I crazy?

  2. Catherine


    Loved your post on this! We have ALWAYS rotated years between New Jersey and Minnesota and didn’t skip a beat with it when Sailor was born. She was 2 months old when we went to NJ for Christmas last year which was challenging but to us Christmas is always a time we rely on to go home and spend time with our families, so we didn’t want to not go. We didn’t do a whole lot while we were there but it was amazing to have the extra help with the newborn and she was a champ on the flight. This year we’ll go to Minnesota and I’m so looking forward to her being able to enjoy the holiday to some extent – though not yet able to decorate her own tree like Parker! Maybe just pull all the ornaments off the main tree and throw them on the floor. We’ve started talking about doing what you guys did though and host in LA for any family who wants to come in future years. I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas! Need to steal your cinnamon roll recipe!

  3. Serena


    Love this post & the traditions you have for your family! Can you share your go-to cinnamon roll recipe? Thanks!

    • Jen Pinkston


      I try a different recipe every year I feel like. My dad makes the same one every year. I’m going to recipe test three or four in a couple weeks and will let you know!

  4. I absolutely love the idea of letting Parker decorate her own tree. I have an entire tree’s worth of ornaments that have been sent to me one at a time by my Grandma. It’s one of my favorite traditions.

Comments are closed.