How to preserve family traditions that your kids will remember forever | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Holiday memories are steeped in family traditions.

We take pictures of experiences that are meaningful to us. Places and people we want to remember. Lots of people have the fondest and strongest childhood memories around holidays. They stand out in our memories as more poignant because our recurring family traditions and rituals strengthen the memories over time. And also because we take pictures and videos of them. 

Family decorating for Christmas

It’s so much more than Christmas morning.

Most often, our Christmas photos are from Christmas morning, unwrapping gifts, or playing with new toys surrounded by scraps of discarded wrapping paper, a colorfully lit tree in the background. If we're lucky, there are a few images of our parents too. But rarely do these photos tell more of the story than what happens on Christmas day. This post is my call to take pictures of your family that go beyond the main event.

Family decorating Christmas tree together in Washington, DC

Traditions don’t just happen. We make them happen.

Now that I have kids, I appreciate all the effort my parents, and my mom especially, put into making Christmas a special time for us as kids. Decorating was especially fun. Each year taking out the tiny ceramic village with it's fake snow and lit up houses. Carefully taking out the individually wrapped glass ornaments and the growing assortment of hand made ones from school. And, as we got older, having wrapping parties in the floor passing scissors and tape back and forth whole watching cheesy hold movies. 

I know now that these traditions didn’t just happen. My parents made them happen. And by doing so they shared with us what was meaningful to them and what was valuable to our family.

Father and toddler baking for Christmas

Family photos and videos highlight the best of the holiday spirit.

It's the memories that stand out most for us that we're most likely to pass down to our own children as tradition. And that's why it's important to document more than just the unwrapping of gifts. Documenting this time with your children with photos or a family film is a special way to highlight the best of the holiday spirit. As we all know, it's not about the gifts on Christmas morning. It's about the thrill of anticipation, the magic and mystery, and most of all the joy and love of family. 

Traditions are how we highlight what matters.

Whether that's driving to the local farm to pick out a tree or baking holiday cookies to share with friends and neighbors, traditions are how we highlight what matters.  So this holiday season, document those rituals that are important to your family and preserve those values for your children and for generations to come.

P.S. I’m booking 2019 films and photo sessions now! Happy Holidays!

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year.  Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Three reasons you should photograph your family's traditions | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I spent a beautiful morning recently with this mom and her 8 month old son at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. We walked on the trail along the Potomac River and by the Jones Point Lighthouse, chatted about motherhood, and took a rest and some pictures before heading back to their house to photograph their weekend pancake ritual.

Mom and baby sitting by Potomac River at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia
Mother and baby son on blanket by Woodrow Wilson Bridge at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, VA

My family has been visiting this park since my oldest son was a baby and as I documented this morning with this mom and baby, I thought about the importance of family traditions and how they enrich our lives and our children's. Here are three reasons why you should celebrate and photograph your family's traditions.

Mom and son on Potomac River bank at Jones Point Park in Northern Virginia

Traditions make up a part of our identity. 

Family traditions tend to get their start in baby's first year. There are naturally lots of firsts, especially around holidays and growth milestones. But long term traditions get their start in the first year too. Parents start to find their footing, develop confidence, and routines emerge that make life more manageable.

Mother feeding baby a strawberry in Northern Virginia kitchen

If you're a mom, you're well aware of how rituals and routines are so important to kids (and your sanity). But they also provide a sense of identity and teach children about their family and their culture. These routines may be simple like bedtime reading and snuggles or family dinners around the table.  These everyday activities make up the foundation that your kids ground their lives in and they are worthy of celebrating.

Mom making silly faces with son in high chair in Alexandria, VA kitchen

They teach us something about what's important in life. 

Some traditions are passed on from prior generations, like favorite recipes or summer vacations at the beach.  Some come about organically and contribute to making life run smoothly, like Saturday morning grocery trips and a visit to the playground.  Whether old or new, traditions are always the result of you, as a parent, making a choice to highlight something that's important, something that honors your family and your love for each other and the life you're building. 

Mom feeding baby homemade pancakes at home in Northern Virginia
Baby smushing and eating pancakes at home in Alexandria, VA

This time is fleeting.

I don't need to tell you how fast time is flying.  Those stages that feel like they're going to last forever, like nursing in bed before nap time or weekend walks around the neighborhood, are going to pass all too soon.  Our kids grow so quickly and are always changing.  Sometimes our rituals and traditions change too.  Sometimes our kids are too young to remember them, which makes photographing these stories all the more important.  Paging through a photo album with your kids and sharing these memories reminds them of how special they are to you and further solidifies that foundation that they are grounding their lives in.

Mother nursing baby from above over shoulder at home in Northern Virginia
Mother and son snuggling in bed before nap time at home in Alexandria, VA
Baby toes in bed snuggling with mom in Northern Virginia

I love hearing about other families' rituals and I especially love photographing them because I know that these memories with their parents are the ones that kids are going to look back on fondly. And someday their own children will too. 

Mom kissing baby's head while snuggling in bed at home in Northern Virginia

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year.  Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Photographing Holiday Traditions | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I have a confession to make.  My oldest son is three and I have been woefully lazy about holiday celebrations in our house.  Until this year, we've visited family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I had an excuse for not creating holiday traditions, because we were always traveling. 

But this year, that came to an end.  We're home for Christmas.  And it only hit me about two weeks ago that I haven't done much to celebrate what a magical time this can be for children. Enter mom guilt galore.  I have fond memories of all the decorations that my mom used to put up in our house and how we'd display on the mantle all the holiday cards we received from friends and family. Decorating the tree was a great trip down memory lane, because we'd use glass ornaments from my mom's childhood mixed in with ones my sister and I created every year at school. 

To be fair, we always have a tree (which I happily decorate with my son) and a few decorations around the house.  And thankfully, my husband loves Christmas lights, so he and my son had fun putting them up this year.  So I haven't had to start from scratch. But when it comes to other traditions - things I want my sons to to look back on fondly and consider hallmarks of the holidays - I have some work to do.  So this weekend, we'll be missing family, but I'm looking forward to celebrating with great neighbors and starting a new tradition of baking and decorating cookies with my son.  

For now, here are a few holiday images from our family so far.

I'd love to hear what your family's holiday traditions are.  What do you remember enjoying from childhood?  What fun things do you do with your kids?  If you need inspiration for documenting your family's holiday celebrations, check out these 25 ideas for Christmas pictures and this hands-free way to document Christmas morning and get yourself in the photos as well.

With any luck, I'll be back next year with some fancy traditions to share.  In the meantime, sign up for my email list below to receive tips for documenting your family.