The Christmas Trap: A Fun Family Tradition

I’m so excited to introduce you all today to Kara of ChristmasTrap.com. She’s a mom of two and here today to tell us about her family’s fun, Christmas morning tradition, which has been going on for more than three generations. I know you’ll enjoy her story…

It was Christmas morning, and I was doing an army crawl into my Aunt’s bedroom. It may have been soft, plush carpet, but I felt as if I were skulking through an enemy infested jungle. To you it might appear that I was making my way across the floor silently. But to me, the rustle of my PJs on the 1970’s shag carpet was screaming in my ears.

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I could barely breathe for fear of making too much noise. How on earth was I going to wake my cousin who was sleeping on the floor AND keep him quiet? I am not sure the boy had ever spent a moment of his waking life quiet. I had never been more nervous about a Christmas morning in my short 11 years on this planet.

“Chris… Chris… Christopher!” I said in a whisper that was only audible a few inches from my mouth.

Finally I put my hand over his mouth and gave him a hard poke. It didn’t really work. He woke up, immediately blundering around to find what had poked him, asking loudly.

“Is it time?”

“Shhhhh!!!!!!!!”

This was going to be so much harder than I thought.

Let me explain: My Dad’s family has this Christmas tradition that was started by my Grandparent’s in the 1960’s. Every Christmas morning, they set a Christmas Trap outside our bedroom door to keep us from getting to the presents too early. The Christmas Trap rules are pretty simple: the Christmas tree is a “safe zone.” If we can get to the tree, then we are free to wake our parent’s and open presents at our leisure. But if we wake our parent’s and are caught anywhere in the house, then we must go back to bed and wait to open presents at their leisure.

Look closely and you can see the hanging pots and pans intertwined in the strings of this vintage Christmas trap.
Look closely for the pots and pans hanging intertwined in this vintage Christmas trap.

To say we take this tradition seriously is an understatement. Sure, when I was a kid, the Trap was playful and fun. But I was 11 now, and it had become a matter of pride for me.

You see, usually Dad would set something simple such as a tower of brown paper bags with a few jingle bells in them, stacks of canned goods, or wrapping paper over our doorway. Those were easy; kid’s stuff.

But last year, I guess my dad really got tired of waking up at 5 am to us singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” merrily by the tree. So he upped the ante and used a motion detector that was connected to a radio that loudly sang to me “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” signaling my immediate loss.

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It was the first year I had ever lost. It was humiliating. My Dad thought he was such a genius, and he made sure that I, my friends, his friends, and all my cousins knew it. I simply couldn’t let it happen again. I had to win.

For this Christmas we were visiting my mom’s family. This was the first trap ever for my cousins, and they simply did not understand how important it was that I get to the tree before my dad. So Chris and I had decided that we would beat the trap without my 5 siblings and his 3. I couldn’t afford to risk it.

I flinched at every noise Chris made. I should have done this alone! What was I thinking?!? As we turned the corner, we found a cargo net stretched across the stairway. But that wasn’t the worst part. Tied all over the net, were at least 20 jingle bells. I reached for the closest jingle bells and attempted to untie it. I discovered that this would be impossible. My dad is pretty good at knots, and the elastic nature of the cargo net meant that the smallest movement sent vibrations across the net resulting in what sounded like Santa Clause’s sleigh right in our living room.

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Surely I can beat this! It isn’t even electronic! Under? No, too small. Over? No, the drop is too high. Escape out the bedroom window? No, I don’t have a key to the front door. Right about then Chris says to me…

“Look Kara, if I wrap my hand around it, it doesn’t make very much noise,”

“Yeah I know, but there are 20 of them at least, It is not like we can hold them all!”

“We need to wake the others.”

I saw immediately that he was right. Between the 10 of us kids, we could get through this net, if each of us tightly held a jingle bell while we slipped under the net one at a time.

Traditions provide an all-too-rare chance for face-to-face interaction, help family members get to know and trust each other more intimately, and create a bond that comes from feeling that one is part of something unique and special.
The Art of Maniliness

After carefully waking all the children and slowly passing each person under the net one at a time, we all gathered by the Christmas tree to stare at the beautiful gifts Santa had brought our family. We all took a moment to congratulate each other. I had just learned an important lesson about teamwork. As the oldest, I often considered the younger kids to be a burden and so my eyes had been closed to how they might be helpful to me. Chris was able to find our escape by realizing the value of each member of the family. And our victory was so much sweeter when we were all together.

Now that we had won, it was time to alert my parents. I couldn’t wait to see the look on my Dad’s face.

“Ready Guys?” I took a deep breath so I could belt at the top of my lungs…
“We Wish You A Merry Christmas! We Wish You A Merry Christmas!”

There were many more Christmases with many more traps. Some successful and others not so much. But each one a memory, a snapshot in my mind of teamwork and ingenuity and the power of tradition.

As my cousin Natalie said, when reminiscing on her childhood Christmas Trap, “It was one of my three favorite things about Christmas… Like more than presents.”

The original Christmas Trap kids.
The original Christmas Trap kids.

I know a memory is not a tangible thing you can hold. It’s so much better. Most ‘things’ are limited in their capacity to be shared and savored. Things can only be passed to one other person, and things wear out with time and eventually get thrown out. Traditions and memories last forever and can be shared freely, in all directions — parents and grandparents, siblings and peers, children and posterity. I love this visual of memories that encircle all of us, that can be enjoyed by young and old, at all times in life, and are enjoyed equally by the giver and the receiver.

I’m no longer the 11-year-old girl, leading the charge through my parent’s traps. I’ve graduated to trap building, which just might be more fun! Dreaming up ways to challenge your children, help them work together, and be creative. In doing this, I am creating and shaping the experience of my family, not just for Christmas morning or just that day, but for the year and many years to come.

We hope you’ll join us in this fun, family tradition. Pin this post so you won’t forget, and if you make a trip be sure to tag the photo with #ChristmasTrap on Instagram so we can see it!

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