It’s here!!! My favorite time of the year!
I don’t know what it is about Christmas that gets me so excited! The long lines, congestion, rude people who are always in a hurry and are always more important than anyone else in the store…nope, none of that.
And where the Real Jacki hates Black Friday, I love it. Even if people are rude, it’s congested or I don’t buy anything. I don’t know what it is but it just makes me feel like Christmas is here. Plus, I just love to people watch and there’s no better time than to watch all the Black Friday crazies. And let’s be honest, I buy 90% of my holiday gifts online.
I think what I love so much are the traditions!
Our dad was a teacher growing up and so our family all had a nice long break from school together. We’d pile into the car with all of our gifts and be gone usually the entire Christmas break. We’d split time between both grandparents’ houses (lucky for us they only lived 30 minutes apart). I have some really great memories as a child at Christmas time. Our parents established traditions, nothing that was overly spectacular, but they helped to make Christmas great for us as kids.
My favorite traditions growing up included driving through Candy Cane Lane to see the lights and attending church with my grandparents on Christmas Eve. Going to bed early because the anticipation of Christmas was too overwhelming but not being able to fall asleep for hours. And then waking up early…I mean early! And the kids would sneak downstairs to check out our stockings and then fall back asleep by the Christmas tree until everyone else woke up. And spending time with our cousins from my dad’s side of the family. Especially sledding down the big hill in our grandparents’ backyard.
And now that I have my own family, we have established some our own. Also nothing spectacular, but trying to balance a Christ-centered holiday season with the commercialism of Christmas. It’s funny that our kids equate Christmas with Jesus, Santa, and our Elf on the Shelf, Trixie, in no particular order. It is definitely tough to balance out both sides of this holiday.
So what traditions do we have? And how do we keep the balance?
The best thing we started when Ailey was about three was to do an advent calendar with treats and an activity to do each day leading up to Christmas. I pulled out my craftiness and put together a little advent calendar that luckily hasn’t gotten busted yet. So each day they open up that day and get a candy and we do an activity together. These can be simple or they can be time consuming, but just something to keep everyone happy and spending time together. And from these we have established most of our traditions.
Our family favorite advent calendar activities include:
- Visiting Santa at Bass Pro. He’s one of the best Santas we’ve ever seen, plus, we just like looking around Bass Pro. And they have a craft area and games to play while you wait. You get one free picture with the option of buying more.
- Candy cane bombing. This will be our 4th time doing this one and the kids would die if we stopped. They just love it. And it’s so simple really. Buy candy canes, find somewhere to bomb, and then go and place a candy cane on each car in that parking lot. We prefer hospitals, but you can go anywhere!
- Watching our church’s Christmas devotional each year, held on the first Sunday in December.
- Decorating sugar cookies and sharing them with friends or neighbors.
- Decorating gingerbread houses with friends.
- Ringing the bells for the Salvation Army red kettles. This is another one that our older kids absolutely love and really is very easy. If I was less grinch-y, I’d probably sing Christmas songs while we did this, but that is totally not something I like doing. 🙂
- Donate food or toys (or both) to a local pantry or shelter.
We generally look for different activities in the area we live and do something different every year. And also do Christmas crafts with the kids on busy nights when we have other activities going on. So a few new things we’re doing this year include a live drive-through nativity, which sounds fun. And a torch-lit hike to see ice sculptures and snowmen. Can’t wait for this one either!
In addition to fun activities, you have to include Christmas movies. There absolutely has to be down time for us to relax and watch Christmas movies together. One of our favorites is Elf, which unfortunately, our kids don’t appreciate yet. But here’s one of my favorite quotes from the movie. And if we all did this, then there is no doubt everyone would be a lot more jolly during the holidays…
It’s definitely hard to keep the balance but we try to do a fun festive activity each day and also make sure we are trying to serve other people in little ways. And we read a scripture a day leading up to Christmas to learn more about the life of Jesus Christ.
I think before we start our December activities our kids are all about me, me, me. Toys, toys and more toys! But as we try to talk more about the real meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate, combined with the service we give to others during our advent activities, things start to balance out. So they are still excited about giving and receiving gifts, but they also think more about others and are concerned that everyone gets to experience something special at Christmas.
As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” I love this and believe it is so true. With the right attitude, we can make Christmas truly a beautiful time of year. Dale Evans said, “Christmas, my child, is love in action.” So let’s love and spread some Christmas cheer.