Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Have you heard that new Christmas song by Dave Barnes and Hillary Scott yet? Oh, wow. It's another reason to turn on the Christmas music in November, says I.

I promised myself that I wouldn't post anything about Christmas gifts or shopping until after Thanksgiving - disciplined, that's me. So, I will not mention any gift ideas yet. But I wanted to give you a very short list of our essential Christmas traditions. If you find that any of the ideas herein seem like good fits for your family, you might want a few weeks to throw stuff together.

Without further ado...

We read. And thanks to the advice of my dear friend, Miss Marla, we wrap all of our holiday books at Christmas, and cram them all into a big basket by the fireplace. Then, every night (if we're home), the kids get to pick one wrapped book and unwrap it. (I have a friend who then teaches gift-receiving etiquette right here - even teaching her kids to say "thank you" after they unwrap the book!) Then, we read the book. While I do not have twenty-five Christmas books, I do have some favorites. The longer, chapter books we "mark" discreetly and unwrap first. To fill up the other days of the month, I check out Christmas library books - about five at a time - and even wrap those. Here's our freshly wrapped pile of books for the season, ready to go thanks to Punkin's newly discovered gift-wrapping abilities.

Last year, our favorite Christmas book was Jotham's Journey. I have talked about it all year long, and now, we get to continue the story with the sequel. If you land a copy, don't forget to read the end-of-the-chapter summaries - for me, some of the best Christmas devotionals out there. Ask my kids how many times Mom choked up and stopped reading last's a bit embarrassing. Other books we cherish include...
By Jay & Kathy Stockman (a fairly expensive, but treasured book)
Each page of this book has a door, with 25 total doors. Each door contains one element of the Christmas story. The illustrations and words are beautiful.
Just tonight, I caught my mom and Sugs snuggled up, peeking in all the doors of the book.

Another favorite...
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

This year, we are also going to try doing a Jesse Tree. I plan to either make or purchase the Jesse Tree Ornaments (I like these and these)
and we'll be reading Geraldine McCaughrean's The Jesse Tree.For younger children, these are two of my absolute favorites -
Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockcroft,

and Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Jane Chapman and Karma Wilson.

We give. I'll share some of my favorites next week. The kids love to get in on the action and they make lots of homemade gifts, mostly all found at Family Fun.

We play. One of the best things I did was order a toy nativity set. The children always forget about it until Christmastime and then, they spend many hours playing with a "new" toy. After moving into a neighborhood with spectacular Christmas lights, we added a "Pajama Patrol" to our holiday traditions. The kids put jammies on, I grab cookies, and we go watch the Christmas light show in our neighborhood. I love what this mother did to make the Christmas light observing more fun for her kids. Our little town has a Christmas tree lighting nighttime parade which we always bundle up for as well.

We sing! Oh yes, we do. It's not good singing, but it's usually loud and fun. There's nothing better than trying to keep a straight face while a three-year old belts out "Glo-ooo-ooooo-ria!" This year, my favorite music includes my cherished Pottery Barn 3-disc Vintage Christmas Collection (a gift from Stephanie, have I thanked you enough for this!?!), anything by Dave Barnes or Audrey Assad, and my old, wrinkled sheet music Christmas carols. (Below is Audrey Assad live if you want to hear her sing my favorite Christmas song.)

We visit. Pretty much anyone who will come over, or anyone who will have us and our germs. On Christmas Eve's Eve, we pack up the entire family and spend the next two nights at the grandparents' houses, one night at each set. It's fun to wake up in the morning with family and already have the presents, food, and other general details in place. Another favorite way to visit and give at the same time has been to throw a little kid's birthday party for Jesus, complete with birthday hats and cake. The children of our friends are all invited and parents are sent on a date night, their gift from us.

We laugh, mostly at ourselves. You'll see why when we post our Christmas family photo.

And my all-time favorite Christmas tradition. I purchased a small box with a lid. Every year, I plant it up on a high shelf and walk by it, wondering what I will write this year... After all of the Christmas hubbub has calmed, I take a small chunk of time and write down the memories from the year's holiday - favorite memories, who was present, who was missing, milestones from the year, what we are looking forward to in the next year... These have been so fun to read over the years! Also in the box, we include letters to Santa or tickets to Christmas events we attended. I just reread these the other day and smiled as I read my cursive: "Big question: where will we be living in 2007?" and "In 2008, I'm dreaming of a full night of sleep!"

There are a few things that we do not do during the Christmas season. We do our best not to stress. That means that for the most part, I do not Christmas shop. I try to have the majority of the presents purchased before December 1st. I know that's crazy, but it has really freed me up to enjoy the season. Also, we do not maintain a rigorous school schedule, mostly because we do a lot of reading in the evenings so we don't do as much "official" schoolwork. One last thing: because we have so much family in town, we find that our little ones are quickly overwhelmed by all the noise and presents, and much more prone to all-out, freak-out tantrums. So, we distinguish our own little family Christmas from the extended family Christmas celebrations. Usually, we just find a day when Real Gil is not working and we plan that as our Christmas. We start the day with doughnuts in Mom and Dad's bed (our usual birthday tradition, for Jesus this time). Then, we exchange gift and spend the rest of the day together. That night, we usually go out for dinner as a family, and end the night by trying to be as sneaky as we can about leaving our once-a-year Christmas "bonus" tip for the waiter or waitress.

What Christmas traditions, books, or gift ideas do you treasure? Which Christmas traditions have you not participated in, and feel good about doing so? What advice do you have for mothers at Christmastime?

Resting in the Christ,

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