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I have a small obsession with the holiday season. I love the festivity, the togetherness, the decor, the traditions–all of it. But upon reflection, I can see how I can turn so many of the special holiday activities into a burden. All the memories I want to make become a looming checklist that brings more stress than joy some days.
As a result, I am attempting to scale back and focus on just a few special traditions:
We believe it is important to celebrate Advent because it allows us to teach, reflect, and worship as a family. Last year we made this paper Christmas tree with Advent verses for Rebekah. It was super easy and lots of fun for her to do each day. However, I think I am going to wait on it for a couple years until the boys are bigger and her understanding is a little deeper.
Currently, Rebekah is very into us telling her stories. Every night she asks for either a Jesus story, Rapunzel story, or Evil Witch (Snow White) story before bed. So this year we are focusing on the Story of Advent. My dad gave us this beautiful “The Story of Christmas” Advent Calendar. (Sadly, Amazon is out.) Each day you open a little story ornament that tells you about an event or character in the nativity story leading up to Jesus.
Rebekah is very excited–she’s already gotten into it twice. I found 18 inch Christmas trees at the Dollar Tree in white and green. I bought a white one and a tiny $1 tree skirt so we can put Rebekah’s Advent Tree in her bedroom. (Hopefully we don’t lose any ornaments!) My only complaint is that it has one ornament with a small, non-biblical story of Mary and Joseph finding an oasis during their travels. (If you like this idea but don’t care for it to be about the nativity story, there is The Nutcracker Story version.)
Rebekah has been very interested in reading and talking about the nativity story. As a child I used to pretend I was Mary, wrap a towel around myself and try to swaddle our cat. Yesterday, Rebekah was putting a blanket on her head, calling herself “Mary” and Daniel “baby Jesus”. And of course we have Joseph . . . We may have to put on a nativity play!
Next year, we want to try The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp. I love how this set comes with nightly devotionals but also its own little paper Jesse Tree for the ornaments.
Putting up the Tree
Last year Rebekah had so much fun putting up the tree, hanging ornaments, and getting out our nativity scene. I can’t wait to do it again this year with Christmas music in the background and homemade hot cocoa to cuddle and enjoy as we turn on the Christmas lights. 🙂
(This window ledge was the only place I could find to put my nativity scene and Rebekah loved to face all the people and animals to look out the window! Notice the headless wiseman and baby Jesus’ missing hand . . .)
However, I do need to find a kid-friendly nativity scene for her. My ceramic one barely survived last year. I’ve researched several with mixed reviews. This Fisher-Price Little People A Christmas Story seems to be the most popular and fun, but more expensive than the others. Plus, Amazon is currently out of it. I am considering this one because it has good reviews, comes with a storybook, is cheaper, and actually in stock. Any suggestions for what you have used?
Our Christmas Countdown
It is a bit of work, but doing the 25 Books of Christmas with the kids is so much fun and well worth the work! 🙂 You wrap up 25 Christmas-themed books (check Goodwill, garage sales, library sales, etc.). Then each day your child picks out one to unwrap and read. Rebekah LOVED this last year! A tradition I think we will keep for many years.
I am very much trying to scale back on how many Christmas goodies we make. Many of the things we make become gifts, but they are time consuming and sometimes costly. This year we are focusing on just our favorites. I think we are going to invite over some friends with kids to help make, bake, and decorate cut-out sugar cookies. Then each family can take some to deliver to neighbors, friends, or co-workers. As far as other treats, we might limit it to my Oreo truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels, Mitch’s BBQ sauce, and the sugar cookies.
We’ve always had special Christmas Eve traditions of making homemade pizza and playing games. But this year we may try to attend a candle light service, so we may not get to many games. Fortunately, Christmas day never feels quite as busy, so I think we will break out the games again in the afternoon. Or we will cuddle and watch Christmas movies. We will see!
Rebekah and I are already planning our special Christmas morning tea party. I thought about making a big pan of homemade cinnamon rolls like last year . . . but she requested Pop Tarts and chocolate milk. We don’t buy either except on rare occasions so it will be a treat for her and easy for me.
Looking at this list it is hard to tell that I have scaled back! But I am excited about it all. Bring on December! 🙂
Also, I would like to thank my three lovely kids who are all napping at the same time, thus allowing me to work on this post! (It helped that Mitch was home to help me get them all down at the same time–thanks hun!)