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Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year, and without a doubt my very favorite. (I’m still trying to convince everyone that it should be moved to the fall to coincide with my favorite weather. The cold has always bothered me, and I will not let it go! But I digress.) Unfortunately, it can also be filled with lots of stress and arguments as well.
When I was a kid, I never noticed all the chaos happening behind the magic. I never noticed the sharp precision required to coordinate all the family gatherings and other festivities so that everyone was happy. I didn’t think about the financial stress it can often create. And I definitely never gave a second thought to the discussions and compromises behind every new and old tradition that went into creating all the memories of my childhood Christmases.
Especially among those in the faith community, Christmas can bring up some very touchy debates. To santa or not to santa? Elf or shepherd? Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? As a parent, I’m now realizing the immense pressure that can come with being the major load bearer of just what my kids will remember about this wonderful time of year when they are grown.
When we became new parents, my husband and I had to decide how we would blend our our favorite childhood memories and traditions, what we would or wouldn’t take hard stands on, and what new traditions we wanted to add to really make these memories our own. With that being said, here is my list of favorite Christmas traditions, old, new, and ever changing with our family. There is a little of everything for everyone, so feel free to add some of these ideas to your own list of traditions, leave the ones that don’t fit your family, and let me know in the comments here or on facebook some of your own traditions that you love.
1. Christmas Lights
One of my favorite parts of Christmas growing up was driving around looking at Christmas lights. It didn’t matter if we were just driving through neighborhoods nearby or going through McAdenville, NC. I loved them ALL! I knew Christmas lights needed to be included in our traditions somehow. Every year since our oldest was born (with maybe one or two exceptions), we go to Mike’s Farm in Eastern NC. They have an amazing hay ride through a huge display of lights set up across their farm. There’s cocoa and cider, a place to buy your tree, gift shop, animals, santa, and a restaurant that makes my mouth water just thinking about it!
2. Christmas Eve Box
Every year since our oldest’s first Christmas, we have wrapped a box to be opened on Christmas Eve. There are always new pajamas for everyone, a Christmas themed book, a Christmas themed movie, movie snacks (cocoa, sometimes a new christmas mug, popcorn, candy, etc). I’ve seen some families do a new ornament too (that’s part of another tradition so we don’t include it in ours though). We get changed into our new jammies and enjoy a fun evening as a family.
3. Yearly Christmas Ornaments
My parents get each of us kids an ornament that represents us in some way every year. When we were living at home, they went on the family tree. Now that we are grown, they go on our own trees. This has carried on to the grandkids, and my boys enjoy finding out what kind of new ornament they will get each year. As the years go by, we get to reminisce more and more each time we put up the tree and see all the little symbols of who we have been and what our interests were over time.
4. Christmas Eve Church Service
Depending on your family’s faith or what your community does during the Christmas season, this may not be applicable. If that’s the case, feel free to scroll on by. We started last year attending a special Christmas Eve service as a family at our church before settling in for the night to get ready for Christmas morning. Faith is a huge part of Christmas and for our family overall so this has been an important one for us to add in. We want our kids to grow up learning about Jesus and His birth and to center their focus during Christmas on what that means to all of humanity and to them individually. It’s also a great chance to just slow down in the middle of what is often just such a hectic season and spend some time together as a family and with our community of believers to keep our priorities and perspectives in order.
5. The Shepherd’s Treasure
This one is a new tradition to us this year. It’s a faith based spin on the popular Elf on the Shelf. Each night, the shepherd moves on a treasure hunt for the greatest gift and leaves a Bible verse, discussion, and sometimes an activity to do. Christmas morning, the shepherd will find baby Jesus. I wasn’t sure if we would make it a regular part of our Christmas celebrations, but on the 4th day, it opened up a dialogue with our oldest which led to him praying a prayer of salvation, and as I’m writing this, we are preparing for his baptism this weekend! If it seems like too much to fuss with for your taste, that’s cool. But I’ve definitely found it to be worth a little extra effort each night to create more dialogue about our faith with our boys on their level. You can order your own here.
6. Visit Santa
Usually, we just find Santa at different local events and grab a couple photos. We’ve done mall santa before as well, but it just wasn’t worth the money to us when we could find Santa elsewhere and snap our own pictures for free. This year my boys have asked him for a pet fish and unicorn robot (6 year old), and a nintendo ds and money to pay someone else to clean his room (5 year old). Someone tell my 5 year old that that last one is on mommy’s Christmas list too! Ha! We’ve personally chosen to include Santa in our Christmas celebrations. We kind of let our boys lead the way on whether it was something they were interested in our not, and they love having fun with it. Like everything, we feel balance and keeping priorities in order based on our beliefs are important, but don’t feel like it’s something we need to eliminate or create an either/or situation between Santa and a faith focused Christmas. We don’t go overboard in creating elaborate stories and scenarios to protect the secret of Santa, read a book about the origin story of Santa and how it can blend into the generosity and love of Jesus for us, and will just let them decide how long they want Santa to be a part of their Christmas. If you’re conflicted about making sure Jesus remains the main focus of Christmas but also want to incorporate Santa in some way, I highly recommend this book.
I hope you enjoyed reading about a few of our favorite traditions, and again please tell me all about some of your own favorite ways to celebrate Christmas with your family in the comments below or on my Facebook page.