December 08, 2009

home for christmas...

Christmas is a beautiful, fun, busy time of year.  Sometimes I worry that it flies past and i haven't taken the time to teach my children the meaning.  I always try to plan traditions that bring the spirit of christmas home... spirit filled, family focused, service oriented, simply elegant, memorable moments.
Here are some of the things we do... [note- these pictures are all from last year.]

1.  Scripture time-- Throughout the year we have scripture time in the morning before breakfast.  We start with a song, take turns reading from scriptures for about 10-15 minutes and end with a kneeling family prayer.  In December we try to focus scripture time on the life of the Savior...  we have a binder that has a song, scriptures and a Christmas story.  I should say, we HAD a binder.  This year I couldn't find it, so we had to make another one... I used this link (for the day by day scriptures) and this PDF for some good Christmas stories.

2.  Christmas books--  I also have a pile of Christmas picture books on my coffee table... we are always reading them.  I like books that have the words to Christmas songs and my all time FAVORITE Christmas book ever is, I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS by Diane Adamson... [only $10.85 at Amazon] it connects Santa with Christ.  he wears red, his hair is white, he loves little children, he brings gifts, he knows i am good, etc.  the ending says "Santa Claus is a symbol of Christmas.  The symbols of Christmas can remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.  So, I believe in Santa Claus."  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book.  and, i believe in santa claus too.

3.  Gifts for the Savior-- I got this idea from my aunt Mil when i was little.  We have a wooden doll cradle that we use as a manger.  We hang a bunch of rafia on the wall right near it... it sits right next to our tree.  During our first Family Night in December we talked about all the gifts that Christ gave us and how we can give Him gifts...  you know the "if you've done it to the least of these my brethren you've done it unto me".  We encourage the kids to give gifts to Christ by serving others... when they do a service they can get a piece of rafia and add it to the manger.  Hopefully, by Christmas, the Savior will have a nice, fluffy, warm bed at our house.

4.  We make stuff-- I LOVE cozy, winter nights when we all gather round the table to make stuff.

Gingerbread houses are so fun... ours are not beautiful, just fun.  We use graham crackers, paper plates and this recipe for royal icing.  I like to put different candies in my tupperware veggie tray. 
Homemade Marshmellows are a mess, but we make them at least once during the season.  It's so cute having a little heart melting in your hot chocolate.  For the past five years I've used this recipe from Martha Stewart... messy but fun.  And, our favorite hot chocolate is Wal-Mart generic hot chocolate mixed with Hazelnut creamer.  Mmmm.

Painted Cookies... have you ever tried painted sugar cookies?  They are SO fun.  I'm not a big icing fan, although i haven't tried this recipe for Buttermilk icing.  I love having the kids paint designs on the cookies, they look like stained glass windows.  Here are some instructions that i found.  Love it!
Salt Dough Ornaments are something that I've always wanted to perfect... we've made many different kinds, gingerbread men, white ones that we've painted, etc.  There are many recipes, the only thing i recommend is spraying them with acrylic spray when you're finished.  I love these little ornaments as tags on teacher gifts and stuff like that.  I love that the kids can really make these all by themselves and give special gifts to grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, etc.  I remember my aunt giving us an ornament that she made of our whole family by a fireplace... i really want to do that this year.  Here is a recipe, but i may try sculpey clay this year.  i don't know though, there is something so romantic about ornament made out of salt, flour and water.  [last year we painted wood ornaments instead of salt dough... but this year, we're back to dough]

Egg Nog is my kids' favorite... but, homemade is the best.  My mom even has a little thing that holds a real nutmeg and you can grate it into your egg nog.  I need one of those.  Mmmm. 

5.  Secret Santa-- We've done a few different things with our kids over the years.  We like to have them each pick a friend from school, we even ask them to pray about it, and they pick out a special gift to give them anonymously.  Sometimes we have picked 6 families and surprised them with a gift each night for the 12 days before Christmas... my kids love this and all year long they talk about the "midnight" deliveries.  We like to make many of the gifts so that the kids are involved, but sometimes I worry that the family won't eat the treats because they are kid-made and anonymous.  Anyway, the 12 days of Christmas is great because the kids are involved in giving and planning and trying to stay anonymous.  GREAT memories!  And, if you plan ahead, you can get some fun packages on clearance the year before.  12 days times six families is a lot of stuff!

6. Dollare Store-- Yes, it's a crazy idea that i got from the Eyres... every year we take the kids to the dollar store with money they've earned (or we've given them), a shopping list, and a pencil.  They each buy a gift for each one of their siblings, mom and dad, and usually the family we will be seeing, grandmas, grandpas, our special adopted grandpa, Mr Bill, etc..  They love buying gifts and wrapping them when they get home.  It usually costs us around $100, but it's wonderful.  You really can get cool things at the dollar store.  I love seeing what they pick out and how they try to get their siblings to buy them what they want.  I love how some tell everything they got and some die trying to be secretive.  I love how it takes some kids 10 seconds and some kids an hour.  I love the wrapping marathon... they all try to disguise their gifts, so they wrap little things in great big boxes and always throw in some cans of beans to make it heavier than it is.  All year long they tell stories of how cool their wrapping jobs were.  I love that these presents sit under the tree for a long time and that on Christmas morning, these gifts are almost cooler that Santa's gifts.

7. Scavenger Hunts... The professor's family always writes scavenger hunts for one gift.  They are usually rhyming "christmas day is finally here, and on a hunt you'll go my dear.  Try looking high and looking low, you'll find your clue where hot air blows..."  I like that these clues take a long time and everyone is focused and excited as one person tries to find their gift.  The best is when someone has to go out in the snow to get a clue or drive to a different house.  It's a fun way to spend Christmas morning.  And, now that my kids are getting bigger, they are starting to write their own clues... fun, fun. and, oh the memories.  [Note- we were reading todd's grandma's autobiography this fall and it was fun to see that her family growing up had scavenger hunts also...]

8.  Christmas Eve Caroling... We love to go to Idaho for Christmas to ride along with the Gee family caroling.  It is COLD, COLD... but we all bundle up and sit on top of hay bales with lots of blankets.  They drive all along Sugar City ringing doorbells and singing.  I love that they all sing really well... with harmony and stuff.  I love that there are tons of kids and especially that the younger boys get to take turns ringing the doorbells.  One of jakob's favorite Christmas memory was getting left behind when he rang one doorbell.  After caroling we all peel off our layers and have soup at one of the uncle's homes.  Usually they read the Christmas story or act our the nativity or have different musical numbers... so fun and we can't wait for this year!  [even if i do have to buy a WHOLE NEW WARDROBE... to dress my texas clan for an Idaho winter].

9.  Christmas Morning...  the professor says it is a tradition to have an orange in your stocking.  his family alway shakes their gifts and says if they are going to wear it, eat it, read it, etc.  I like to stop my kids in their bedroom and talk about Christ.  I usually have pictures from the gospel art picture kit, of Christ's life, that we look through really fast before they head to the tree.  I thought that it would be annoying for them, but it's a nice way for me to keep them quiet in their room before it's time for them to wake up. 

10.  Food... it's funny, when i wrote a list of our traditions, mine were events and activities.  when the professor listed off traditions, they were all edible.  he's right though... it just wouldn't be christmas without good food. 

i'm grateful for holidays.  for the joy that comes with the cooking and cleaning and planning and celebrating.  in my perfect world, it's christmas every sunday.  i don't need the presents, but i love the family and the events and the symbols of christ. i hope your season is bright.

And, I'm a collector of ideas, so leave me a comment and let me know your favorite tradition...


valerie in TX said...

We have a few traditions, but NONE that are as wonderful as yours! :)

I didn't grow up in a tradition-rich family, so it's hard trying to start them on my own and be consistent every year so that they actually become traditions. :) One new tradition that I'm excited we are starting this year is a Jesse tree (for advent) where we have a devotional and add a related ornament to the tree each night leading up to Christmas. We also bake a birthday cake for Jesus.

I LOVE all of your family's traditions...ALL of them! but especially the secret Santa thing your kids do with their friends at school. I think we may have to try that this year! And I love the manger with the raffia. What kinds of "service" things do your kids do?

You know I'm not crafty, so the gingerbread houses and salt dough ornaments give me stress....because I WANT to do them, but I'm just so bad at it!

Love all your traditions...thanks for sharing!

Cindy said...

I thought you did a night in Bethlehem the night before too. Maybe that was someone else but we adopted that tradition somehow and the kids love to dress up and do the story and eat interesting food.

jenifer said...

we've done a christ dinner at EASTER time. love it! we have done a birthday cake- that is fun!
and, i'm really curious about the Jesse tree. tell me more!

valerie in TX said...

Hey Jen,
Here is a link where you can read more about the Jesse Tree. (even though we're not Catholic:))

There are several different links in the sidebar where you can find out different things about it and get ideas.

Basically, it is just reading scripture each night that shows how all of history points toward Jesus. Then you make ornaments [ours are from card stock - but I bet yours would be salt ornaments or pottery :)] that relate to the specific scripture for that day. Like for the creation story, you could make an earth, or sun moon and stars, etc.

We are using the paper tree we used for our Thanksgiving tree. You can put the ornaments on your regular Christmas tree, but it's kinda fun to have them all in one separate, special place. I've heard of people using a small artificial tree, a paper tree like ours, just a branch or twig, or you could even use a wreath.

Let me know if you guys decide to do it!

valerie in TX said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
valerie in TX said...

the link in my comment looks like it didn't work, but I THINK if you copy it and paste into your browser it will work. :)

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