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I try to be very intentional about our activities and the ways we celebrate during this time. You can see my series on what I do to prepare for the Christmas season to keep it a time of peace and family starting here (follow the links at the end of each post to the next one). Also check out my Advent Calendar post for more information about how we do that!
Now I will share some of the things we do DURING the Christmas season.
Decorations go up the weekend after Thanksgiving. Our tree decorations include meaningful ornaments such as a nail to represent Jesus on the cross and a candy cane with the story of the meanings behind it. We also have a German Bride’s tree set where each of the 12 pieces have a special meaning. We read about the meaning of each of these as we put them on our tree.
I’ve been trying to find somewhere to buy the German Bride’s set to put away for my kids but haven’t found a nice one anywhere. I’m hoping to come up with a way to make them myself soon!
I also pull out the Christmas books, movies, music, and our Little People nativity set. These are items I keep put away the rest of the year so they will feel special when they are available. We have been collecting Christmas books in order to have one Christmas themed book a day during Advent. I don’t wrap them but that is a fun tradition I’ve heard of others doing so the kids have a book a day to unwrap. We just do well to read them! The movies and music are used all through the season.
The Little People Nativity set was given to my kids by my mom several years ago and they absolutely love it! It is a great way for them to recreate the story of Jesus’ birth and internalize it.
This year I found something new to try; a Christmas Hymn Unit study. This study includes the history of each hymn, copywork, activities and the music for voice and tin whistle or recorder. My kids have learned a little of both instruments and I think it will be fun to try playing these hymns. We generally do very little formal school work during this time of year so this will be a fun study to do during this time.
We use this beautiful advent wreath as another way to count down the days of advent. It has Mary riding her donkey to Bethlehem as she moves along the spiral. You can put candles in the holes in any arrangement that suits you. We use traditional advent candles that we light each Sunday in Advent. (This wreath can also be used for Lent/Easter with an included add on and a figure of Jesus carrying the cross). You can learn more about this wreath here but note that it is probably too late to get one for this Christmas, they are handmade and take time. I would suggest ordering in the middle of the year!
I set one of our nativities up with just the animals in the barn. Mary and Joseph start out somewhere in the house-usually as far away as possible. Every day through December they move a little closer to the nativity. On Dec. 24th they arrive at the barn. Christmas morning Jesus is there with the angel and the shepherds. At this point the kings start traveling-like Mary and Joseph starting as far away from the nativity as possible and getting closer every day until Three Kings Day. The kids enjoying trying to find where Mary and Joseph (and later the kings) are each day.
We don’t make a big deal of Santa in our family but we do give stockings and small presents in observance of St. Nicolas. We also read books and watch movies about St Nicolas and why he is part of Christmas. I have tried doing stockings on St Nicolas day (Dec. 6th) but I never seem to be able to get it together in time so we do them Christmas morning. This year we are going to observe St. Nicolas Day by putting our shoes by the door and the kids will find chocolate in them in the morning. We are also going to put together bags of goodies to leave at our neighbors’ doors. (These activities are also our Advent calendar activity for the day).
The seven days before Christmas we start the What God Wants For Christmas activity (which appears to be out of print). In this activity you read a part of the story and add a figure to the nativity set each day. This version of the Christmas story focuses on God’s gift to us and culminates in what He wants for Christmas (you). The kids open a small box with the figure each day. They really enjoy this.
We open presents Christmas eve so that we can focus on Christ, spending time with friends and family and just relaxing on Christmas. This year I want to incorporate the idea of doing a present with PJs, popcorn, hot chocolate, and a family movie the night before Christmas. Since we open presents Christmas eve we are actually going to open this one the day before (Dec 23rd). I even put it on our advent calendar for that day. I will wrap one large box with all of the items in it for the kids to open together.
As I said above we open presents Christmas eve. We also attend the church service and we have Mexican food for dinner. All of these are traditions from my childhood. We do the traditional dinner on Christmas. Well mostly traditional, we plan to have goose instead of turkey this year!
Don’t over-do it!
While this may sound like a lot of activities, I make an effort to keep our Christmas season simple so that I can focus on relationships. I have added only one of two of these traditions each year and they have become a natural part of our routine. I share these to give you ideas not to make you feel like you have to do it all! The most important thing is to remember the gift God gave us in Jesus and to show love to your family, friends and neighbors!
Here is a video where I discuss some of our traditions and show examples:
How do you make Christmas special? Share your traditions in the comments!