This month is packed with important activity for us- relatives moving nearby, end of semester grades to submit, the start of a small home business project. All while wanting to preserve slow evenings, plan time for reflection and ensure fun time with the kids. There are a few special ways that we have cut back and yet filled our days with what we want, each altering the norm to fit our family and intentions. Are you looking for traditions to tweak too?
#1: Swap sending Christmas cards to giving a few Thank You cards.
If you don’t quite have time for: searching for addresses, writing a big stack of cards, getting a new perfect family photo taken in order to make a card, trips to the Post Office and the expense of postage, why not swap this tradition out this year for sending a few thoughtful Thank You or Encouragement cards? We took a little time to think back through the year and made up these categories (we only delivered to a few): *someone we miss *someone we want to thank *someone who has influenced us this year *a new neighbor *someone who needs cheer.
We made one batch of simple cookies and drove around the neighborhood to deliver these. The kids love leaving a surprise at someone’s door!
#2: Swap your traditional Christmas tree to be your Jesse Tree.
I’ve written before about progressive tree decorating; spreading out the fun over the month. But this idea of making the tree a focal point for teaching was really a game changer for us. There is not as much to unpack or put away and the only ornaments to look are are related to our Advent readings. Every single piece of the tree has meaning and that has helped meet our goal of truly making Christ the center of our celebrations. *Additionally, if you like to collect an ornament for each year, we have a basket of Nativity and star ornaments under the tree that we will add to and they will all be put up on Christmas morning. Why shouldn’t the tree look the most beautiful on Christmas day!? It’s yet another symbol of celebration.
#3: Continuing gratitude by starting a Christmas Jar.
This is often a popular idea leading up to Thanksgiving, but we tweaked it to keep the spirit going in December. I have a stack of squares and we stop occasionally to scribble a present on one side and our own name (TO: Mom) and other on the other, write down anything that has been a gift to us that day- friends over, the first snow, a fun activity. Something that specifically delights each of us.
We will read these sometime Christmas week to slow down, notice, and appreciate good things around us and thank God for His good gifts. We may make this a time of family worship and prayer at a weekly family meeting.
#4: Introduce the Wandering Wise Men.
There are many ideas of characters to hide around the house or perch to spy on your kids (Elf on the Shelf, The Shepherd on the Search, The Shepherd’s Treasure and such). We pretend with our kids that these “Wise Men” in our house are on the Journey to bring Jesus gifts. My husband hides them around the house and the kids have to locate all three before Advent can begin. They are 8 and 11 but still enjoy looking for the crazy places the Wise Men end up. It’s a simple, fun way to add a little more mystery and help us keep the focus where we want it.
#5: Start a Christmas Eve tradition with Christmas Pajamas!
How many Christmas pictures do you have with crazy matted hair and too-short pajamas on? One thing that we have all enjoyed and has benefited the many Christmas pictures we know we will want to take, is intentionally giving them cute pajamas on Christmas Eve! They love getting to open one gift early and pretty inexpensively so far I’ve found adorable plaid flannel pjs, or we love ones that look like a costume- double fun all year! Fortunately my boys are the same size and I found a double pack of Mario and Luigi pajamas for this year! To take care of myself too I go ahead and set out my favorite sweater and jeans and shower the night before to be ready for the early wake up call. It’s not at all about looking perfect but just being ready to relax on Christmas day and loving the memories that you make. I make ahead something simple to bake like a breakfast casserole or baked oatmeal and we munch on this and simple fruit and biscuits on Christmas morning around the coffee table.
The main point is to not get caught up in doing too much or keeping a tradition that’s not working, but to set them aside and choose what is best for your family right now. All of life is making choices and we model that for our little ones every day.
Start with considering what you want the focus to be on or where you want your time to be spent and then eliminate the stress so you can choose more little moments with them. It will be worth it.
What simple changes have you made to alter your celebrations?
Tell us below and we may add to our list!