This is my favorite time of year. Maybe because I was born 5 days before Christmas. Maybe because it's all the twinkly lights. Maybe it's all the joy. Whatever it is, it's reminds me of how much I love my family and love how we celebrate this month.
<<<<<also see my CHRISTMAS page>>>>>
There begins a chill in the air this month. And then begins the Christmas season. I want the family to feel a comfort and coziness when they walk through the door. I want it to 'feel' like Christmas. I want the boys to look back on their life when they are grown and remember the smells, the cozy warmth, the activities, and the love of celebrating the birth of Jesus.
I like to make the home cozy by draping blankets on the backs of the chairs and sofas. I add festive pillows to the chairs and sofas. I buy more festive candle smells like warm apple pie, mulled cider, evergreen, and Christmas cookie.
In the kitchen, I set up at hot chocolate station. Mugs are set out, and cocoa is in a jar. I have smaller jars with mini marshmallows and peppermint sticks to add to the cocoa.
I bring out our Christmas baking aprons. This month I love to bake cookies,chocolates, and breads for family, friends, and teachers. We also make homemade salt dough ornaments.
Music! Oh, how I love music. I could have music playing 24/7. I will always have a Christmas station playing on Spotify or Amazon Music this month. My favorite CD's to play are-
Our family celebrates Christmas, but we have friends who celebrate other holidays. I try to teach the boys different holidays and to be respectful of others holidays, just as we want ours to be respected.
The day after Thanksgiving(in November) I start a Christmas countdown breakfast. I do not participate in Black Friday shopping, and I will discuss why in another section below. I really enjoy decorating the table for the coming Christmas season. The joy on the kids faces makes it all worth the extra effort. There really isn't too much extra to do. See the Christmas Breakfast page for ideas. I use festive plates and cups and napkins. I bring out our Elf and Christmas Angel.(for the record, I really don't like elf on the shelf and don't really do what everyone else does, see activities that I do). I make our traditional pancakes with Christmas sprinkles. It is just a great way to get everyone in the fun Christmas spirit. We have even had this special breakfast while camping one year.
On the same day as the breakfast, I start our advent. We celebrate this in several ways. Everyday we do a craft or activity. We do everything from baking cookies to make ornaments to Gingerbread Houses to making gifts to watching Christmas Movies. Ideas are HERE and HERE and HERE
Then on the actual day before Advent, I have a Night Before Advent Party. I bring out Ann Voskamp's advent book. Her wisdom is so profound, I could not do advent without it. I print our banner, the bible verse cards, and the coloring pages that correspond to each day. We have hot chocolate and cookies, and we often invite friends to share in this joy. As a small gift, I print out small advent ornaments for the child guest to take home. These can only be printed if you purchase Ann's book. It is well worth it.
Each evening after dinner, I quiet our home. I read the story from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as the little ones color that days page. She has several ideas that go with each day. Then we do an activity that goes with the days theme. and bible verse. See my page on the Greatest Gift Advent ideas.
I personally read Ann Voskamp's book The Greatest Gift every morning during my quiet time. She has a way of speaking to my soul. I really look forward to this time.
As much as I love simplicity, I actually love to do several activities, one or two a day, for this entire month. Some are very fun and wild- Zoo Lights and ice skating, Christmas lights scavenger hunt, delivering presents. Some require a little planning- snowman craft, making ornaments, Christmas baking. Some are calm and simple- watching a Christmas movie, reading books together, playing a game, watching Bellevue's Singing Christmas Tree online.
I have several activity ideas on my Christmas page.
Jesus is the reason for the season. I make sure everything we do always leads back to Jesus. Our daily advent ideas focus on the Coming of Christ. Ideas are HERE
We have a Happy Birthday Jesus Box. Each day we write down something we have done for Jesus as a gift to Him and put it in the box. Then on Christmas morning, we read what everyone has written.
Jesus and Jesse Tree- I combine this tree to simplify our home. (this is a special tree that isn't our family tree) We make ornaments for this tree. We also collect objects throughout the year that represent Jesus. Each evening in December we add to the tree.
We spend a craft day making a bible verse chain. Each verse is about the coming of Jesus and His birth.
Money & Budget & Shopping
We establish a budget and stick with it. I add gift ideas to my Amazon account wish list, along with a written list for Local and Fair Trade. Once I have our family's list and ideas down, we then talk about what most important gifts we will buy. If I'm not careful, I could buy everything on my list for everyone! I know I can't be the only one. The budget and list helps keep me on track.
I love all the fun crafts to make, LOTS of great food to bake, and all the Christmas activities. But all of them cost money. Money is from hard work, the very hard work of my spouse, and even me. But, when I focus on respecting my spouse and the hard work, I am able to keep myself on track. We only choose a few things that are important to us.
I am a minimalist at heart. If you walk into our home, you wouldn't believe it. But, I did say- at heart. We still have a large family. I don't buy into the American Dream concept. We do not try to keep up with the Joneses. It's just not our thing. We will keep things that are old and worn out, but still useful, regardless of what it looks like. Our kids don't share the same ideal, if you can imagine. They get embarrassed, but we are working on that.
But, we are a large family and we have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. Then again, we do need things from time to time. And we really love giving at Christmas. God gave us the most precious gift of all, Jesus. We can't top that, but when we give, we keep that in mind. When we give, we give from the heart, and for the consideration of the receiver. Each of our gifts serve a purpose. We purposely buy local or fair trade, that helps provide work local people and for the poor.
KIDS- many, many years ago we started the 3 gift rule then it changed a little over time to 4. Only because we noticed the wastefulness. A child would break a toy, then just go to the next, then the next, then the next. And it was only the day after Christmas! We wanted to teach appreciation, so we implemented the rule. They are not deprived in the least. We added a basic rule to give a want, need, wear, read. I've never done the Santa gift thing. We read the books and have fun with the Santa concept. You know what? Not once have the kids asked where their Santa gift is. I focus on the activities and the real reason, so I don't think it has affected them negatively at all.
SHOPPING- when we do shop, we purchase with a purpose. Throughout the year we shop local. And when it isn't local, we try to purchase from those in need. Like Mercy House and more. This is also a reason why we do not shop on Black Friday. There isn't anything we want or need that is on sale that day. I have friend that I adore who participate. I do not judge. It's just not our thing. But, I do have a wish that others wouldn't buy into shopping for the fun of it and having things. My wish is that purchases could be done by buying local or fair trade.
Now, what doesn't say helping the widowed, orphaned, poor like Jesus commanded than making wise purchases like that?!
We love to give in ways other than gifts. Self- spending quality time going to get coffee, to the movies, help around their house. Experience- pass to zoo or museum, movie gift card, rock climbing lessons, Putt-Putt gift card, pottery class, Motorsports driving experience. Subscriptions- Faithbox, magazines, little passports. Food- homemade specialty foods, gift card to grocery store, gift cards to restaurants. Wellness- gift card for yoga class, skating, YMCA. Learning- books, musical instruments, nature products.
Comfort & Joy
This season can bring such busyness. And with busyness comes stress. You can't have comfort and joy with stress. As much as I love all the fun activities, we can't do them all. Our city and surrounding areas are bustling with Christmas cheer. I want to do them all! But, we can't without sacrificing joy. When I plan activities, I do so with the boys desires in mind. We choose things that focus on Jesus. We also choose things that only bring us or others joy. What brings comfort and joy to our homes may not look like what your home does. It's okay for your family to not look like another's family. Envy will destroy your joy. We realized a long time ago that our family, especially with 6 boys, would just not have the same dynamic as others. We will always have our own idea of comfort and joy and we are good with that. What brings our family comfort and joy? Big family dinners all together, waking to the Christmas Countdown Breakfast, calm evenings coloring and reading our advent book, hot cocoa and talks around a campfire, only the glow of the tree lights as daddy reads from Luke, snuggling together to watch Home Alone, Christmas Pj's on Christmas Eve.
This time of year might not bring such comfort and joy like we sing in our Christmas carols. There are lonely people without family. They could live right down the street from you. It is our hearts desire to make others feel loved. With a compassionate heart we find several ways to spread Christmas cheer- inviting a friend over for afternoon tea or dinner, hosting a cookie swap, paying for someones coffee or lunch in the drive-thru, sponsoring a Christmas Angel, buying a gift through Compassion, loading up as many of the boys friends we can for a Christmas Light scavenger hunt (in PJ's, eating warm chocolate chips cookies and hot cocoa!), delivering baked goodies to the homeless. There are countless way to spread cheer. And even when you are the one that is feeling down and depressed, if you just get out and do for others, you will begin to feel your spirits lifting. It's Give and Take, felt mostly when you give.
Throughout this month we de-clutter. We will have new toys and things coming in the home at the end of the month. To keep order, keep clutter down, and make room, we go through all the toys and clothing. We donate to a charity in town. I always say- Mess causes Stress. I really don't want the Christmas season to be stressful, so I try to eliminate this burden by donating as much as possible before Christmas Day. By getting excess stuff out of the home, there will be room for the new toys and things without it feeling like a mess.
Of all the fun activities bring to the season, we must take care of our hearts. Even what always seemed fun may become overwhelming. Make sure you take care of you! Once you take care of yourself, things seem to fall into place. Here are a few ideas I've done>>> Journal- write out thoughts and ideas and blessings. Exercise- go on walks, hikes, bike rides, yoga. Pampering- do nails, use a special lotion this month, take a warm bath with soft music. Find quiet- quiet time with Lord, prayer time, coffee or tea on your porch or backyard, read an uplifting Christmas book, work on a puzzle.
We choose one evening close to Christmas day to have a Shepherd's Meal. This a calm and relaxing evening when we have all family members at the table. (it's really hard to do when you have teens who work!) We have a simple meal, something like the shepherds may have eaten before the coming of Christ. I prepare Potato Soup, freshly baked bread, cheeses, fruits, and grape juice. We eat this meal by candlelight. Sometimes it's even great to eat outside on the patio by candlelight, or around a campfire. The point is to create a calm in the midst of the busyness this season can bring. We gather together, calm our hearts, enjoy a warm meal, and reflect on the coming of Christ.
I love old fashioned ideals and customs. Sometimes I thinks it's from living on a dairy farm when I was younger, living the simple, country life. But, I also remember living near Amish families. I have always admired their lifestyle.
My favorite things to do with the kids have to do with old fashioned ideals. We make homemade ornaments out of salt dough, or foil, or sticks and yarn. I love to string popcorn, so we will do that and set it out for the birds to eat. We make a lot of gifts, instead of buying. One year Seth made sock puppets for his brothers. I've made blankets, photo pillows, cross stitched pictures, lip balm, lotion bars, and chocolates. Just slowing down to make gifts brings a calm and a gratefulness that seems to be missing this time of year.
One of my all time favorite movies is A Smoky Mountain Christmas with Dolly Parton. It is about a country singer going to the mountains for Christmas, and happens upon orphans living in her friends cabin. CMT will air this movie sometimes, but I bought it. It's not great quality and it does have magic in the story line, but the message is one I will forever love.
12 Days of
All month long we do so many activities as we anticipate celebrating the birth of our savior. Then all of the sudden Christmas day comes and goes, and we stop. It can be really hard on little ones. I got an idea several years ago from Clay and Sally Clarkson to do a Christmastide. We celebrate 12 days after Christmas. Each day represents something, with a quick daily reflection or activity.
25th- LOVE- serve one another with love. Do someone's chore, make them breakfast, help them organize new gifts,etc...
26th- JOY- Hidden Treasure Hunt- each person hides a treasure for someone else. Then they write out clues and the person follows to clues to find their treasure.
27th- PEACE- Declare this day MEDIA FREE! No tv, video games, devices, or radio. Enjoy each others company, read a book, take a nature walk, take a bike ride, etc...
28th- GRACE- bake cookies and pipe icing of grace words on each cookie- love, joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, etc..
29th- HOPE- give hope to those in need. Donate clothing or toys, if you haven'y already. Or make a Hope Gift for the homeless- wrap a small pillow and blanket, bottled waters, homemade cookies, non-perishable foods and go around your city to give to those in need.
30th- TRUTH- Pick a family scripture for the coming year.
31st- SALVATION- New Me in Christ- Have each family member share their favorite story of Christ. Discuss ways to be like Jesus for the new year.
Jan.1st- ASSURANCE- write letters to someone, anyone you pick, to assure them of your love for them.
2nd- PURPOSE- God made us each unique for specific reasons to make a family unit whole. Discuss what you think your purpose is and encourage others, too.
3rd- REDEMPTION-Discuss how we have been redeemed by Christ then have a family board game day or at night.
4th- FORGIVENESS- Is there someone you need to forgive? Write a letter to them or just to God forgiving this person. Start the new year with a fresh heart.
5th- ADOPTION- celebrate by sponsoring a child through Compassion. If you already do so, have each member write separate letters to this child. If that's not possible, invite a friend over for dinner, deliver a dessert to a friend, or invite a friend over for tea/coffee.
New Years Eve
Years ago I made a New Years Eve party because I wanted to celebrate with the kids. I would rather ring in the new year with them than go to a party. Read about that HERE
As the kids have gotten older, we have spent the evening out to a movie and dinner, then home to celebrate.
I love reading books to my children, especially Christmas books. We also read books just about the Winter season that starts in December. I gather all of our Christmas books, put them in a large basket, and put it under the tree. We read books all day long. I personally read Christmas devotions and Christmas novels of all kinds throughout this month. The boys read on their own. But, it always seems so much sweeter and cozier when I read aloud.
These are some family favorites. Some are for children, teens, adult, and in between. I enjoy several types of Christmas movies, they are my favorite. There are many Christmas movies not appropriate for children, and there are some in between that still have a great meaning. In order to enjoy all kinds of movies, you can filter by using Clear Play and TV Guardian and VidAngel .
Miracle on 34th Street(1994 version)- Thanksgiving night is a great time to watch this one!
An Old Time Christmas