Every year, the holiday season seems to fly right by us in a whirlwind of busyness, over-planning of obligations, and, as much as I hate to admit it, total stress. Since we had kids, I've taken on the sudden pressure of trying to create a perfectly magical Christmas for our kids, which, don't get me wrong, I love doing. With our kids being so little, I've found that these few Christmases in their "little years" is an opportunity to start new family traditions that we can carry on for years to come. However, looking at my long list of "must-do's" and advent calendar ideas, I realized that cramming every single magical detail into this month will not make for a memorable Christmas. As much fun as doing a million crafts, baking cookies, building gingerbread houses, decorating every room of the house and making sure we participate in every event of the season (or else we'll have missed out!) is, over-doing it is over-doing it. I want to create magical memories for my family, yes, but I want those memories to mean so much more than just surprises and games (which inevitably leave us all exhausted anyway).
We are trying to slow it down a little, stop spending so much money unnecessarily, and spend more time resting and enjoying Christmas in that rest as a family. So I thought I'd share a little bit of what we've been up to in preparation for Christmas! Because Christmas is the best!
First of all, notice that we have an actual hot cocoa station in our kitchen. We take our cocoa very seriously when we watch our favorite Christmas movies. We have already gone through a whole batch of cocoa... this jar is the second one! Yikes...
One of the most important traditions on my side of the family are these Dutch stroopwafels. My mom, grandma, sisters in-law, and extended relatives make hundreds of these little beauties one day a year. They are so delicious! If you've never tried one, you must. They are a buttery cookie split in half and filled with a caramel-like syrup. Put one over a hot cup of coffee to let it warm and you've got a match made in heaven. I finally bought my own pizzelle iron this year and I'm so excited to carry on this little tradition with my own daughter (now that she's big enough to get in on the hard work ;)
We need to gift them all away stat, because they're all we've been eating the past week.
With Lumen turning four next month, this year is finally the year she will remember some of the details and be old enough to understand why we celebrate Christmas, so it was important to us to re-evaluate our motives a little. This year, we are a family of four. Lumen gets to share Christmas with a little brother, experience belief in Santa, anticipate Christmas morning, and most importantly, learn about what Jesus gave to us when he came into our world. We are setting the bar now for how she will view this holiday in the future. I wanted to get a nativity set that she'd be able to play with, but hadn't had any luck in finding one I really liked. So we decided to make our own! This was the craftiest I've gotten this year and other than baking cookies (which is top priority), this is the extent of our DIY-ness and I'm totally fine with it. I followed this genius blog post and had a painting party with my girl. It was pretty easy and so fun!
The three balls pictured above were Lu's contribution. They are a purple ball, a head of lettuce, and a yellow sun. All gifts for the Christ-child. Wonderful gifts if you ask me...
It's so easy to get caught up in the gift-giving and receiving aspect, especially for a little kid, and I've been worried about fostering behaviors of greed and entitlement (seriously, how does one teach a three year old not to beg for toys everywhere they go?) so that was another reason to pull the reigns a tad on shopping and doing every fun thing imaginable this year. We simply got them three toys a piece, plus a few stocking stuffers. It's so easy for us to think they need more or that's not enough, but in reality, they're so little and they don't need a thing! As a family, we have personally been dealing with the problem of accumulating so much more than we need or have space for, and so we simply decided to slow down on the idea of filling all the space beneath the tree. Especially since our three year old can't even handle the idea of parting with any of her current toys!
We also decided to forgo our usual do-something-creative-and/or-messy-and/or-expensive-every-day-advent-calendar and just schedule a few important traditions and festivities into the month. Instead of an advent calendar, we have been doing some research into the history of advent and what it really means and taking some time to observe it. I splurged a little and got this candle holder, then took some clippings from our tree and made a simple horizontal wreath for it. Each Sunday, we light a candle and simply just take the time to breathe, pray, and celebrate hope. Oddly enough, this is so much more life-giving than carrying out tasks assigned from the advent calendar ;)
Don't get me wrong, advent calendars are so fun! And probably mean something more than the usual Pinterest-inspired ones I've created in the past. I've just personally made them out to be a crazy to-do list for myself in hopes of experiencing the perfect Christmas... Next year I'll just grab a pre-made chocolate-filled one, because if we're being honest, those are the best! The only daily advent "calendar" we've been doing is the Jesus Storybook Bible plan with Lumen. It's so great! If you don't have the Jesus Storybook Bible, I highly recommend it.
Some of our other traditions that have stuck are:
Getting our tree from Tappan's farm every Black Friday
Only putting lights on it
Choosing a night closer to Christmas to decorate it with ornaments (with cocoa and a good movie on)
Participating in 33 Days of Christmas Movies hosted by You Hate Movies
Seeing the Pioneer Square Christmas Tree followed by Zoo Lights
Strolling down Peacock Lane
Watching Home Alone and Home Alone 2 with friends
Attending our church's Christmas Eve candlelight gathering
The kids and I have also been doing some simple and free things like having Christmas music dance parties, coloring, checking out fun holiday books from the library, and having friends over in their pajamas to play during the day to make the most of wet and cold weekdays. Of course the calendar fills up pretty quickly with other fun events like holiday parties and family gatherings. I'd love to know some of the special things you and your families do every year!