Who else looks forward to their favorite Christmas traditions all year long? 🙋 I've been thinking a lot about why I love Christmas so much, and all the lights and music and magic wouldn't mean much to me without the memories that come with them. Christmas is all about traditions, like listening to Nat King Cole, drinking cocoa by the light of the Christmas tree, and reading Luke 2 as a family on Christmas Eve. Here are a few more of our family's favorite Christmas traditions that make our days merry and bright and remind us of the true reason for the season.
Christmas Book Advent - This is a new tradition this year, but it's already our favorite! Every night our kids get to unwrap a Christmas book from under the tree, and then we read it together before bedtime. They LOVE unwrapping each "present" (they call it), and even though most of the books are familiar ones from years past, they still ask to read them over and over. We borrow books from our local library to supplement our own, and some nights they get to unwrap a Christmas movie from our collection instead. Of course, I wait to put each night's present under the tree until RIGHT before they're about to open it, because, well...kids. 😉
We're starting a new tradition tonight: a Christmas book advent, so it's time to start wrapping! 🎁 Every night until Christmas, we'll put a book under the tree for the kids to unwrap and read before bedtime. We've collected a few of our own Christmas books over the years, but we'll also be borrowing some from our local library, and I've got my eye on a few new ones, too. By the way, does anyone have any suggestions for a board book about the first Christmas and the birth of Jesus? 🌟#christmaswithkids #christmasstories #christmastraditions
"The True Meaning of Christmas" Family Home Evening - The first Monday in December, we have a family night (#fhe #iamamormon) about the true meaning of Christmas. It helps our family remember to focus on Christ throughout the season, and not get so wrapped up (pun intended) in all the presents and busyness and fun that we miss out on the joy of celebrating His birth. We sing Christmas songs about the baby Jesus, share a Christmas story or two, read about Him from the scriptures, and at the end, our kids get to unwrap their toy nativity from the under the tree (hooray for more presents before Christmas day!). While the songs and stories vary from year to year, the point is the same: that Jesus Christ is the true gift of Christmas.
Christmas Light Sight-Seeing - This tradition makes a great family night, too. In the past we've driven around the neighborhood or looked up the best houses to see (our local newspaper has a map on their website), and we've also visited the Botanical Gardens before too, which has a pretty spectacular light display. This year we went to see the famous lights in a not-so-famous little Idaho farming town, and it was just as spectacular as the Botanical Gardens, plus it was free! I have a feeling we'll be going back there year after year.
If you're in the @beautifulboise area, go check out the lights in downtown Caldwell! (This does not even do it justice, by the way. It's huge, it goes on for almost a mile.) I loved walking along the creek with all the millions of lights twinkling and Christmas music playing. I'm really in the Christmas spirit now! 🎄#itsthemostwonderfultimeoftheyear
Date Night - Christmastime always seemed so romantic when we were young and in love (vs. not quite as young now but still in love). It's one of my favorite times to be with Ben, and as much as I enjoy cuddling in front of the fire at home with my man, we (well, I) try to plan at least one special night out for just the two of us. For years we went on a sleigh ride together, but we've since moved away, so the last few years we've just gone out for dinner and shopping at the plaza here. Still, spending the night holding hands, making eyes at each other, and admiring the lights feels just as rare and magical now that we have kids! Maybe this year we'll up the romance and get dressed up for dinner somewhere other than Chili's. (But he put his plug in to see Star Wars...😂)
Shopping for Toys for Tot - This is another new tradition, which my friend and her family have done for years. I felt inspired by #LighttheWorld to try it this week, so I'm excited to see how it goes! The plan is for each member of family member (especially each kid) to pick out a toy he or she would like to have, but instead of taking the toys home and putting them under the tree, we'll donate them to Toys for Tots. We're going to do this Friday, which is a day to focus on compassion as part of the #LighttheWorld movement.
I've been meaning to share this advent calendar from @ayearoffhe (I dropped the link in my profile!)--it has so many simple ideas for kids to get involved in #LighttheWorld and honor Christ this season. It was my mom's idea to use it for our morning devotionals this month, and last night for #FHE we came up with something for each day this week that we could do together as a family. Today we're focusing on sharing so we can be humble like the Savior (Daddy's idea). ❤️ #keepchristinchristmas #itsthemostwonderfultimeoftheyear
Christmas Cookie Exchange - Yet another new tradition, another favorite! Dinner parties can be a challenge with little kids, so we decided to invite a few other couples over for dessert instead. We each brought a batch of Christmas cookies, sampled whatever we wanted, and split up the leftover cookies to take home. We also had one of our teenage neighbors over to help entertain the kids upstairs. It was such a fun night, and I'm already planning to do it again next year!
Handing out Gift Cards to the Homeless - Since I'm out and about more than usual, I see more homeless people on the corners these days. Every year I like to buy a few gift cards to keep in my car--cards to shoe stores, clothing stores, grocery stores, restaurants--so that I always have something to give whenever I see someone in need. I try to give whatever card I think could help them most, like one to a shoe store if they have kids or to Walmart if "anything helps."
Caroling to Neighbors - Growing up, I loved going caroling at Christmas, and now that I go caroling with my own family, I'm amazed again at how much joy it brings. We sing just one short song--usually "Away in a Manger" or "Silent Night"--so that no one has to stand awkwardly in the cold for too long, and then we hand out treats. Our neighbors seem to love it, too! One neighbor who hadn't spoken a word to us in 2 years (we weren't sure if he was extremely shy or just rude) was obviously touched and said, "That was so nice. Thank you."
I'm sure our traditions will keep growing and evolving over the years, but the one thing that stays the same is the joy of sharing them with the people I love most. What are your family's favorite Christmas traditions?