Thursday, December 9, 2010

Simple Christmas Traditions

I am finally content with our Christmas traditions.  It's our 20th Christmas as a married couple and our 17th Christmas with children.  I guess it's about time.

I have learned my limits, and no longer come into the season with goals to make new ornaments for the Jesse Tree or bake ten types of Christmas cookies or have special gift boxes to open each day for the twelve days of Christmas (all failed experiments from my past).

I am good for one big day (or weekend) of decorating, and whatever does not get done then will not get done at all.  Our tree doesn't have a theme or much organization.  Just a lot of white lights and all the ornaments added over the years.  Each year we buy each child a new ornament that they can take with them someday (sniff!) to start their own tree.

I'm not really into crafts.  But I print out Christmas coloring pages and crossword puzzles and phonics worksheets and math worksheets to do "Christmas School."

I am really, really good at reading (impressive, I know!) Christmas books and buying a few new ones each year to add to our collection.
(I'll list some of our favorites at the end of this post.)

I'm also really good at buying a fun variety of Christmas cookies at Trader Joe's.  I buy a new kind every week in December!  But we only bake cookies once or twice.

I love making Jesus the center of it all.  One of our favorite long-standing traditions is to set up the manger scene with the animals and shepherd, but the baby Jesus gets hidden away until Christmas morning.  Mary and Joseph "travel" throughout the house on their way to Bethlehem and the kids love searching for them every morning.  They move from bookshelf to counter to under the piano... in no real order... throughout the season.  On Christmas Eve they will be in the stable.  And on Christmas morning at least one small child will melt my heart when the first thing they ask is "Is baby Jesus here????"

(Even this simple tradition isn't always perfectly done.  "Mom, Mary and Joseph haven't travelled since yesterday."  "Oh, okay, sorry, uh, close your eyes!"  And then I stomp all around the house to throw them off track as I move them to their new spot. )

Here they are today, hidden in the base of one of the advent trees.

I do love the Jesse Tree, but I finally had to break down and buy the ornaments.  You can read more about it here (minus the part about homemade ornaments), but it's a daily advent devotional that takes you through the highlights of the Old Testament and the geneaology of Christ.  The name comes from Isaiah 11:1:  "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit."  It's a beautiful reminder of how much we need Jesus - He is our Rescuer!

I love our very traditional stockings.  Even though we've added many over the years, they all go together.

I love having at least one nativity that the kids can play with.  It's fun to walk through the living room and see that the animals have been rearranged.  They might even be on the roof.  But I know the kids hearts are thinking about the real meaning of Christmas as they play, and they always ask such good questions.

Most of all, I love to take time to be quiet.  To turn out all the lights except for a few candles and the tree lights and sing carols on the couch.  To have days with nothing planned except to sit and read Christmas books.  And reflect on the beauty of God's precious gift to us.


Picture Books:

Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble
Christmas with the Mousekins by Maggie Smith
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham
The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
Silver Packages by Cynthia Ryland
A Little House Christmas (Holiday Stories from the Little House Books)

Chapter Books:

Jotham's Journey
Bartholomew's Passage
Tabitha's Travels
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

1 comment:

Kari Patterson said...

I know this from last year, but I love this post all over again this year! I love your honesty, light-heartedness, and love that you share the real nitty gritty of what you do. Thanks, Heather!! We just sat down and read Mr. Willoughby's Christmas tree for our first Christmas book! Love you,