December 20, 2013

ten things I do to make my kids' christmas magical

Christmas is huge for me.

It always has been. I love the smells, the sounds, the sights, the joy, the hustle, the bustle. Growing up I always knew two things about my adult life: I wanted kids and I wanted my kids to love Christmas as much as I do.

Christmas in itself does not need to be made more special or more magical. It is already of extreme significance because we are celebrating the birth of Jesus.

I want my kids to get that.

I want them to feel the relevance and joy of the celebration. I want them to realize that it is about our Savior's birth, and that He was born for them. I want the festivities to center around Jesus, but be for my kids. This means a little laying down of my own desires (isn't all of parenthood laying down of our own desires?)- the desires for an elegantly decorated tree, money to buy fabulous gifts for everyone I know, beautifully wrapped packages, gourmet dinner parties- these all must be surrendered in order to show my children that the season of celebration includes them.

Here are a few things that I believe make Christmas a little more magical for them:

1. let them deck the halls There is no perfect, themed Christmas decor around here. Colors abound, ornaments are primarily shoved into one main section on the tree, a countless amount of small cloth stockings are daily scattered across the floor by Eleanor... But it is all worth it to hear James proudly declare to me: "I decorated our whole house for Christmas!"

top photo: a lego airplane was added to the mantel display
bottom photo: James' understated, yet tasteful, holiday table centerpiece

2. display their Christmas crafts around the house James' snowflakes are on the windows, his finger-print light strand on the wall, homemade ornaments on the tree, and his graham cracker house displayed atop the fridge so that he can't eat it.

3. cultivate thankful hearts The best way for me to do this is like everything else: model it for them. So I express my gratitude for what I have, and I do not harp on what I would like. (The truth of the matter is that I really do have all I could want or need.) I protect their hearts from consumerism by not putting an emphasis on the gifts. I have an idea of what James may want, but he doesn't write lists and we don't talk about all the gifts he will receive on Christmas day. Instead, we talk about how fun it will be to see our family and spend time together celebrating Jesus' birth. When he does receive gifts, we write thank-you cards and talk about how special the gifts are, and how grateful we are for the people who gave them to us.

4. set the mood I try to think of all the senses: Christmas music playing, bells on door handles, pine scented candles, fire in the fireplace, twinkle lights... James likes to plug the lights in for me, and he always requests Christmas music. (We also have a special Christmas dance party mix for when we needs upbeat music for doing "crazy moves".)
As always, the most important mood to set is my own. If I am cheerful and excited, they will be as well.

5. help them give This certainly goes hand-in-hand with #3. James has a gift to give to Eleanor and he helped me wrap the presents to give to his cousins. We made ornaments for neighbors and went around the neighborhood spreading Christmas cheer. I try to make giving fun for him, and I stress the importance of sharing the abundance of what we have with those less fortunate.

6. decorate their bedroom It doesn't have to be fancy. James has his cloth Advent calendar hanging on the wall, paper snowflakes on the window, and a ribbon hanging up that he helped me tape Christmas cards onto. It is simple, but festive.

7. activity Advent calendar It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but it actually helps me to have something special planned for each day.

8. involve them in the hustle and bustle (but don't burn them out) Christmas is not a season to get everything done without the kids so that Christmas day will be Norman Rockwell-picture perfect. It is a time to engage with my children and spend special time with the family. So I take them to the post office, have James help me wrap gifts, set him on the counter to help me cook... The busyness is part of the fun, unless it burns out the kids. If they seemed overwhelmed or get sick, we don't just continue to run errands and meet up for play dates anyway. Instead, we stick close to home, we adjust our schedule, and we rest as much as possible.

9. go walkin' in a winter wonderland Outdoor time is so important to me. It becomes even more important when it looks like Christmas may have thrown up in my home and I need a little natural simplicity. Also very important when beautiful, wintry weather hits. We had snow early this year and it actually stuck due to unusually low temperatures. It took me 45 minutes to get the kids ready to go outside. We stayed out for fifteen minutes. But the memories were made and the house felt even cozier once we were back in and dry.

10. tell the story of the first Christmas We do this each morning over breakfast (this is our usual Bible story time). I started to act it out with little wooden figurines that used to belong to Lane and his brother when they were kids. We have several story books of the first Christmas, but James' favorite has become a pop-up version which will most likely not survive this season without some maple-syrup fingerprints.
I do this because I want them to have context. I want them to know why we are sending out cards, giving gifts, decorating a tree we put inside our house, eating way more sugar than usual: because Jesus was born, and He was born for them.

What are some ways you make your kids' holiday magical? What were ways your parents used to make it a special time of year? I would love to hear!

Merry magical Christmas time!

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 

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