Defining Christmas for my family...

Having kids makes you literally rethink almost every decision and action you make - from what restaurants to go to and which cleaning products to use to how you celebrate the holidays. I've avoided it for 2 Thanksgivings and Christmases, but this year I knew I had to face it head on! Munchkin is old enough that I knew he'd hear about Santa, knew he'd see light displays at night and probably ask why they're done. Most influential is the fact that this year we will be celebrating Christmas at our home for the first time! So I had to come up with some answers fast. Unfortunately, the questions I would likely encounter piled up much faster than the answers. 

-Why put up a tree? Lights? Wreaths?
-Who's Santa? (Ssetting aside for at least this year the question of whether he's real. Whew!) 
-What's Advent? 
-What's Christmas?
-Why DO I bake so many cookies!?
-How many presents should I give to him? 
-Are traditions even important? Afterall, I didn't grow up with any...

So shortly after Thanksgiving, I started asking all my family and friends to share their traditions with me. Some were surprisingly meaningful, wonderfully thoughtful, and resonated with me, while others were rather goofy and didn't 'stick'. That said, the common theme was HOW the tradition was executed - either as a family or by "only mom and I," for example. Those relationships that were nurtured seemed to be what had the lasting impact. Also, underlying them was the fact that the child was made to feel special and/or part of a family unit! When trying to draw our our traditions from the suggestions given, we kept that in mind. We also tried to only start what we could maintain; after all, our children, (and we) will 'mature.' Although I hate to admit it, toddlers do indeed turn into teens with ideas of their own!

So here's the answers that we came up with and have explained to Muchkin, thus far:  
1. "Santa is the nickname for Saint Nicolas. He was a real person long ago who gave gifts to needy kids. Some people say he still comes and gives gifts to kids, but no one really knows. It's a wonderful mystery!"
2. "Christmas is the day we celebrate when Jesus was born. He was a very special man who taught many people how to love eachother and to give openly to those in need."
3. "We remember him by doing things like decorating an evergreen tree and putting up evergreen wreaths. His love for all his creation is as constant as an evergreen tree's color. And also we remember him by singing hymns and carols about him." And so on...
4. "Advent is how we count the days from Thanksgiving, up to Christmas. We'll state each day what we're thankful for and how we can show our appreciation for it." (Specifics below.)
5. "And we are so thankful for daddy that we will write a special letter to him about how much we love him." (Come to find out, this is actually an old Italian tradition as well. They place it under the dad's plate on Christmas Eve!)
6. "On Christmas Eve, we will set up the Nativity scene of Jesus' birth and tell the story. Then, we'll give eachother 3 gifts like he received: Gold = one gift you want, Frankincense = one you need, and Myrrh = one that will help you grow. And maybe Santa will even bring you a stocking in the morning with some goodies in it". (Of course, he'll get one, which will serve to occupy him while I make a nice breakfast Christmas day.) 
7. "I chose to bake cookies because I'm thankful for our neighbors, and friends, and firefighters, and others, and want to show them that we appreciate them."
8. We do ________ because we love eachother!  (This will hopefully be the answer that explains any other tasks we perform or behaviors we exhibit - NOT to include pepper-spraying fellow shoppers!)
9. Repetitions of the above: Attend our town's Tree Lighting event, attend performances of the carols and the like.
10. Lights: "These don't really have anything to do with Christmas that I know of, Munchkin, but because it's wintertime. We celebrate the winter season by making warm fires, roasting marshmallows, putting up beautiful garlands and we light them on the longest day of the year: usually December 22." Adding in that "Some people like the lights and decorations SO much, they put them up reeeaaally early, Sweety!"   

Advent calendar: Here's the list we came up with for this year. We were able to do about 1/2 of them this year, which I'd call success considering I started this endeavor the 5th and am pregnant! If the daily tasks get overwhelming as the kids are in school and have additional obligations, I could also see it being done on a weekly basis, focussing on one category each week. For instance, the first week being thankful for things we're given (and in return giving to those who don't have those things), the next week centered on community, the next week focus on family/friends. Then, the week leading to the 25th, focus on Jesus. Some people even continue these advents as counting toward the new year so as to avoid the anti-climax that happens on the 26th!  (I formatted the list as: We're thankful for X, so let's do Y.)  I intend to just print them out and cut them into little strips that I can fit into his Advent Tree drawers.

1. Blessings we have. Bless others in need
*For having so many toys to play with. Because we have so many, let's sort through our toys today and see how many we can share with other kids who need toys . (Or for older kids, video games and the like, or go out together to buy some new ones to donate.)
*For healthy bodies and healthy food to eat the whole year round. So let's go grocery shopping today, buying food for kids and families who don't have enough food today. (Or when kids are older let's go give blood to help someone who needs it.)
*For the gift of plenty of food to eat all year round. Many kids and families don't have enough to fill their bellies, and don't ever get to have treats like Chocolate, Candies, Popcorn, and Lollipops, so let's go to the grocery store today and buy those things to donate to kids.
*For the gift of God's love that never leaves us, just like the greenery of an evergreen tree! (Tree Decorating Day)
*For the gift nature and its beauty, smells, and sounds. So let's make some treats for the birds to enjoy outside this cold winter! Or we could gather pine cones and leaves and acorns to spray with glitter and decorate the house or some other nature craft.
*For the gift of having a beautiful home that keeps us safe from the winter weather. So let's decorate our home with fun paper chains  and paper snowflakes today. Or when kids are older, let's give a donation to Habitat for Humanity. 
*For the gift of wintertime when all things rest except the evergreen, which is like God's love. So let's decorate our house with evergreen garlands and wreaths today. We'll light them on the Longest Night of the year.

2. Community: 
*For all the extra special 'treats' we get to enjoy in life like cookies and candies. So let's bake some cookies to share some treats with the people we appreciate the whole year round.  
*For our local firefighters who protect us. So lets write them a note of thanks, and take some treats to them.
*For our neighbors. So let's  deliver our treat bags we made them Candies, Cookies, an Ornament!?
*For our teachers who help us learn and grow. So let's give them their cookies/gift, and a note that lists all the things we've learned from them.
*For our mailcarrier, barber, doctor, and so on. So let's write them a note too.
*For our Mayor, Pastors, School Principle, and others. So let's write them each a note of thanks.
*For our local food bank workers. So let's write a note to the employees to thank them for their work.
*For the troops who protect us.  So let's write and send them cards.
*For the sacrifices that the troops' families make.  They have to stay behind and sometimes need our support. So let's show them our appreciation today by giving them something special!

3. Friends/Family: 
*For our friends. So let's give them their cards/gifts/cookies.*For Mommy and all she does for us through the year. So today we'll do something special for mom (take her to dinner, make something special, or write  her a letter telling her how much you love her.
*For dad working so hard all throughout the year.  So today, let's write daddy a letter telling him how much we love him.
*For time spent together as a family. So let's go take a Night Drive to see all the beautiful light displays.
*For having Mom & Dad and Brothers/Sisters who love us. So let's enjoy each other's company tonight by watching a funny movie, playing games together, and laughing a lot!

"Date-specific" Activities:
*For the great community of people we are a part of, so let's go be with them to watch the town's Tree Lighting event!
*For Jesus' coming into the world as a baby long ago. So let's set up the Nativity Scene Christmas Eve.
*For the Longest Night of the year and how things will only get brighter after tonight! So let's have a fire (bonfire when they're older) and have Hot Dogs, Veggies, Smores, and Hot Cocoa
*For Jesus' Birth. So let's celebrate with a cake (or cupcake/muffin) and a lit candle.
*For beautiful music and the local fine arts. So let's attend a Messiah performance. (Or when kids are older have a “Silent Night” at home – turn off the cell phones, computers, and all technology that begins with the letter 'i' to play board games as a family, listen to some carols or holiday music, drink hot apple cider, and so on.

Other Activity Ideas: 
*For living in the US and having the freedom to celebrate the change of season as we wish, so let's learn about ways other people chose to celebrate this special time of year: Kwanza, Hannukah, and so on.
*For our Heritage. So let's have a Christmas Curry Night and invite some friends over. (or go out to an Indian dinner with friends!) (You could fill in anything from something from your culture's customs). 
*For our neighborhood. So let's go for a walk and pick up trash today.
*For our town having  a great playpark for us to enjoy. So let's go to the park today, and if we see any trash lying around we'll pick it up.
*For our house and its fireplace that keeps us warm. So today, we'll give blankets to families/newborn babies in need, and create a fire tonight remembering that others are cold. 

If you've read this far, then I'll add that I just discovered, last night, something called Advent Conspiracy.  (Here's the Youtube video about it.) After viewing it, it's made me rethink *some* of what's above and you may just see a post around November 2012 containing some changes to the list above!

Merry Christmas to all!


  1. Merry Christmas to you too!

    keep updating your blog, I love to read!!


  2. What great ideas! If you don't mind I'm going to copy a lot of these down so I can use them as a starting place to think through our own celebration ideas for next year. Ryan will be two in March so by next Christmas I will need to have my ducks in a row for sure!! Thanks for inspiring me!!!

  3. I also find it important to examine the reasons behind the things we do and connect with the meaning of it all. I've never been quite so thorough about it! I appreciate you sharing this exercise with us.

  4. Haha! I'll never be accused of not being thorough!! Here's a post that sums up quite well how my brain tends to function naturally: http://bhimiblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/multi-tasking-mamas-and-sister-praise.html