Introduced by Amy
Yesterday we talked about the goal to simplify, de-stress, and happy-ify Christmas traditions. So, to get us started, I asked two wise ladies for input. (They are both my big sisters! I have another big sister just as wise, but she's dealing with sick kids right now, so it's not the easiest time to sit down and write. Love you Julie!) I asked how they accomplish simple, fun and meaningful for their families' Christmas...And here are their genius responses. I am pretty freakin lucky to have three older sisters who teach me the ways of motherhood. :) Enjoy!
Christmas can be overwhelming with all the crafts, projects, outings, gift-giving, and Pinterest-inspired things to do. So keep it simple and keep it meaningful.
One of our favorite traditions is to go Christmas caroling. Singing favorite Christmas songs to neighbors has become a lost art, but we love to continue the tradition.
Growing up we’d go caroling a few times during the Christmas time. We mostly went to people who were lonely, elderly, or struggling in some way. I loved seeing the joy our singing brought them and the spirit that Christmas music brings. I remember one particular time caroling to an older man who had recently lost his wife who loved music. Tears filled his eyes and he thanked us over and over for our humble renditions of “Away in a Manger” and “Jingle Bells”. Our small service brought joy and a smile to all of us. We had a fun time together running from warm houses loading back into our van for the next place then piling out again. When we were older, we had two singers for each part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and it was fun harmonizing together. I loved it when “Silent Night” in four part harmony brought tears to their eyes. I take my little family caroling up and down our block and to certain people in our area that could use an uplift. We belt out “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and leave a simple gift. Some have heartily joined in our singing, others have smiled and thanked us for the fun, and we’ve even gotten a puzzled look a few times…. which made me laugh so hard I couldn’t sing! We love sharing our joy we feel as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and hopefully bring a little of it to those we visit!
Another tradition we enjoy was one that we did growing up as well. We have a simple, wooden manger (a shoe box can be converted as well) which we keep under the tree.
We remind our kids at the beginning of December that Baby Jesus needs “hay” to fill his manger. We keep a small gift bag filled with strips of cream material to represent the hay. When the do a secret good deed or kindness for someone, they can place a “straw” in the manger and hopefully have filled by Christmas day so it’s ready for the baby Jesus. It’s fun to see as Christmas gets closer, the kids scramble to find good deeds and be excited to serve others and make the connection that serving others is also serving our Savior, Jesus Christ.
These are such simple traditions to do, but give the maximum joy and meaning to the Holiday, don't you think? And now I want to go caroling with her family! :) Thanks Sherie! Now let's hear from Laura, with her genius gift-giving strategies and simple tradition ideas.
Since there are so many things to do around the holidays, I ask each of my kids what their favorite Christmas tradition is (I pick one too) and then we focus on doing those and don't stress out about the other extra things because I don't want to spend the money or time on doing things if they don't care about it anyway. This is a twist on the idea that my sister Sherie McDaniel told about the straw and the manger. I have a big bowl of red craft glass rocks that I put next to our kids nativity. They look like red jewels. They can put in a "gift" for baby Jesus every time they do something kind/serve. They try to fill up the bowl before Christmas. I don't get too picky about how they serve or are nice to keep it fun.
Simple no-stress, no cost, activities around Christmas time I like are: making paper snowflakes, playing games, singing songs around the piano, walking around the neighborhood at night to see the lights, reading Christmas books, just sitting on the couch looking at the Christmas tree, acting out nativity story with kids, and making homemade Christmas cards for those that might feel forgotten. On Christmas Eve, after we read the story about Jesus's birth while burning a candle with the lights off, we all write to all of the family members on notecards a little "love-note" and then put it in their stockings to read on Christmas!
When I plan out Christmas presents for my kids, I have then write out their Christmas lists to Santa in order of what they want the most, down to the least. I have them make a list of big presents and a list of small presents. So then I can just go down the 2 lists according to the budget and if I want them to have it. Every year I get each child: one present that promotes physical activity like a volleyball, mitt, scooter, bike, jump-rope, dance shoes.... I get a present that promotes creativity (art supplies, legos, craft kits, sewing, playdough... I get a present that is practical and useful for a long time. This year we are doing nice sleeping bags that they can use their whole lives that they will need anyway for girls/boys camp and family vacations. I get a few presents that are toys they really want even if I think it is kinda stupid or annoying.
I make a spreadsheet that has each child on their with the budgets so as I buy things, I can just hide the present and then type in what I bought and the cost so I keep track of what I have hidden and how much money I have left. It works out really well!
After I am doing buying everything, I then decide which presents will be from Santa and which from mom and dad and wrap them accordingly. So the kids get the same number of presents to open (you can put 2 together in one package if they are related). My kids will all get 7 presents this year, 3 from Santa and 4 from mom and dad. Then I dig them all out of the crawl space and wrap them so they all get the different kind of wrapping paper...maybe that is getting a little crazy but I think it is fun for them to have a variety. If somebody has all smaller gifts, wrap one in a big box so their eyes can pop out as much as their siblings at the size before they open it. Everything looks fair and equal!
See, what did I say? Genius. :) Thanks Sherie and Laura for sharing. :)
I especially LOVE Laura's list of super simple ideas, cause I am a lazy momma. Ha! I remember having the Jesus' manger tradition growing up, and doing like 5 acts of service every Christmas Eve to fill Baby Jesus' bed before Christmas! So fun. :) I also like the idea of asking each child what tradition they love best; then you instantly have your priority ones to hit, and the rest can happen if you get to them--or not--and everyone is still happy. :)
How about you? How do you handle Christmas gifts for your kids? Do you go off of a budget that is the same for every child and don't worry about how many gifts they get? Go by number of gifts? Adjust the budget according to age? Or just go with the flow and buy presents willynilly? I love Laura's way. Oh, have you heard this gift-giving mantra? --"Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." That's a good one too!
Well ladies, Christmas is right around the corner. Don't let the busyness overwhelm you; sometimes the simplest things are the best!
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