The wonder of the season takes over the moment Thanksgiving passes and the sparkle of lights fill the air with excitement of what’s to come as we set up the tree and have our first round of hot cocoa!
I LOVE CHRISTMAS! There is such a giddiness that erupts from my heart around this time of year, it’s just uncontainable. It could be coupled with the fact that my birthday is just a few days before the BIG day, but I think the excitement lies in all the fun my mom made it growing up and that is something I enjoy passing onto my kids.
Here are a few of my favorite Christmas Time Traditions that we enjoy all month:
The Sparkle Box – we started this tradition last year after I found this fantastic book at the store. I love it because it redirects my children’s attention away from simply thinking about themselves to trying to find ways to serve other people. It’s a great springboard to not only a month of service but an everyday mentality.
The Sparkle Box is a glittery, little box that is our family’s gift to Jesus on Christmas Day. So, what could we possibly give Jesus? We give gifts to him by serving others. As we serve others, we write each act of service on paper, then on Christmas day, we open the box and read them out loud.
This beautiful book not only keeps my kids attention but also comes with a sparkle box. (You could also paint a shoe box or a clean Chinese take-out box.) We have ours prominently displayed on a sub-woofer from another millennium next to our tv so the kids see it daily. They ask, “What have we put in the Sparkle Box?” and then start rattling off things that we have done or could do to fill it.
I created The Sparkle Box Lapbook that the kids could interact with as we talk about the Sparkle Box. This lapbook has different activities and let’s them brainstorm how they would like to serve others.
Polar Express Night of Lights – A few years ago, we decided to create our own Polar Express outing. I used gold
wrapping paper to make the kids tickets, prepped popcorn and hot chocolate in to-go cups and we headed out the door to look at Christmas lights. The kids loved it. I just wish I had mad hole punching skills to really top off the evening. I might cheat and make small dot markings on the back of the tickets so I can pull off a stunning performance. However, I can see myself easily loosing a fingernail and possibly a finger trying this out!
Christmas Books Under the Tree Every Morning – Once upon a time, a beautifully wrapped book would show up under the tree every morning, giving each child the chance to “open” a present before Christmas and a moment of reading. Then, it turned into pulling it out of the same Christmas gift bag every morning. Now, a book is gently placed between the toy manger and Polar Express Santa that sit under the tree, unless I forget to put it out before my kids awake and then I sneakily distract them while I put a Christmas book under the tree skirt and just pretend that they overlooked it. Whew!!! Good thing I love to read and love to see their excitement when they find the book and try to figure out who keeps putting books under the tree every morning.
Setting a Santa Trap- This is the first year I will be doing this with my kids. I used to do this every year as a child; however, I never quite caught Santa. I often heard the bells connected to the string strategically placed like lasers all over the fireplace tolling but I was never able to run fast enough to catch a glimpse of the jolly ol’ St. Nick. I’m sure my children will come up with some wonderful plans. So far, one idea involves a cardboard box hanging over a plate of cookies. Love their creativity!
Christmas Giving Catalogs – We’ve all poured over the toy catalogs but I love most of all when my kids pour over catalogs to figure out what they can gift a child in a third world country. Usually, the choices range from live stock to life saving procedures to small business start up support to helping a mother learn to read to rescuing a child from a dangerous situation. For as little as $4, each of my children can pull out their own wallets and make a difference. They take pride in being able to “do it themselves” and my heart swells with pride at their willingness to look past themselves and see the needs of others. There are many such catalogs available. This year we will be thumbing through Compassion International’s Catalog. We will be going through the catalog after going through the “The Compassion Experience” in OKC. I am excited to have taken my kiddos and hope you had a chance to check it out as well.
Gifts for Local Kiddos – The truest blessing is sharing our blessings with others. We share what we have by donating gently used toys and/or letting the kids get lost in the toy aisles and find toys that would light up another child’s face on Christmas. A handful of years back, I was able to tag along and attend a Christmas party given in a poorer part of OKC. My heart was touched as a beautiful, blond haired little girl about 8 years old received a teddy bear as a Christmas present. It was the first teddy bear she had ever received! I tend to think of kids in 3rd world countries but many times we don’t have to hop a plane to find someone to bless with such a simple blessing. There are many local places that welcome a smiling helping face during the holidays and all year – The City Rescue Mission, The Jesus House and Cross and Crown Mission are just some of the first ones that pop to mind. Christmas time is a great moment to clean out the toy box with the kiddos and drop them by a place where children whose families are struggling can partake in the Christmas cheer!
Christmas Advent Devotionals! – I love using advents to heighten the Christmas excitement! We’ve used some great ones but I am just loving the book we are using this year. It really lends itself to me decorating my front door, plus it is a
beautifully written & illustrated book – Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. We are learning a lot by decorating our Jesus Tree!!
Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings Day) – for those who don’t want the Christmas season to end, you will love this Spanish tradition. On January 5th, the kids fill shoe boxes with grass, hay, oats & water. We put the boxes under the bed so that as the Wise Men journey on to see baby Jesus, their animals will be fed. In thanks, a nice, small gift is left behind for the kids to find in the morning on January 6th. Having a Puerto Rican mother, we’ve always celebrated Día de Los Reyes and I felt so sad, when I realized my friends didn’t have the same enjoyment. This would be a fun addition for any family, plus by this time all the Christmas toys are on sale, so it doesn’t hurt the pocket book that much.
We also have lots more traditions that involve food, but that’s for another day.