A New Kind Of Christmas

Ah, December.

The time of Christmas trees, gold tinsel, stockings, Charlie Brown, and (in the South) the poorly-founded hope of snow.

But it’s also the time of holiday music blasting through the Walmart sound system, commanding you to BE JOLLY OR DIE. DECK THE HALLS. DO IT NOW.

It’s the time of trying to guess which relatives will give you a gift and which ones won’t, hoping you won’t offend anyone but also hoping you won’t have to buy 28 extra presents.

And it’s the time of weird, foundation-less guilt over other people’s holiday activities, which always seem more festive and bright than yours.

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My husband and I are taking steps to actually SAVOR this Christmas season and lo, maybe even have some of this JOY we keep hearing about. For us, this mostly has to do with focusing on Jesus rather than the clearance aisle at Target, and just sort of slowing. down. 

Yes, we have gifts for our loved ones. And yes, we will receive gifts–quite happily, I might add–from others. I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with gifts at Christmas. But to focus on the retail part of all this, well… it’s enough to make anyone cray-cray.

So anyway, I thought I’d share what we’re doing differently this year, because I’m pretty darn excited about it, and maybe it’ll work for you too–if you’re looking for a change, of course.

Let me give you some backstory to all this.

At some point in high school, I stopped liking Christmas. It seemed like weeks of build-up–twinkle lights! Christmas music! cookies! hot chocolate! parties! decorations! gifts! more cookies!–for a day, just one single day, that could not possibly live up to all the hype. Christmas day would finally arrive, and we would all open presents, and maybe go to a relative’s house for lunch, and that was that.

Over. Done. BOOM.

Disappointed
Not my child.

There was nothing to look forward to until New Year’s, which is sort of fun but requires that one stay awake past nine p.m., and if you’re me, that’s more a punishment than a party.

This year, we here at Casa Riley have decided to observe the Seven Days of Christmas. Yes, seven days. Because one day of Christmas isn’t enough, and twelve seems like a bit of an overload. I’m not entirely sure what this looks like, given that we’ve never done it before, but I do know we’re planning a lot of special Christmas activities after Christmas Day.

Our local zoo, for example, does a Zoolight Safari for Christmas every year. It runs through New Year’s Eve, so we’re planning to go the 26th or 27th, when crowds are thin.

The Carousel at the zoo. M is a big fan.
The Carousel at the zoo. M is a big fan.

There’s also a big interactive science center/museum in town that does a Winter Wonderland exhibit, which we’ll hit up after Christmas Day as well.

Christmas Eve will be Polar Express night for our three-year-old, M. (Baby J goes to bed at like 6:15, so I doubt she’ll be able to participate in this.) We’ll watch the movie together, put on pajamas, brush teeth, and go to bed… but then I’ll sneak upstairs to her room with a ticket to the Polar Express (which is actually my car) and we’ll drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and drinking hot chocolate.

Yes, I know. Good luck getting her to sleep after that. WORTH IT, though, right?

Christmas Day will begin our seven days of Christmas, and each night we’ll have a fun Christmas activity (stories, movies, crafts, cookie-making, etc.). Then, the kids will get to choose one gift from under the tree to open.

(I know seven gifts might seem like a lot, but these are small gifts, people.)

After that, we’ll read a portion of the Christmas story (I found it divided up by days here, but I’ll be changing it up a bit to fit our schedule) and maybe sing a Christmas carol or two.

It will be a lot of family time, a lot of learning, and a lot of fun–or so I hope.

And then, of course, there’s the whole Santa thing. This is one of those topics people seem to have VERY STRONG OPINIONS about, or so it has always seemed to me. Some people make Santa the center of everything, some leave him out entirely, others end up somewhere in the middle.

We’re part of the “middle” crowd. No, Santa doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus being born, but the actual story of St. Nick is nothing short of lovely.

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I think the real St. Nick is worth talking about, and I also think it’s fun to do some of the traditional Santa Claus things at home. So, our kids will grow up knowing who St. Nicholas really was and how that turned into the modern Santa Claus. They’ll have fun pretending Santa has come to their house and left gifts, but deep down, they’ll know it’s just a game.

So that’s how we’ll do it. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s just how things will go in our household this year.

What about you?

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