Keeping Christmas Special ... - Baby Steps in High Heels

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Keeping Christmas Special ...

One of the biggest struggles we have in celebrating Christmas is how we keep it special for our kids, our parents, and for us when we have four separate family celebrations in addition to all of the holiday festivals and activities that have led up to the big day.

By the time Christmas actually rolls around, we’ve attended parties, street festivals, and a half dozen Santa-full activities. We celebrate Christmas Eve with my in-laws and Christmas day in our own home first thing in the morning, followed by visits to my mom’s house and then my dad’s house. Sometimes we even add an extra celebration the weekend after Christmas with extended family.

It’s a LOT of Christmas!

Although I never really identified Christmas as a favorite holiday when I was growing up, I’m really starting to love the season as I watch my own children marvel at the magic of it all. It is difficult, however, to maintain that magic when they’ve already seen Santa 4 times this year!

We’re still working out some of the kinks in our holiday experience, but there are a few things that 
we are trying in order to keep Christmas special for our kids.

      We just say no! We are lucky to live in a community that offers dozens and dozens of holiday activities. We simply do not attempt to do all of them. We pick a handful of ones that we enjoy, and stick to those every year. It makes these events feel more like traditions, and the simplicity helps to make the ones we do attend feel that much more special.

      We also say yes! We have friends who refuse to travel at Christmas now that they have kids. They let family come to them. But we don’t do it that way. A few years back, we started our “Christmas plan” for where we would be and when, and we’re sticking to it! It can be a lot of driving, but we’ve found a few ways to make that seem less overwhelming. We go early, stay late, and do our best to be present wherever we are in that moment. Sometimes just showing up is a great way to keep Christmas special for our parents who do so much for us throughout the year.

      We have told the kids that Santa only brings ONE gift. Santa might whisper some great ideas to Mommy and Daddy (and to all the grandparents), but HE only brings one gift. Plus stockings. This started out as a way to explain why we were giving toys to underprivileged kids at Christmas. It was an easy answer to why Santa doesn’t just bring gifts to those children too. However, it’s also increased the magic for us. The kids marvel at THE Santa gift. And they also see all of the hard work their parents have put into the other gifts. It’s creating gratitude in them, which is a big part of the meaning of the season.

      We give to others. Husband and I forgo big gifts for each other and sponsor gifts for foster kids instead. If I’m honest, it’s a little hard for me. I love giving and receiving gifts, and I especially love the moment of the exchange … which we miss out on once we package up those gifts and send them off for delivery. However, this little tradition that we began a few years ago has become so meaningful and special to us. We love that we’re able to help others out at this time of year. I really believe that the way to instill gratitude and the joy of giving in children is to allow them the joy of receiving in when they’re young. I can’t imagine a child having a Christmas without gifts, although I know it happens all too often. This tradition keeps the season special for us.

      We read a lot of Christmas books. Since the kids are little, it’s easy for them to get caught up in Santa, and activities, and celebrations, and gifts. So we try to layer in books that tell the true meaning of Christmas. We have simple stories about the birth of Jesus. We have stories told from the animals’ perspective. We have books that walk through all of the modern ways we celebrate and help navigate the season from a child’s perspective. I’ll share some of our favorite Christmas books later this week.

      We church. We may not always GO to church, but we do ‘church’ (use it as a verb!). We’re in a tough season as parents, and we find it a little difficult to balance our loud children with our quiet Catholic services. Most Sundays, we do try to actually attend church, even if we only just walk the halls with The Boy. When we don’t go, we do the mass readings and prayers at home. We talk and pray together to remember just why we’re celebrating Christmas in the first place.

There is another element that I’m still working on, though … that my kids do receive soooo many gifts. After four Christmases, what else could we expect? I want to keep this element special, too. I want the grandparents to be able to give what they want to give, to spoil their grandchildren, and to watch the joy on their faces when opening a special present. I want my kids to experience that joy with each of their grandparents.

But it is a lot. I have some ideas floating around on how we might try to do things a bit differently next year. I’m still working out the details, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you balance it all? How do you keep Christmas special? 

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