As I have reflected on the way this Christmas played out for us, I thought I would share the things that have worked best for us through the years and what were my favorite parts of this Christmas.
Christmas is a stressful, rushed time for a lot of us.
Many years ago, I learned the importance of planning and organizing and making memories in order to get the most out of our time together during the holidays.
I learned that I could feel more calm and relaxed if I had a plan and a list of things I definitely wanted to do during the holiday season.
I listened to lots of online classes with Cindy Rushton and many other homeschool speakers and loaded up on tons of great ideas of books to read, activities to do, movies to watch, recipes to bake, and ways to plan and organize the making of memories. I wanted to squeeze every ounce of family togetherness and enjoyment out of the holiday season. And I wanted to make it meaningful and keep Christ at the center of Christmas.
So I incorporated some Advent activities, especially Ann Voskamp’s book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and ornaments for the Jesse Tree. I really like finding the prophecies in the Bible that foretold Jesus’ coming. We lit some candles and did advent readings fairly regularly some years. I tried to do them every day, but many times I found myself feeling pressured, impatient, and frustrated with my kids, so I eased up on trying to do it every day. Most of my kids and I are more spontaneous and would rather have variety instead of lots of structure and rigidity and ritual.
A series of books by Arnold Ytreeide provides wonderful stories to read consistently through the Advent season. The chapters are short and are labeled by the number of the day leading up to Christmas day. Each of the chapters is a cliffhanger.
We enjoy picking out a real Christmas tree and decorating it and the mantle and a few other areas, but we are not very elaborate or sophisticated in our decorating style.
I usually get a family picture taken and use it on Christmas cards, but we didn’t do that this year.
For a couple of years I had my youngest kids do a little Christmas Bible study called “Jesus the Promised One” by Katherine Loop at
We do like carrying on traditions, and I let the kids lead in the things that they really want to make sure we do each year during the Christmas season.
My kids have chosen to do these things every year:
1. Bake sugar cookies and cut out shapes and decorate them.
2. Watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special and many other Christmas specials from the cartoons they enjoyed growing up.
3. Watch “The Muppets’ Christmas Carol”.
4. Go see Christmas lights.
5. On Christmas morning, we like to eat quiche and Chef Mickey’s Breakfast Pizza, made by Kelsey and Katie.
I made ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner, and we enjoyed our dinner together. We also had a nice dinner together on Christmas Eve. It’s unusual for us to all eat together at the same time with so many different schedules, so it was very special.
The movies I enjoyed this year were “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, “Christopher Robin”, “Eloise at Christmastime”, “The Bishop’s Wife”, and “The Muppets’ Christmas Carol”.
The books I enjoyed reading with the younger girls were “Carl’s Christmas” by Alexandra Day, “Gifts of the Heart” by Patricia Polacco, “Saint Francis and the Nativity” by Myrna A. Strasser, “Great Joy” by Kate DiCamillo, and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” by Susan Jeffers.
This year, I only read one page from Ann Voskamp’s book and didn’t try to make a Jesse tree. We didn’t read any of the Ytreeide books. We didn’t do any special Christmas Bible studies.
But I did a little candlelight ceremony to illustrate how the light overcomes the darkness, but the darkness cannot overcome the light. And we sang “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” and then “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.
Simple, relaxed, not busy. Just a few things we really love. A few of our favorite things.