New-to-us Christmas Traditions

For the past several years Christmas was really hectic for us. We tried to pack all of the family get together into 2 days. The kids got overwhelmed and over-excited. I was over whelmed with the cooking, cleaning, and wrapping paper everywhere. So, by the time it was Dec 26 we were all just DONE. So this year I decided we were going to try celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas to slow down the pace and spread out the festivity. Since it is our first time trying this I wanted to write a post about how it went. I also think I need a record of what we did this year to remember when next year comes around.

I got this great picture book about “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. I read somewhere that the song was written in England as a  “catechism song” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith during the period in English history when Catholics  were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law – private or public.

We just read about each day of Christmas over dinner. We had already been reading the daily Jesse Tree stories at dinner during Advent. So, it was a smooth transition to doing a daily reading about Christmas. Some of my favorite days: 4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels;  6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation;  9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

This is our first year doing the Star from Afar with the kids. We never got into the Elf of the Shelf but this has a similar vibe. Every night of Christmas we hid the Star around the house.  In the morning the kids searched all over until they located it. Once they had found the star they moved all three Wise Men to the star’s location. We repeated this each day with the star slowly getting closer to the nativity set until Epiphany when the star was found on top of the stable and the wise men joined the nativity scene. It isn’t perfect because Jesus was probably a toddler when the wise men finally found him but I still think it is a fun learning tool for the kids.

Like most parents I want to give my children and my family a magical Christmas full of fun, festivity, and memories. In the past we have had many a busy Christmas in which pockets of fun emerged but it still felt like something was missing. This year I really wanted to make my efforts count by doing the things that had the most meaning and impact. So, I read this book to help me figure out what those might be. This book is short but dense. I will need to reread it; but, the two points I took from it this year were:

(1)  “Festivity is a delicate flower that blooms only when planted in soil that consists of both meaningful work and appropriate leisure.” We have to know how to work and how to rest appropriately before we can lean into festival. 

(2) “But these are only the prerequisites. Where the right conditions are present, they are still not sufficient in themselves to produce the festive spirit. More is needed: thanksgiving and adoration; affirmation of God’s goodness. Festival, in the best sense of the term, is rooted in worship and praise. ”

With all of this in mind I got one of my “big ideas.” My big ideas are usually projects I think will be “fun” or “cute” or “epic”. I get really excited about them and then try to talk people into helping me with them. If you are reading this blog you are probably participating in my last “big idea”, a church mom’s group. My Christmas big idea was that we should get all the kids in the family to do a nativity play at our family Christmas get-together. To be clear: there are 8 kids in our family right now, all aged 8 an under. In fact, we only have 2 kids over age 4. I have a wonderful family that despite their reservations agreed to let me stage a front porch nativity play for Christmas. I am including pictures below of set design and costumes. (No pictures of the actual play to protect the kids’ privacy). I narrated; so, no kids had to learn any lines. All they day to do was move from place to place on the “stage”. Seven of the kids did a great job, which is much better than I expected. It was absolutely my favorite part of Christmas this year. It was epic and awesome.

This is the song the kids sang at the end of play. It is short and so, so sweet. We had our oldest do a solo at the beginning while the kids sat behind her. Then they all stood and joined her for the second part. It was so sweet! I am probably biased but I think this song is full of Christmas magic.

I got this little karaoke machine for the play. I used it to narrate and our soloist used it to sing. I didn’t realize how much kids love a microphone. My oldest pulled the microphone out of my hand and took over reading the last several lines of narration. Then, when the play was over the two oldest cousins did a spontaneous duet of The 12 Days of Christmas. which was followed by an hour of family Christmas Karaoke. I love this thing!

I have been trying to get the boys to learn a hymn each month; but, they have been kind of resistant. So, I am now making the karaoke machine part of the lesson. It is a game changer. I found this one at Target but I am sure they are on amazon too.

Another new thing for us this year is the Epiphany House Blessing. It’s a specific blessing for the home that is traditionally done each year on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. This blessing is done on the front door of the house and uses symbols drawn with blessed chalk. Fr. Winchel was kind enough to bless our chalk after the school Mass on Thursday. We actually used a chalk marker because it works better for our door.

You can read more about this blessing here .

We usually try to read a picture book during the week and watch the corresponding movie on Friday or Saturday night. These are the books we used for movie night this Christmas.

So, I don’t forget. These are the Christmas books that we read for the first time this year. We had a few favorites from previous years as well. All of these are worth revisiting next year. Most are in the library. The Tomie dePaola book I had to buy but, pretty much all of his books are worth owning.

This are the two things I didn’t get to that were on my list….So we will so them next year.

This book/movie combo is perfect for Advent when you get to Moses in the Jesse tree. We didn’t get to read it then. We are working our way through it now. I think it is going to really make this portion of the Old Testament come alive for the kids.

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