Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A month ago I posted our activities this year for advent.

We are slowly growing and learning and experimenting with how we like to celebrate Advent & Christmas, and just how that looks in our family traditions. Every year is different. Traditions are maturing and morphing (and occasionally disappearing).... While I try to focus Advent activities, for the most part, on preparations for Christmas and serving others, the Christmas season is all about fun & celebration! So here are some ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas, and what this year looked like for us:

On Christmas Day we got to stay home and just celebrate with our little family.
It was peaceful, lovely, and everything we could have hoped for.

We still open all of our presents on the 1st day of Christmas.
I know several families who spread gift exchanges over all 12 days, which has definite appeal.....but we also love the excitement of a full morning of present opening!

The kids have started their own tradition of singing Christmas carols to us at the bottom of the staircase to wake us up first thing in the morning. I love it. As a reward they get to open stockings.

Then we bustle around getting dressed into nicer clothes, doing the morning farm chores & making a delicious breakfast -- usually involving waffles and bacon. And lots of coffee.
(With cinnamon & nutmeg. And whipped cream.)

Then, we read the Christmas story all piled around the living room. And then, finally, it is present time. We try to savor this time and appreciate each gift that is opened. The kids have started making each other homemade gifts, which is pretty adorable.

By afternoon it is time to get some fresh air! So o'er the fields we go, in a one horse open ....cart....

 We piled into the wagon with an old quilt and a hymnbook. Singing & sunshine -- there was no complaining about the beautiful balmy Missouri Christmas weather!

We finished off the day with a turkey feast, and considered it a grand success.

Here are some of the other ideas we used for the remaining 11 days:

* Drive around to see Christmas lights in pajamas. 
Most people do this before Christmas - but we have discovered that *most* of the big light displays stay up until New Years and THERE IS NO WAITING IN LONG TRAFFIC LINES!!! (*hot tip*)

We have combined this tradition with getting Chinese take-out (with candy canes for dessert).
Chinese takeout is not the easiest meal to eat in the car. FYI. Especially for toddlers. This year went much better though because I came prepped with bowls, utensils, extra wipes and napkins, kid-safe cups and everything I could think of to make the dinner-in-a-car-with-5-kids idea go smoothly. And we love Chinese food. So it's worth it. ...

* Make graham cracker & candy nativity sets. 
Our sets get a little better every year. This is one of those fabulous pinterest ideas that I don't always have enough perfectionist patience for -- but I love the idea, so I just let the kids get after it on their own power (as much as is safely possible). And they LOVE it.
Sometimes the end products are slightly leaning, gummy, sticky, and a bit non-professional looking. But -- the kids get their creative (and salivation) juices flowing, they review the cast of characters and Christmas story....

And then I let them eat one character a day (or so) for the next 12 days of Christmas. Definitely adds some excitement to each morning when they get to start off with a little sugar high.

* Put together new Christmas toys & play with them!  
We had a couple days where this is all the extra "activities" that we did. Which was very fun, stress-free and relaxing. This is the chance to spend all day enjoying the new acquisitions and craft projects before the school routine begins again.

We played games, set up playmobil sets, made crystals, learned how to use the new weaving loom, painted, colored in new coloring books, etc. etc.

* Celebrate Christmas with extended family
We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family during the 12 Days so we got to enjoy another round of feasting & fellowship, games & gifts!

* Ice Skating 
This has been a four year tradition, and one I plan on continuing. Ice skating was a big part of my childhood and I love sharing it with my least once a year! This year it didn't actually happen until a bit past the actual Christmas season....but, close enough, right? I took the three big kids on a weekend during nap time, when Clay was able to work around the house and babysit the two little ones.

* Game Night for Grown-ups
Time for the adults to have a special Christmas activity! We hosted some friends from church for an after dinner game night & goodies. (Our own kids were just upstairs having a movie night and then got shuttled to bed halfway through. It worked out pretty well!)

This also happened a bit after the 12 days this year.... It was more of an Epiphany party, technically. But we kept the tree up and pretended it was still the season. We've also talked about future tin can lantern hike parties, new years eve bonfires and more. The point being -- friends & fellowship are an important part of Christmas.

* New Years Eve Festivities
Since New Years Eve falls during the 12 days it makes a natural activity! We'll definitely be teaching the kids to sing Auld Lang Syne next year.


Two other activities that I had on the list of possibilities (that we didn't get to due to schedules and sickness) were:

* Roast marshmallows over the wood stove & make indoor s'mores.

* Gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols (now that our burgeoning pianists can handle several of the simpler melodies!).

What are your favorite traditions and ways to keep the 12 Days of Christmas festive and bright?


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