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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Christmas Magic is YOU!

Every parent wants their children to enjoy a magical holiday season and Christmas day.  As mothers, we are often the keepers of tradition, we are the ones who establish the atmosphere in our homes and our children look to us as the measure of joy in their lives.  It's an enormous responsibility.
I know firsthand that you may not feel like bringing out decorations that inevitably bring back memories of a different kind of holiday.  End of the workday exhaustion may seem to trump a baking session or Christmas craft.  Like me, you may feel physically, emotionally or mentally drained.  Perhaps all three.  It's very likely that money is tight, maybe tighter than ever because of the additional expenses that arrive with December.  So, you and I must be intentional about providing a memorable and meaningful holiday season for our children. 
Mom, you have the ability to shape your child's experience through the memories they will carry forward.  You will frame the way they think of Christmas for the rest of their lives.  I'm not perfect at doing this, but my own mother pretty much was the queen of holidays.  From her, I learned the importance of creating memories and meaning.  I hope you'll think about ways you can do the same and share what you're loving this year.

Creating Memories
Your preschooler won't remember if your tree was real or artificial, but they will remember the glow of twinkling lights as you settle them down in the evenings.  At ages 3, 5, and 7 years, I was so surprised at the glee in which my children 'discovered' all the ornaments to decorate our tree.  The excitement was palpable!  Stories read year after year will become traditions they can pass onto their own families someday.  Christmas baking and seasonal songs, simple crafts, silly games and an advent calendar provide points of connection that will last long after the decor is packed away.  It does take extra effort, thought and energy, sometimes extra money, but these moments are investments into the fabric of our children's memories.  It is worth the added burden.  Here are some simple ways we create memories at our Little House:
I try to let the kiddos be very 'hands-on' when decorating our tree.
  • Lots of Lights: That's right, I get a little crazy with white lights on the mantle, in the kitchen, over the tv and all outside the house.  To me, nothing says "Christmas" like lights!  We add some color ones to our tree because for my children - they like the circus colors, so while it's not my preference, I happily comply.  I'm not decorating for a show, I'm decorating for them and so I try to be loose-handed about where the ornaments are hung and the obnoxious dancing snowman music player. 
  • December Advent Calendar: In the past we just opened a window each day leading up to Christmas, but last year we began with opening a window each day.  Sometimes there is a treasure with candy or a little Christmas toy.  I also try to include several activities like a Candy Cane Hunt or Building a Gingerbread House.  We rotate which child gets to open the window and do it before dinner each day.  We simply skip the days when the children are visiting at Daddy's (although they test those windows to see if anything was missed).
  • Christmas Books: Reading together is a regular part of our life and so we have a basket of holiday books that come out only during this time of year.  It's fun to revisit them and probably time to add a few more.
  • Caroling Together: I hear those tunes and instantly it's Christmas.  So connected are the songs with the season that it brings memories from my own home and childhood that I want to share.  My children love "Away in A Manager, " "Frosty the Snowman," and "Heark the Herald Angels Sing" best.  I play music as we prepare meals and we sing together before bedtime.
  • Celebrate Togetherness: It's a special treat for my children when we sit in front of our fireplace, all in jammies and enjoy fresh popcorn and hot cocoa.  It doesn't matter what you're doing, do it together and enjoy the company.
  • Cultural Experience: To young minds, seeing the Christmas story played out makes a big impact.  They will remember the events more if they can 'witness' Mary and Joseph in the stable, angels announcing Christ's birth and live animals in on the action.  In our area we have a spectacular Living Christmas Tree pageant, a Live Nativity and many churches have similar fanfare.  If you don't have access to these, The Nativity movie is also wonderful.  There are often community theatre productions of "A Christmas Carol" or "The Nutcracker."
Could there be a cuter duet of "Away in A Manger?"
How do you create memories during the holiday season?  Is it a struggle to be motivated for fun?  Is there anything we can do, as moms, to make this a greater priority in our days?  Have you tried something that was a complete flop?  If this season is a difficult one for you, remember why He came.
Friday I'll share the important ways we creat meaning in our celebration.