Ahhh can you feel it, the magic? Somehow some way, Christmas brings with it a magical feeling that can’t be matched. Growing up, we always savored the Christmas season. My mom and dad cultivating cherished family traditions for us that would be passed down to our kids and yet relived by us through their eyes, simple things that don’t cost a lot or take a lot of effort. Just little ways to bring some holiday cheer and festive memories to the lives of our littles. After all, seeing it through their eyes is the greatest gift of all so sign me up for all the Christmas cheer imaginable!
You might have seen on Instagram, but this year I have been on a quest to make Christmas more simple – focusing on the reason for the season and abandoning the need for the perfect stocking stuffers or the mass of gifts gracing the bottom of our tree. We’ve been trying to simplify everything about our lives lately so Christmas was no different. I wanted gifts my kids would cherish and enjoy for a long time (and not get bored with only be placed at the bottom of the donate pile a month from now) – so I set out to create an extra intentional Christmas this year – gifts & experiences!
At the beginning of each Christmas season, we’ll look at our calendar and ask all the kiddos what they want to do. From there, we’ll fill out a “bucket list” of little and big things we’d love to do. The point isn’t to do it all, it’s to get rid of the fluff and do the things that all of us REALLY want to do…aka INTENTIONAL! Lots of our favorite Christmas traditions that we’ve adopted or created go on this list and I wanted to share those with you all today!
1. Christmas Jammies
Ahhhh, everyone’s favorite tradition! What could be better than adorable, matching, festive loungewear?! We originally did this as part of our Christmas Eve gift but soon realized the kids weren’t able to wear them throughout the actual Christmas season so changed this to the gift the Elves (Elf on the Shelf!) bring whenever they arrive on December 1st!
2. The Polar Express & other local Christmas Activities
So much magic and fun for all ages – a train, Christmas jams, hot chocolate, Santa visits, Christmas stories – I would go by myself if I didn’t have kids! We don’t have an actual Polar Express train close by, but lots of local railroads do a similar experience that is wonderful. We love to find cute little activities to do during the day with my younger two (who aren’t in school!) and then fun activities for the whole family at night/on weekends, such as – see a movie in theaters, cookie decorating, visiting Santa, etc.
3. Christmas Book Advent
There is a 6th love language in my life and it’s BOOKS, especially children’s books! I wrap up 24 of our Christmas books and number them 1-24 and they get to open them up each day. We add a few to our collection each year then put them away at the end of the season so they all seem new to the kids. They get so excited to read their favorites and see what new ones we added! I also want to add – this can be quite an investment, so take it slow. I saw the other day that a friend of mine checked a bunch of hers out from the library to use for her book advent which is a fabulous idea if you’re starting from scratch!
4. Driving Around to See the Christmas Lights
This was one my mama started and it’s quickly become a favorite of my own family! We simply take hot cocoa to go, hop in the car & drive around to look at all the lights!. I usually map out our route beforehand by keeping an eye out for the coolest lights (we have a couple of houses by us that do the awesome light shows with music – the kids LOVE those!)
5. Christmas in the City
We live about 3 hours from NYC and there’s nothing quite like Christmas in Manhattan so off we go every year! We hit up all the favorite spots – Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the Plaza, Broadway shows/the Rockettes, the store windows/incredible building decor on 5th Ave. and so much more! We unfortunately had to cancel our trip this year because of awful weather on one of our days there and since we’d be outside most of the time, it can get kinda miserable!
6. Gingerbread House Competition
So this is a new one for us but boy did we have a BALL! We broke up into teams – Matt & Kadynn (8) vs. Harper (3), Tristan (2) and I. Tristan actually slept through the whole thing so it ended up just being me and Harper. We bought the pre-built kits and added some of our own candy to it to really take it to the next level. Note: take a minute to really think about what kinds of candy you want to use! There were so many times where we wished we would’ve had a mini version of this instead or grabbed another type of candy. We said we were going to post the pictures without saying who built which and let people vote to determine the winner (who would win a fun prize!) but my hubby came through on his creative side and together with Kadynn, crushed Harper and I so we admitted defeat! If ya can’t tell we’re kinda competitive around here so it was perfect for us! 😉 My hubby and I also said it would be SO fun to do this with a big group of friends or family – everyone pair up and bring a pre-built house and all pitch in for a really cool prize (restaurant GC, cash, a pair of AirPods, etc.) – you could even make a whole Christmas party out of it and do great food, ugly sweaters, etc.
7. Christmas Eve Early Dinner & Candlelight Service (sometimes!)
This was also a newly adopted tradition! Every year we have 3 family’s to visit on Christmas Day and it’s gotten tiresome with 3 kids and a whole slew of new gifts to play with! All we wanted was a slow Christmas morning to take in that special time and enjoy as a close-knit family and so the Christmas Eve tradition was formed. Last year, we decided we’d have my parents and siblings over on Christmas Eve to eat all the food, exchange our gifts & then head out for a candlelight service. This totally eliminated the need to be one more place on Christmas and now we all can have a special morning at home on Christmas before heading out to lunch and dinner at the other two family’s homes!
8. The Giving Manger/Act of Service
Alas, another new tradition to us! Upon wanting to simplify Christmas and in turn, gifts, we started this fun tradition! You can find more info all about The Giving Manger here, but essentially it’s a Christ-focused acts of service tradition for kids (& adults!) where each time you do something kind, big or small, for anyone (or a drop in someone’s bucket as my kids know well!) you get to place a piece of hay in baby Jesus’ manger. Then, as quoted from the book, on Christmas morning, “You did it my children, the manger is full. Full of service and love, the baby it now holds. Baby Jesus had no crib for a bed, but you gave him this manger filled with love instead.” We also love to do an acts of service advent where each day we choose something different to do for someone else – things like, write sweet notes to people and put them on their windshields, buy a dozen roses and pass them out at the mall, pick up trash at the park, cook a meal for a family in need, volunteer for something meaningful, etc. These are such great ways to teach kids (and adults who need it most!) the spirit of the season and bless others!
9. Elf on the Shelf
My least favorite tradition & the one I passed off onto my husband to maintain! While the elf is hardly fun for the parents, it’s definitely one of our kids’ favorites. Even my 8 year old can’t wait to see what the elves do each morning! They’ve also become a very cherished tradition of ours as Matt’s late grandmother got them for the kids so I don’t think we’ll ever give them up especially for that reason! Elves, you may not move for 5 nights in a row but we’ll keep ya around 😉
10. Cookie Baking Day
Put on your stretchiest leggings and bring your 12 sticks of butter, it’s cookie baking day! This one is super self explanatory but it’s well loved by the kids and adults – we all get together and bake gaggles of cookies, eat our weight in cookie dough & then all sit around and watch Christmas movies willing the dishes to clean themselves!
11. & a bonus for good measure…1 Gift on Christmas Eve
This is one just MD (my husband) and I do while we’re finishing up our Mr. & Mrs. Claus duties on Christmas Eve – we each pick out a present that the other has gotten for us and open it! We have the best time doing this & it just gets us so excited for the morning!
I hope you either already enjoy some of these traditions or you’re inspired to adopt some new ones. After all, the greatest gift of all is time and these all include lots of that with your favorite people! I also want to encourage you to not get too caught up in the hustle and bustle, the perfect gift or doing it all. Do the things that matter most and bring you and your family the most joy and forget the rest, you’ll be so happy you did.
Merry Christmas sweet friends!