We're changing so much about how we celebrate Christmas this year. Since we have an 8 year age gap between our kiddos, we can change up the traditions and luckily our biggest kiddo is okay with that! I'm not saying that I regret one single second of the way that we did Christmas. I just see some things that I want to change and since I have the opportunity, I'm grabbing it!
Usually I'm that Elf on the Shelf mom (#kriegelfontheshelf) that not only moves it every night but decks out a full scene for the elf to live in...but this year, I'm not doing it. I'm not doing Hallmark. I'm trading our elf in for the true magic of the season. After 8 years of playing Elf, I'm throwing in the towel! Our alternative to the elf is something that I talked about with a writer when I was at the She Speaks Truth Conference. The idea is that you take that sweet little sheep from your nativity set and you place it on the front porch. When your child asks how the sheep got there, you say that sometimes Jesus's sheep wonder off. Just like sometimes we misbehave or we don't make our choices like Jesus would want us to, this little sheep must have misbehaved and wondered off. The goal is that if we have our best behavior we can help the sheep make it back to Jesus before Christmas. If our behavior isn't so good, we could move farther away from Jesus. We want the sheep to make it back to Jesus in our Nativity scene by Christmas morning. My husband made such a great point that our little Penny is so loving and nurturing that it might actually break her sweet heart if she doesn't see that sheep make his way back to Jesus each morning. (She REALLY loves the Nativity set up to be just right, including the sheep with Jesus!) So, we are encouraging her daily behavior to be good enough that the sheep can stay with Jesus. Her behavior becomes the example for the tiny sheep and if she doesn't behave, neither will the sheep.
Why am I ditching the Elf? #1- I don't want Santa or his elves to be the first thought of the season for our children. #2- I'm sort of over hiding the darn elf each night. #3- Our sheep can still magically move about the house and I'm able to hang on to the childhood magic that I LOVE creating for our kids. Trust me, I used to be SO obsessed at moving this elf and creating elf sized coffee cups and donuts that I don't even recognize myself right now, but this was a change that I needed to make for my little people!
We're also changing the way we give our children gifts. When I was a child and when Joey was a little "Santa believer" the majority of the gifts came from Santa. Mom and Dad were wrapping up one or two things and Santa got the credit. I'll never forget how hard Joey cried when he found out that Santa wasn't real. Shoot, I cried because he was so upset about it. I obviously gave an overweight bearded man WAY too much credit in this house for it to be such a tragic and revealing event in the life of my son. We are NOT quitting Santa. We are just asking Santa to bring one gift and anything else will come from Mom and Dad. Why? Kids aren't grateful to Santa. Kids don't think, "wow Santa worked hard for this for me." Kids just think, "Santa is the bomb."
Hey, news flash, I'm the bomb. I cyber Monday-ed the heck out of that Barbie Pop Up Camper and I know that my kids are grateful when we give them a special gift because they say, "Thank YOU Mom and Dad!" It may be a small gesture of gratitude but I've never seen anyone write Santa a formal "Thank You" note and ship it off to the North Pole. I'm sure some people already do Santa this way, but for us, its a change. It takes away from the never ending list of things that kids want because it's giving them a realistic expectation of what their parents can provide. The biggest part of this change for me is not about my own children. The biggest part of this change is for the other children, the ones who don't get a Christmas or half a dozen gifts from Santa under their tree.
Jason and I have also decided to make sure that our family wakes up at our house on Christmas morning. We have done the holiday travel thing for years. I'll never forget the year that we couldn't see out of our mini van on the way home from a Pennsylvania and Ohio Christmas tour. We would spend a solid 3 hours in the car driving between homes and we were truly so "busy" that we couldn't concentrate on the meaning of the day. Our kids received SO many gifts that we couldn't even see out of the back window on the way home. Yes, they had every possible gift in the back of that car on the way back to North Carolina but we barely had a minute to tell the Christmas story and talk about how Mary must have felt on the day that she gave birth to Jesus or what the angels must have looked like in Joseph's dream. We didn't talk about it because we were rushing through the day and we missed opportunities with our children. While we love spending time with family, we are happy to do that on the days surrounding Christmas.
We're keeping with our traditions of church service on Christmas Eve and sponsoring a child as a family. We're still doing our annual drop off to the Beach Food Pantry and our tradition of giving the kids their Christmas PJ's, a new book, and an ornament on Christmas Eve. I'm still making the same prime rib for dinner that I have enjoyed making for years and buying the amazing seasoning from Tommy's Gourmet Market in Duck. We still make our breakfast casserole and allow it to cook in the crockpot throughout the night and wake up to the smell of breakfast and the sound of little feet running towards our bedroom to wake us up. We still love going to see the Christmas House lights in Nags Head and eating a late night dessert when we get home. Oh yeah, and I will forever cross my fingers that the weather is nice enough on Christmas Day that we can make a beach trip in our PJ's!
What traditions do you and your family have to celebrate Christmas? We're really excited about this Christmas with traditions both old and new and this sweet baby that is due just a short week after!