Pacing the Christmas Marathon

My firstborn was five months old when a friend said, “Don’t go overboard at Christmas. You have too many years ahead of you. We burned out.” She meant activities, not presents, which were not a temptation given our budget.

Our Christmases were quiet for a couple of years, and then, the activities began. By the time our children were in high school and would remember more, I was exhausted, and they were bored with some routines.

The traditions that have lasted are a decorated tree, carol singing, decorating homemade cookies, sporadic family Advent readings, Christmas Eve worship, Christmas Eve cookies and snacks, Christmas breakfast— with cranberry coffee cake—and our gift exchange routine. 

Daily family Advent readings, other Christmas sweets, making gingerbread houses, outdoor lights, indoor garland, and neighborhood caroling slipped away. Our Advent banner is no longer hung. Christmas movies and concerts are less frequent.

Most of the meaningful traditions have stayed. The ones I miss might still exist if I had carefully paced our Christmas marathon.

Do you have traditions which should be saved for later years when the children will enjoy them more or remember them better?

Christmas, Homeschooling

Christmas Break: Is Yours Long Enough?

Until high school requirements and online classes prevented a month of Christmas, we didn’t have formal learning from Thanksgiving to January 2nd.  However, our activities covered language arts, social studies, thinking skills, and art.

We made cookies. We watched and discussed movies. We made presents—decorated t-shirts and calendars and sun catchers and wooden baskets. We sang, sang, sang—Christmas carols from beautifully illustrated books. Our favorite for the early years was Tomie dePaola’s Book of Christmas Carols

We read, read, read.  Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights: The Story of the Christmas Symbols by Edna Barth explained cultural customs. The Lion in the Box by Marguerite De Angeli taught city life in the early 1900s.

Between Thanksgiving and Advent, we read classics such as The Night before Christmas and Polar Express. We treated the stories like other fiction. After those few days, we focused on the true meaning of Christmas without leaving the boys culturally illiterate or deprived of fun stories.

A needed break.

How much break time do you need?


Gift Guidance

For me, November was when I finished Christmas shopping, not when I started.

You may already know the excellent gift advice contained in the rhyme below because I have heard it from multiple sources in recent years. However, I want to give it to you just in case you missed it or need a reminder.

Give your children:

Something they want,

Something they need,

Something to wear, and

Something to read.

Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 (ESV)

What do your children want? What do they need?

Christmas, Decisions

Planning Questions

One Christmas, I used some excellent planning advice. I asked each family member which minor Christmas tradition was most important. If I had to streamline, why remove a favorite?

After twenty-five years, I vividly remember one request—keep the candy dish. The Christmas before, I had filled a crystal wedding present with assorted wrapped candy.  Nice candy. Each child was allowed to pick one piece a day during Advent. I had forgotten the candy dish and did not think its one appearance constituted a tradition. However, a small heart did.

To reduce Thanksgiving cooking, a friend asked her family which dishes meant the most. She received her answers, and advice. “Mom, we like the store-bought dressing better than your homemade. Serve that.”

For over a decade, I served a cranberry coffee cake Christmas morning. It was eaten without much comment. Two years ago, a son living in another state mentioned how much he loved it and couldn’t wait to taste it again. That reminded me to ask as well before making any menu changes.

Along the way I learned not to assume which food or traditions were important to my family.

Which questions might reduce your holiday busyness?