I’m sharing this idea from my friend Kim Davis, with her permission, about a new family Christmas tradition that is super low stress and inexpensive:
When our daughter received her mission call and was assigned to report at the MTC on December 20th, we knew Christmas would be different. We wanted to celebrate Christmas with her before she left, however, for everyone at home, Christmas Day would still be December 25th. To compromise, we would have two Christmas days. Kind of like first and second breakfast for a Hobbit, there would be first and second Christmas for us that year.The question was how do you honor two Christmas days in one week without breaking the bank? Our soon-to-be missionary daughter would have presents under the tree, but that’s not much fun for everyone else.As I thought about what makes Christmas special at our house, I concluded that it all revolves around being together. Oh, and I happen to love presents under the tree. An idea came. I excitedly invited everyone to choose an item to represent a family activity, wrap it up, and put it under the tree. The rules were that the item must be something that we already had and it had to be something we could all do together. We would open the “gifts” throughout the day and come together for each activity.First Christmas turned out to be a surprisingly authentic. Everyone gathered in our bedroom for our traditional Christmas morning prayer. My husband built a fire in the fireplace and hit play to start his favorite Narada Christmas music.
That was the cue. We hustled to the family room and found stockings filled with Pringles, a soda, and an orange in the toe. (I know, I know, not that exciting but we were pitch hitting for Santa after all). We gave presents to our missionary daughter and she gave presents to all of us. We gathered together for a big Christmas breakfast and then the fun really began! Throughout the day someone would be sent to the tree to unwrap an activity gift. There was a puzzle to do together, a book to read aloud, chocolate chips for us to make cookies together, a movie to enjoy together, games to play together, and sleds for playing in the snow together.A new tradition was born! Instead of spending money on gifts, we spent the day together building relationships and making memories.Well, it’s Christmas time again. We will only be celebrating one Christmas this year. Yes, we will be spending plenty of money on gifts for each other, but the best gifts under the tree will be the gifts that bring us together.
I looooove this idea! We are going to do it this year! Every night, before family prayer, I remind my kids to be thinking of what activity to pick for their gift to the family, and to get it written down, wrapped, and under the tree, ready for Christmas morning. I’m excited to see what everyone comes up with! It sounds like a great way to connect on Christmas. I love the moments when I connect with my kids and husband over shared memories, games, and jokes. Lately I’ve been asking my husband to have family prayer earlier than I normally think we should be having it. I noticed a trend, a few weeks ago, that when we would gather for family prayer at 9:30 or 10 PM, we would start talking, and that would start someone off on a tangent. This happens so much more now that my older son is home from his mission with his quirky sense of humor and verbal connections. Then someone would digress the conversation onto another tangent. 30 minutes would go by and I would feel so torn between feeling exhausted, bone-tired, and wanting to continue the conversation and laughter. So now I ask for prayer earlier, knowing this is probably going to happen.
Another deliberate form of this family gathering is described here, called, “Family Time: Just Show Up.” You have family members show up, without screens (that is so important!), and without an agenda in your mom-programming mind. You start talking and see what happens. I loooove it! If you don’t think your family can have a jolly time without any programming, let go and BELIEVE! You will be amazed at what can happen! We are so used to planning and reacting to screens we forget what can happen when we talk face to face and share. If you have older kids, these meetings turn into what my Relief Society president calls “full disclosure meetings.” The kids start sharing about their childhood history, and I as the mom, or my husband say, “I never knew that happened!” It can be quite enlightening!