Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas in a Large Family

is simply magical. It's so fun to be the mother and watch it happen. We don't have a lot of family around, so mostly it's just us. Here are some of our traditions:

* We try to keep Christmas fairly simple and focused on the Savior. We usually sponsor a Sub-for-Santa family and go shopping together to pick out gifts the children would like. It is so sweet to see my children thinking about what a stranger might like.

* We keep our gift buying simple. We get several presents for the whole family (this year's gift? A counter-top ice cream maker), and then find two main presents for each child, one from Santa and one from Mom and Dad. The kids also get small things like books and socks and clothes. I don't worry too much about keeping the amount we spend the same per child, since their needs and interests are so different. I always try to find at least one gift that is hands-on. I remember one Christmas as a child being so disappointed because everyone else was playing with toys or putting together some cool Lego set while I sat there with nothing to do (of course I got plenty of great gifts that year, like books and clothes and things, but there wasn't the same excitement). So even though my daughter Lillian is a huge bookworm, I try to still give her a puzzle or an art project or something that will fill up some time on Christmas Day itself.

* To help us with our shopping, around Halloween, we have the kids make a list of things they want, and we try to get them at least one thing on the list. This year's lists cracked me up. Lillian wants a watch, a digital camera, Nancy Drew computer games and boring stuff like that. Michael wants Star Wars or Indiana Jones lego sets, plus dress-ups (specifically Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Knights, and Pirates). Joey wants a "gold locashion book," a 6" megaladon tooth, and a bag of sand with real gold in it so he can pan for gold. Oh, and a book on what to feed "hornd" toads, a package of "hornd" toad food, and a reptile cage. Think he's trying to tell me something? Sarah told me today she wants a baby, the real kind that grow in mommy's tummy. I hope that's not some sort of premonition!

* We usually decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We collect nativities and buy a new one each year. It inspires reverence to see the way different artists and different cultures have portrayed the miracle of Christ's birth, and the older kids like to pick up the Mary in each set to see what year that nativity joined our family (I write the years on the bottom).

* Around Thanksgiving time, we draw names among the older kids (ages 3 and up). Each child spends their own money, usually about $10, to give a gift to one of their siblings. I love watching them plan and think and pore over ads to get their sibling the perfect gift.

* Each Monday night during our Family Home Evening, we try to do something Christmas-oriented, like making gingerbread houses, driving around to look at lights, reading the Book of Luke, and watching our favorite Christmas movies, such as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (that's got some of the best lines in the world: "you mean they tied him up and put him in a feedbox? Where was the child welfare?" "What were the wadded up clothes? You read about it -- they wrapped him up in wadded up clothes!" "I'm not going to be a shepherd. Gladys Herdman hits too hard!" "My mom doesn't have any white sheets. Can I wear a sheet with balloons on it?")

* Our Christmas Eve dinner for the last five or more years has been spent at our favorite Chinese restaurant. I love eating family style, and the kids understand the funny Christmas Story implications of our meal (in case you've never seen the movie, the neighbor's dogs eat all the turkey at Ralphie's house, so they end up at the only restaurant open on Christmas Day, a Chinese one). One year, we even ordered roast duck. It was gross, so we decided to forgo it in the future.

* On Christmas Eve, we have a simple gathering with our immediate family. We act out the Christmas Story and talk about Christ's life. Last year, Lillian (on her own initiative) spent much of Christmas Eve day searching out the perfect outfits for everyone's costumes, such as Allison as a wise man holding a beautiful geode to give to the Christ Child:

* After the nativity story, each child gets to open one present. Sometimes, the present is new pajamas to wear that night.
* After the program, we send everyone to bed. Sometimes, they gather for a party in each other's rooms, playing games for a while before excitedly trying to sleep so Santa can arrive.

* Once a child knows the truth about Santa, they get to take turns being Santa's helper. Last year was Lillian's first year to help. She was so thrilled and excited to set out the presents for each of her siblings with us, and a bit disappointed when we told her Santa didn't bring presents to kids who don't believe anymore (we were kidding! After she went to bed, we brought out her presents from Santa.)

* I almost always make butterscotch rolls and set them out to rise that night (my recipe uses frozen rolls and is very simple. You can find it here).

* Santa brings one main present for each child and fills the stockings, usually with oranges, peanuts, chocolate coins, candy, and a movie or a book.

* Christmas morning dawns bright and early, sometimes with a child or two running into our room at 2 a.m., announcing, "It's morning time!" After we put said child back to bed, we finally do get up around 6 a.m. and head for the stairs. We line the kids up youngest to oldest and the rush for the toys begins.

* Santa doesn't wrap his presents, so right away, everyone has something exciting to look at. While the kids are looking at their presents, I start the rolls cooking in the oven.

* After looking at their presents from Santa and emptying their stockings, we go to the kitchen for a yummy breakfast. I get out the rolls and DH usually makes sausages, bacon, eggs, and pancakes.

* After breakfast, we go back to the living room to open the rest of the gifts one at a time. The kids can't wait for their sibling to open the special gift they picked out just for them, and since both of our extended families draw names, too, there are usually a few surprises in there, even for mom and dad.

I hope your Christmas season is wonderful too!


Lisa6Kids said...

We have so many of the same traditions! I wish we were close to you I think some of our kids would get along famously. Maddy is my bookworm and she is also a big fan of the Nancy Drew games. We have about 6 of them now and she takes judicious notes to figure out all the puzzles. My son AJ loves Legos like no one I have ever met. LOL
I enjoyed reading your traditions and seeing how similar they are to our large family ones . :)

fiona said...

Thanks for posting some of your traditions, it was fun to read! I love the idea of adding a nativity set every year, we may have to incorporate that one... :)

Ambrosia said...

Christina--I love your blog. I love hear other mothers talk about their experiences in motherhood. It is very uplifting to hear yours. I think you are incredible. Who knew that we'd still be in contact 12 yrs after our freshman year in college? Can you believe it's been so long??

Wizzard MoM said...

Sounds like we have a lot of similar traditions, I'll have to be sure and post about some of ours. I do like the idea of the Orange rolls that you mentioned.

I too like to start decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure where we will put our tree this year since our living room is full of furniture. Maybe we'll have to downsize a bit.

Dan and Marci said...

Fun post--Kaylee got those same pj's last year too!
Our christmas traditions are expanding as our family grows--it is so fun!

Heidi said...

Thanks for sharing some of your traditions. I love reading about I'm craving a little eggnog and some Manheim Steamroller!

One of our more unusual traditions is the 'Christmas Pickle.' It's a German tradition. We have a small ceramic pickle ornament that we leave near the milk and cookies. Then Santa hides it on the tree and leaves a special gift (usually a favorite sugar cereal) under the tree for the finder of the Christmas pickle. :)

Heidi A. said...

What a wonderful blessing to be in your home!

I visited a neighbor the other day who had made lap quilts for each of her grandchildren. Each quilt had strips of fabric representing family memories over the years. It was so neat to know that the things that mattered most to the children were the relationship type memories; playing fox and geese in the snow, grandpa fixing waffles, the Christmas village that surrounded the tree, cutting down a tree together etc.

Thanks for your great ideas! You family is blessed.

Shandy said...

oh Christina! I'm ready for Christmas NOW after reading your post!
you have some wonderful traditions and I got some great ideas to try this year :) Thanks!


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