I remember from childhood - and sometimes still feel - the "magic of Christmas." So I've been thinking a lot about how to create that for my son. Though we aren't religious, we celebrate by spending time with family, consuming (too much!) good food and drink, enjoying the beautiful decorations and festive music, and exchanging gifts. I want to be deliberate about building traditions now that will become meaningful and special to D (and manageable for his parents).*
One we started this year is a "secular Advent calendar." We're calling it the Christmas Cabin. In addition to the little animals behind each door, D's loved discovering small notes, each relating an activity or occasionally a small gift.
Because I believe a big part of Christmas' magic is about giving to others, as he grows older, I plan for the activities to be a bit more altruistic. For example, I envision adding "Sunset hike and trash pick up," "Help at the food pantry," or "Take treats to old folks." But he's still a bit young for those things. (Right now, if a Christmas Cabin note said, "Buy a goat," D would be quite upset that Billy was helping a family in Uganda rather than in the backyard"!)
For now, mostly we've incorporated things we would have done anyway during this busy month. By now he's got a pile of notes, and for the last few nights, after opening a new one, he has rifled through the older ones, asking me to read them, too. It's been a nice way to remember the little things we've already done together over the last several weeks that are making this time of year so special.
Here's a partial list:
- Read (and sniff) "The Sweet Smells of Christmas"
- Dinner in his tent in the living room
- Watch "Emmet Otter" together
- Rudolf slippers
- Turning the exterior house lights on
- Hot cocoa!
- Stickers on the window
- Bath with green and red bubble (warning: turns the water brown!)
- Go to our town's holiday parade
- Dinner by candlelight
- Ice cream treat with syrup from our orange trees
- Santa and snowman finger puppets
- Getting our Christmas tree
- Celebrate Scandinavian Christmas with Granddad and cousins
- Having a holiday music dance party
- Hanging our stockings on the bookshelf (alas, no fireplace)
- Spark of Love - donate toys and visit the fire station
- Drive through "candy cane lane"
- Placing the star on top of our tree
* When I asked a friend about the Christmas traditions in her family, she asked me, "Does Santa wrap presents?" I thought about it awhile and realized, "No, Santa doesn't need to wrap presents!" Though there is a big urge to overcome, I believe that from here on out, the gifts D will receive under the tree from the jolly ol' elf will save paper and his parents' time.
Here's to the traditions - old and new - in your family that make this season bright.
Happy holidays from our family to yours, and best wishes for peace and joy in the New Year!