Our Christmas celebrating falls on Christmas Eve because we typically spend that night and Christmas day with my family. It also helps to spread things out so that we don't deal with that all-and-done Christmas night crash. We begin with brunch, usually including homemade just-out-of-the-oven sticky buns (or at very least reheated homemade sticky buns).
As we gather with our gifts and our stockings, we begin with the telling of the Christmas story. This year is was recited by our 10 and 11 year olds, since they had recently memorized the story from Luke 2. It took a little to convince them it wasn't a race to the finish, but instead a duet. They finally got it. Kind of.
We then talked about how we did last year in our quest to be light to the people around us. It was kind of an unofficial New Year's resolution for 2011 and it was good to share specific ways in which that was accomplished. The state of the home address included input from every member of the family, from oldest to youngest. We then read about a woman whose family learned what it means to sacrifice, when she was just a child. As she grew up, her own home reflected that lifestyle. We talked about being generous with our lives - even more than we do now. It was a challenge for 2012.
Read the story here:
Next, it was on to our stockings. We decided several years ago to forego the traditional stocking gifts. We still have stockings, made by my wonderful Aunt Ellen (who was kind enough to make sure Shoun got one before the year was out), we just don't fill them with the traditional small, Dollar Store-type items that are fun for a day but quickly wind up on the playroom floor.
So instead of little gifts, we fill the stockings with notes of encouragement to each other. The younger ones have fun decorating their cards with pictures, tape (Eden), and stamps while the older ones might just write something on a scrap of paper. Whatever medium is used, the messages found on the cards are always inspirational and encouraging (although some more than others, of course). It was unusually quiet as we all read the messages written just for us.
The children exchange names in November so that they can learn to think about what others would want. It's fun to watch them shop for one another and I'm always pleasantly surprised at how well they choose for each other, even giving sacrificially from their piggy banks.
I enjoy finding gifts for each child. I relish the joy found on their faces when they realize the thought that went into each gift, and how someone was paying attention when they were talking about a specific item, or in need of something. I've learned to shop for the kids during our summer vacation. Everyone wants a souvenir of the trip, so I secretly buy one item for each child (and husband), and they receive it for Christmas, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
For several years now, we've tried to give gifts that make memories, rather than just "stuff". So this year, part of their gift was an afternoon family outing to the movies. As you can imagine, that doesn't happen very often for us. It's learning to enjoy something just because it's with family, even though it may not be the activity (or movie) you would have chosen. It was a fun way to spend Christmas Eve afternoon together.
We also gave the children tickets to see a musical. The older children found out that they'd be going to see the national tour of Shrek and the younger children learned that they'd be going to see Suessical. The added bonus: John and I get to see two shows. :)
Determining how to celebrate Christmas is a journey that each one of us is on. Like everything else in life, we travel that road with our Savior. He is, after all, the reason we celebrate.