Ever since Chris and I married and began our own Christmases, each Thanksgiving through New Year feels like I’m standing at the edge of a pool. I take a huge breath, dive in, swim to the other side as quickly and efficiently as possible without coming up for air, and then pop up at the end, not quite sure what just happened.
I’m determined to figure out some way to savor these times more in the future. To truly treasure the precious moments available with my sweet family and friends. Spending time with the Lord, reflecting on the real purpose behind the pretty decorations. Simply sitting and soaking up the beauty and aroma of the season.
In that sentiment, this year I picked up a few great ideas from various magazines and websites. Chris and I have decided to implement them for our future holiday seasons. I thought perhaps I would share them with you. Honestly, I meant to post them during their respective holidays, however I obviously fell off the face of the earth for about six weeks. I was holding my breath.
- The idea is a Thankfulness Tree. All you really need are: A great branch with other little twigs coming off of it (to represent your tree), a pretty pot or vase, construction paper, scissors, a hole puncher, ribbon or raffia, and pens or crayons. To assemble, place the bare branch in the vase or pot (of course, you will want to secure it with some sort of filler so that it stands up straight). Cut the construction paper into small faux leaves. Place a hole where the stem would be located, and string your ribbon through to tie a little loop. Everyone lists something they are thankful for on a leaf (or leaves) and hangs it on the assembled tree. You can use the Thankfulness Tree as your Thanksgiving table centerpiece or as décor for the season. You could do one a day during the month of November or wait until Thanksgiving Day and have each of your dinner guests fill a leaf out to hang up. It’s a wonderful kid-friendly way express our gratitude.
- The idea is a Sparkle Box. Chris and I read about this in the December edition of the “Guideposts” magazine we get each month and fell in love with it. The mom who wrote the article expressed how she had become concerned with the consumerism that was expressed in the “receiving” portion of Christmas by her children. One year she got an old jewelry box, wrapped it up in sparkly wrapping paper, and set it under the tree without a nametag. When Christmas morning came it was the last present left under the tree. She explained that the gift was for Jesus, since it was His birthday. When the gift was opened her children found a slip of paper with the verse that tells us that whatever we do unto the least of all people we do for Jesus. Our gift of love to the Lord. Ever since then, throughout the year it is the goal of each person in her family to do all they can to serve, love, and minister to people in need. Any time they do something they’re not to make a big deal out of it; they simply write it on a piece of paper and place it in the jewelry box. On Christmas morning they open the sparkly box and read the collaboration of everything their family has done to serve the least as their fragrant gift to Jesus. Not only is it their favorite gift to open, it has caused her children to be more outward-minded and focused. She, her husband, and her children have given more of their own personal savings, belongings, and time in an effort to have a beautiful gift available to open Christmas morning to present to our Savior. What a fabulous way to hold the true meaning of Christmas in your heart all the year.
- The idea is to give less and spend more. More time, that is. In the Family Fun magazine by Disney a mom related a similar desire to downsize the gift-focus in her children. In an effort to be creative in guiding their children’s concentration, she and her husband began limiting three gifts per child. Two were your typical smaller presents, such as a great book, a toy, and so forth. The third one was simply a hand-made gift certificate giving their kids the opportunity for a new experience or trip, such as an outing to the zoo as a family or attending an off-Broadway musical in town. They now do this every year and their kids have even started asking for experience-based gifts for their birthdays. They customize the gifts according to the child some years, perhaps giving a child the opportunity to shadow a farmer all day on his property if his dream is to become a farmer. Other years, gifts are given as a family-oriented present.
There are many other wonderful ideas to make the most of the Christmas season together, many of which I’m sure you participate in with your own family. I love the diversity that comes with holiday traditions. Perhaps these three unique inspirations will nestle their way into your home too. We certainly plan to utilize them to re-focus our family on the elements that we believe truly make Thanksgiving and Christmas the beautiful holidays that they are: Christ, a grateful heart, and family.