I admit it – Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the fall weather, colors and setting aside a time each year to reflect on our blessings big and small. I don’t like to rush from Halloween straight to Christmas because it takes away my opportunity to focus on thankfulness. That said, before Thanksgiving is even here, I am already making my Christmas list and checking it a million times. I am mostly an unschooling kind of mom too, so the lists are not a normal part of our life. The month slips by quickly though and having a list and calendar helps us not miss out on our favorite traditions. Here are some of our favorite traditions – not in any particular order.
Visit a living Nativity
Our favorite nearby is “Walk Through Bethlehem” at Grace Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Others have popped up here and there over the years but GBC is our most memorable and longstanding tradition. If you have a favorite, please post about it in the comments section. It might just mean a road trip for us!
Learn About St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas Day is on December 6th and we love to teach the children about the Christian man we know as St. Nick. We read books, do crafts, and make nummy foods. The children look forward to their farm boots being filled with nuts, oranges and chocolate coins. Check out the ultimate website devoted to nothing but St. Nick.
Go see our favorite local Christmas light show – Christmas Lights By Jackie Cherry in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The display is put to music. The best part is you don’t have to take kids out into the cold or rain to enjoy. You can park and the music plays on your car radio. If you chose to walk their yard, they have hot chocolate and cookies waiting for you in the backyard. They have a donation box near the house where you can elect to give to the charity they support…or not. This year we might go back to Lights Under Louisville. Where is your favorite place in or near Kentucky?
Build a gingerbread village. After Christmas, I buy discounted gingerbread kits. The following year we have an inexpensive fun activity. Instead of eating our creations, we wait for New Year’s and give them to our horses and pony as a treat. One year we used leftover 4th of July firecracker’s to demolish our gingerbread village while filming from behind a plexi-glass wall. There have been years when we didn’t use the kits and went all out making our own gingerbread from scratch or used a variety of pretzels and crackers. It all depends on the budget of both time and money.
We make 3D snowflakes to decorate the house. Some are still hanging in June – just saying. This is our favorite instructional video.
Make fake snow. We don’t get much of the real stuff here in southern Kentucky. Buy it here
Christmas Movies & Themed Treats
Watch Christmas movies and make themed treats. Powdered Sugar Donuts on a Stick Snowmen , Grinch Themed Snacks , Narnia Turkish Delights, and Polar Express Hot Chocolate. Note on the Turkish Delight: we have made it from scratch once. It was time consuming and tricky. You can skip the rose water. We have relatives in London that send us Christmas Turkish Delight. Much easier. If you are short on relatives in England, give this store a try. Honestly, I think Turkish Delight is icky but my kids love it.
Make a Jesse Tree. A Jesse Tree celebrates the genealogy of Christ with ornaments that represent or help tell the story of the person or event in his family. Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. You can buy a small potted evergreen tree to decorate with Jesse Tree Ornaments. When finished, plant outside. Each year you add another tree building a Jesse Trees of the past forest. Budget too small for a real tree? Use an artificial tree, make one from pallet wood or draw one on wrapping paper and hang on the wall. An excellent devotional book to use along with a Jesse Tree is “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” . Don’t want to buy it new? I have seen it on ThriftBooks used. I just found a link to a free printable pdf file that contains a complete devotional by the same author with printable color ornaments – Click here. If you want something that will require less printer ink that the kids can color, click here. Our Jesse Tree started out with construction paper ornaments – Ruth’s wedding ring was made from foil – and over 15 years have become more detailed. Don’t feel pressured to have a big elaborate tree with the entire genealogy of Christ. Pick a few this year and add more each year. My kids each pick one ornament a night to hang on the tree. Before they can hang it on the tree, they tell us about the person or event it represents.
Learning Through Crafting
Truth in the Tinsel is a great devotional for little ones with simple craft projects for each day.
Sing and Ring
Be bell ringers for the Salvation Army or make a donation. Visit a local Salvation Army and see what they do. Our favorite is in Lebanon, Tennessee – here is a link to their website. Sergeants Tom and Raechel Freeman along with a core of serious volunteers pour the love of Christ into the children and families in their county. Their after school program for children living in nearby HUD homes is in a league of it’s own – children are fed a meal, helped with the core subjects, character building class, art, music, sports and more. On Sundays they have a worship service and time of teaching and their cafe, The Roast, is open on the weekends to offer the community an alternative to bars.
Watch a parade or be in one.
Fun with Pets
Wrap new tennis balls in Christmas paper and film your beloved family dog sniffing out his gift among many and opening them with his paws and teeth. R.I.P. Miles Norman Beasley. Christmas won’t be the same without you buddy.
Feed the Birds
Make edible gifts for the wild birds. My kids love decorating the shrubs and trees outside our windows with strings of popcorn and cranberries. This link has directions for edible garland and more edible bird gifts.
Bake for Special People
Bake Cookies for your mail carrier.
Adventure on Ice
Go Ice Skating. Bowling Green, Kentucky has a wonderful new outdoor ice rink – check it out. Be prepared when the hours of finding matching mittens, loading kids into the van, driving an hour to the ice rink, bundling the kids up, getting their skates on – is all for about five minutes of falling on the ice, crying and that final straw of “I have to go potty”. Still be of good cheer though! It gets easier as they get older.
See a Movie
See a movie at the theater. This is a big deal for my kids. Movies are so expensive that we hardly ever go. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two times when we are likely to splurge. Well, we do make exceptions for newly released Star Wars, Star Trek and possibly Guardians of the Galaxy.
Swim at a hotel. Many hotels will let you use their pool for a flat rate per child. Swim all day!
Unpack and set up your growing collection of Nativity sets.
Watch the free-range goats and pot bellied pig destroy the outdoor Nativity. Bring outdoor baby Jesus indoors because the farm animals obviously can’t have nice things. But do this all over again next year because it was a favorite memory. If you don’t have goats and pigs, consider adopting from your local shelter or rescue group.
Happy Birthday Jesus!
Have a Birthday party for Jesus. If you knew Jesus were coming over for a special dinner, what would you cook? What kind of cake would you bake? Let the kids decide! It won’t be as fancy as you might think.
New Traditions for 2018
We will be sprucing up our Jesse Tree by purchasing 25 Days of Christ unfinished ornaments and free devotional offered at New Tradition Crafts. This is produced by a Mormon but the New Testament version appears to be Bible-based. What I love about this set is it focuses on the life of Jesus – birth through resurrection. It allows us to share the full gospel message beyond his arrival in the manger.
Last year I made these Names of Jesus Ornaments using this free printable on fancy scrapbook paper. The nice man at our local hardware store gave me all the paint sticks I needed for free too. This year I am going use the ornaments from last year along with this 25 Names of Jesus Advent Countdown. I also found this cute and fun idea that I might incorporate – gift ideas that go along with the names of Christ at So Festive. While visiting So Festive, check out their list of additional Christ-centered Christmas Ideas.
Would love to hear your ideas. Thanks for stopping by. Please come back soon.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
…so that in all things He may have preeminence. Colossians 1:18