I LOVE CHRISTMAS!
I love that my girls love Christmas. I love that they have caught the spirit of gifting and surprises. Chris? He gets into the spirit of it about mid December. He asks me every year not to go crazy overboard, but I’m not very successful at it.
In our house, we have some Christmas morning rules. How about you?
- Girls must stay in their rooms until 8 am (It used to be 7 am when they didn’t enjoy sleeping in quite so much)
- No peeking
- Do not come out of your room until Dad comes to get you
- Keep your eyes closed until we say to open them
- You can check out your “Santa” gift once Dad brings you downstairs
- You can open your stocking
- Eat some breakfast
- No presents under the tree will be opened until after breakfast
- Have fun
- Sit and watch others open their presents
- Dad can hand out the presents all by himself (that used to be a hard one for little hands that wanted to help)
6 Great Reasons Why Christmas is So Awesome
Receiving Gifts from the Heart
I love the gifts that come from the heart, that say “I love you” and “You matter” and continue to remind you of that year after year.
A couple of weeks before Christmas in 2010, I was upstairs resting while Kristen entertained herself for awhile. When I finished, she came into my room with a present that she had wrapped all by herself and tied with ribbon.
She was so excited, “Mommy I made you a present and wrapped it for you.” I commented that it looked wonderful and that I should have a rest more often if she was going to make me presents. She was excitedly bouncing on my bed and then jumped off to place her gift in its rightful place under the Christmas tree. She happily announced, “You’re gonna love it Momma.”
Fast forward to Christmas morning. We had been opening presents for awhile when Kristen remembered her gift for me under the tree. She went in search of her gift and then presented it to me.
I pulled an end of the ribbon to release the bow and carefully unwrapped the paper. Inside was the dearest gift. She had taken a stack of pictures that we had printed off when she was the “Big Cheese” at school and created a scrapbook for me, “So you won’t ever forget me Mommy.” Tears filled my eyes as I read the cover of her book:
I wish joy a happy Christmas
I was overwhelmed with emotion at such a thought-filled gift from my five-year old. We hugged and when she realized I was crying, she started crying.
In 2012, my father, who is a skilled craftsman, made all eight of his granddaughters a jewelry box. (The grandsons got a handcrafted gift the next year.)
I’ll admit, I peaked in to one of the boxes before I wrapped them for my daughters and was amazed at the beauty and thoughtfulness of such a gift. My father had made me a jewelry box when I was a teenager, and these boxes were similar to mine. Each jewelry box was lined with velvet in a color that matched the girls’ favorite colors. My girls will treasure these forever.
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My journal is full of Christmas memories and our whole family has fun remembering and laughing about moments through the years.
One Christmas, we bought Kristen a new to her iPod for Christmas. The other two had had to wait until they were older to get one. Chris and I KNEW there would be some indignation from Amy and Misha. We were looking forward to it.
That’s what good parents do, right?
First, however, I thought Chris had wrapped the iPod. He thought I had taken care of it. When Kristen opened a present containing a new iPod case before she opened her iPod, we quickly had to improvise. “Oh, sorry Kristen. That was meant for Mom.” She was okay with that. She wasn’t expecting an iPod. She was expecting a LeapPad II as that had been at the top of her list. She gave the iPod case to me.
So when we were getting down to the last remaining presents, Chris looked at me and whispered, “Where is it?” I responded that I didn’t know, I thought he had taken care of it. No.
It must still been up in our closet. Chris announced a short break for everyone to stretch their legs. I hurried upstairs, found the iPod, grabbed the already unwrapped pink iPod case, raced down to my wrapping table in the basement, and then nonchalantly slipped the newly wrapped present under the tree with no one the wiser. Whew.
Kristen sat to open her last present, and I was ready with camera. She first pulled out the pink iPod case which she had previously opened and looked up like, “Is this some kind of joke?” Then she explored a little further and suddenly yelled, “I got an iPod!!!!”
Her sisters were all kinds of astonished and indignant.
Still makes me laugh.
And this moment too from 2011. It makes me laugh too.
That year, I learned that big packages are the best, even if what is inside isn’t as big.
In years past, I’ve also learned that you have to keep it equal—they keep track—and clothes aren’t that exciting.
We pulled a great one over on Amy. I had wrapped a present for her and put on the tag: “From: The best parents in the world”. She had an inkling of what might be inside. While Chris was tidying up in the basement one evening, I went down and asked him to wrap Amy’s present in a bigger box.
As she and her sisters brought the presents upstairs on Christmas Eve, she kept looking for her present. It was nowhere to be found and she was stumped. Pretty funny to watch.
Backstory. Shortly after Amy’s birthday in December of 2011, she decided that she wanted to upgrade her 3rd generation iPod to a 4th generation one because there was always the possibility that Misha might get my 4th generation iPod and it wouldn’t do for a younger sister to have something better.
So, Amy sold her iPod and pooled her birthday money in hopes of buying a new one. She was about $25 short. We convinced her to wait to see if they came on sale.
In the meantime, Chris and I decided to be “the Best Parents Ever” and make up the difference and buy the iPod for Christmas.
That’s when we had to tell Amy that the best deals on iPods were after Christmas and that she should wait. Oh the lack of patience my oldest child exhibits.
Funny thing, as we were driving with her best friend, Audrey, and Amy mentioned that she was waiting on buying her iPod until after Christmas, Audrey starts in with, “Are you crazy? Everyone knows that the best deals are before Christmas….” and so on and so on.
Chris and I just sat laughing in the front seat. Audrey was right. So Amy was thrilled when she unwrapped a big package only to find the smaller package she had been searching for inside. I suppose there’s a little fudging of the truth in the weeks before Christmas, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in pulling off a surprise.
After the fun of watching Amy unwrap her gift, we got to Chris’ “last” gift for the year. I had been anticipating this moment since September when Chris would open this present.
He had made comments over the years about how nice it would be to have his mission journal typed so that he could easily search it for talks and for remembering things. I decided that I was going to type it for him and not knowing how long it would take, I started typing in September. It took me three weeks of six to seven-hour days of typing.
How did I spend so much time typing you ask? I hurried to complete my cleaning in the morning, I typed late in to the evenings, and after school I kind of ignored my children. I told them what I was doing and swore them to secrecy. They seemed to understand the special significance of this time.
Chris traveled a lot during the week, so I had to put the journals all back for the weekends so that he wouldn’t notice anything out of place.
I made a note on the wrapped present that it was to be opened last, and the girls and I sat quietly watching as Christopher opened his gift. It was a touching gift for him.
Christmas memories are the best.
Sharing in Family Traditions
As much as we have tried over the years to create traditions during the holidays, it seems there is always something that throws a wrench in our plans and we have to change things up. Perhaps that is the tradition—we go with the flow, change things up as needed, and do our best to spend time together as a family.
In 2008, I wrote in my journal,
“Our Christmas Eve tradition hasn’t quite solidified itself as I would like. When I was growing up, my family always used to order Chinese food. We lived quite a distance from a larger city, and this was the one time of the year that we ordered Chinese food to-go.
“It was always exciting. We had Christmas crackers that were filled with a little prize, a joke and a tissue paper crown—which we would all wear until the door bell rang. Everybody pulled them off in unison. But it was a fun tradition.”
Early in our marriage, Chris and I carried on this tradition, but as we started adding children to our family, not a single one of our girls cared for Chinese food. So, for a couple of years, they ate nothing except maybe white rice for our Christmas Eve dinner. It wasn’t much of a tradition for them. So we decided to change it and we picked a restaurant and type of food that the whole family enjoyed.
Similar to many of you, we used to have the tradition of new pajamas on Christmas Eve, but it was getting so that Chris and I really weren’t needing new pajamas as often as our growing girls. We decided to change traditions around a bit and give the girls new pajamas at the beginning of December so that they would have all month long to wear them.
I suppose, almost as exciting as Christmas morning, is the moment when I let my girls bring up all the wrapped presents from the basement. I used to keep them in the game closet in the basement until Christmas Eve because little ones couldn’t be trusted around them; now I do it because, well, it is tradition. For the weeks up to Christmas, my girls snoop through the packages as I wrap. They are sure to tell me if one sister has more than another, and they try to guess what might be hidden inside. I’d like to point out that all of my girls are over the age of 15!
Focusing on the Savior and the Nativity
About ten years ago, our family was visiting at our friend’s home and I noticed the beautiful nativity she had displayed on a table in their family room. I was instantly hooked and asked where I could find such a nativity. Turns out, it was available on Deseretbook.com. You could purchase each of the pieces in the set separately, but I realized that would be a large investment. So, I put it on my Christmas list and my mother-in-law began to gift me a new piece of the nativity every year.
I received the Willow Tree Figurine Nativity(affiliate) set with Mary holding baby Jesus, Joseph, a shepherd with his three lambs, and a resting donkey. It was the perfect way to begin my set.
On subsequent Christmases, my mother-in-law’s thoughtful gifts added the Sheltering Animals(affiliate)—sheep, a donkey, and a goat—the Nativity Ox and Goat(affiliate) a Metal Star Backdrop(affiliate), and the Nativity Song of Joy Angel Figurine(affiliate).
Chris and the girls completed my nativity set with the Nativity Creche(affiliate). It has now become a beloved part of my Christmas decorations.
Random Acts of Kindness
For one of our advent calendars I created slips listing Random Acts of Kindness for each of us to perform each day in December until Christmas Eve. Here’s a sampling of a few of the slips that I have used over the years.
- Donate a gift to a child
- Candy cane bomb cars in a parking lot (put a candy cane on the windshield)
- Tape change to a vending machine
- Leave a happy note for someone to find
- Do a chore for someone in your family
- Send a card or handwritten note to a friend
- Give a compliment to a friend
- Take treats to the police or fire station
- Speak to someone new at church
- Leave a thank you note for your mail carrier
- Let someone go ahead of you in line
- Serve your Secret Santa family
- Make someone’s bed today
- Leave a popcorn gift on a Redbox
- Call your parents or grandparents
- Carol to your Secret Santa family
- Give a gift to a bus driver
- Thank your teacher
- Pay for someone else’s meal
- Donate school supplies to a teacher
- Make cookies for a neighbor
- Donate food to a local food pantry
- Watch a Christmas movie as a family
- Do random acts of kindness for your family
It’s the Magic of Giving
On December 4th, a friend reposted a post from her sister-in-law on Facebook. It began a moment that was filled with the magic of giving.
Kara: Another impactful way to help those in need this holiday season! My wonderful in-laws are living and serving in South Africa for the next several months, helping in so many ways, including working with the St Angela home for disabled children. Read the post for details and a link if you would like to help! Thank you!
Maggie: In case you are looking for a new, unique and very needy charity to support during this season of giving, my parents are volunteering with the St Angela Cheshire Home for Disabled Children in Lesotho.
As a family we’re donating to them for Christmas. I know there are many worthy causes, and there is no pressure, but we’d love your support. The Venmo is G_P… You could give it to me and I’ll send it on to him. We’re doing it this way so that 100% of the money donated goes to the Home.
Read what our parents wrote:
We hear that some of you generous people are thinking of sending Christmas gifts to your wandering parents in Southern Africa.
What would perhaps work better and warm our hearts even more might be to donate to the St Angela Home for Disabled Children. They are in need of “unrestricted” funds to use for staff who have not been paid in months and for unpaid water bills. https://www.facebook.com/stangelacheshirehome/
There are grants that can be applied for, but they almost always specify that their funding cannot be used for salaries or the payment of debts. It would be a nice gesture if the cooks, care givers and others could receive a portion of their back pay before they leave, and regular water will make it so the Home can keep their gardens going. (There may be funding available to build a greenhouse, but not to pay for watering it).
We are focusing on sustainability projects in the grants I will apply for. One will be to buy more hens (they have a projected capacity of 1,500). Another will be to install a greenhouse in their large garden area so they can grow vegetables nearly year round to feed the kids and to sell on the market.
I am waiting to see a report on their previous chicken project, but I think the hens cost a little less than $4 each and the greenhouse will come in at less than $4,000. It is easier to get funding from the U.S. Embassy, the Peace Corps Friends of Lesotho, and LDS Humanitarian Services for things like greenhouses and chickens. Nearly impossible to get money for salaries or for payment of debts.
I read this post and then scrolled on. But you know, the thought of it just wouldn’t leave my mind. I tried to find the original posting a couple of days later, but couldn’t find it in my Facebook feed.
And so, I posted a request on Facebook:
Someone in my feed posted last week about their parents serving a mission in Africa and taking donations. I can’t find the post or remember who posted it. Can anyone help me out?
I was grateful that I received a response that led me back to the original post.
At this same time, Chris was working on sending out information asking for donations for a fundraising project in the Philippines. I talked to him about this post I saw on Facebook. And then I kept feeling the urgency of responding. And so I asked if he would Venmo money for this request. I was grateful to be able to respond to the prompting.
One morning Chris received a note on Facebook from Gary in Africa who searched Chris out.
“We wanted to thank you for the donation you made to the St Angela’s Cheshire Home for Disabled Children. We don’t know how you heard about the need there, but we appreciate your responding. If it’s okay with you, we will take part of your donation and repair the water pump that has been broken. Water is being trucked in.It is summer in Lesotho and having a functioning water pump will be such a God-send. You’ve answered a lot of prayers with your help.”
Hi Gary. So glad the donation came at the right time! My wife, Jolayne, is friends with Kara and saw her call for help several weeks ago. That plea stirred in Jolayne and she talked about it with me multiple times.
I served a mission in the Philippines and continue to be involved in assisting that part of the world now, so I was very focused elsewhere. But my wife persisted that this was where we needed to help.
The Spirit works in us for amazing things when we let it. We wish you and your crew the very best merry Christmas. Thank you for serving and caring as the Savior would. That’s how you Light the World.
I do not share this to say, “Hey, look at us!” I want you to know that we are truly the Savior’s hands on earth. And when the Spirit prompts, and we listen and then take action, marvelous things happen. The magic of giving continues to spread throughout the world.
Final Thoughts on Why Christmas is So Awesome
Christmas is all about the magic. The magic of giving and serving, memories, focusing on the Savior, and traditions.
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