38: Tree Toppers: Angel or Star?

What’s on top of your Christmas tree? Star or angel? Tell us what you have on your tree by voting in the poll in the sidebar of this page.

If you have a specific reason for one or the other, post it in a comment. I’m curious to know how people make this decision.

I’ve gone through periods of both. As a child, we always had a star, but when I saw a particular angel in a store one Christmas, I campaigned to try the angel that year. I believe my parents still put that angel on the tree! Now, we have a star because I wanted something that lit up and the kids like it. I also like the reminder of the shepherds and wisemen looking up and seeing that star shining in the night, guiding them to Bethlehem. As a Christian, seeing a symbol that led people to Christ long ago reminds me of my job today. Be a light that leads people to Christ.

Please vote and leave a comment about your choice of tree topper.

Stunning photo courtesy of DaveJay.

39: Christmas Caroling Party Action Plan

I asked my sister about her favorite Christmas tradition and she replied very quickly:

“My favorite tradition is caroling (Are you surprised?). I have done it every year with the kids and other friends on the Sunday before Christmas. We take the guitar, jingle bells, any other instruments on hand, and friends who can harmonize – what fun! I am getting in the Christmas spirit just thinking about it!”

Christmas caroling is really fun and with very little planning it can be transformed from a last-minute idea into a memorable occasion for family and friends. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

  1. Get out your calendar and find a convenient early evening to have friends over. A great option is to limit yourself to 2 or 3 other families with kids, making sure to have buddies for your kids.
  2. Invitations can be as simple or elaborate as you like. For something very informal, a phone call is acceptable. I like to use Evite. You can always mail or hand deliver the printed or handmade variety of invitation.
  3. One week before the event, touch base with everyone and get a head count (RSVP).
  4. For the party, your house will hopefully be all decorated before then. For your menu, have plenty of cookies, hot chocolate, cider, etc.
  5. ALLERGY NOTE: Please find out from your guests if anyone has a peanut or nut allergy. Do your best to keep peanuts and nuts out of areas where allergic children will be. Enlist your allergy mom to provide a safe alternative for her child. She knows best.
  6. The focus of caroling is fellowship and spreading joy, not musical perfection!
  7. Make your own caroling booklets with the song lyrics printed in a booklet form. This is easy to do in Publisher or Word. Lyrics can be found for just about any song using Google.
  8. Have extra mittens/scarves/hats available. One fun thing to do, if you like giving party favors, would be to make matching fleece scarves for everyone. This is very simple to do without any sewing!

Photo courtesy of Doug Floyd.

41: Michelle’s Christmas Memories

My friend Michelle sent me a note with her favorite Christmas memory filled with traditions:

“Absolutely, hands down….
Family dinner, followed by the opening of one gift, then Midnight service at church, ending with ‘Silent Night’ by candlelight and coming home and making ‘reindeer food’ with my nieces and nephews.  They’re grown now and we all are in different places, but it warms my heart to think about it!”

What a great evening! There are several elements to this evening that make it special: food, gifts, worship, tradition, and fellowship. Any great memorable tradition combines many of these elements. When all five senses are engaged, the experience is etched in your memory very strongly.

Beautiful photo courtesy of Miriam.

42: Birthday Cake for Jesus

Rhonda, a fellow elf, sent in a favorite family tradition:

“Every year on Christmas eve, we bake a birthday cake for Jesus.  We light some candles and sing Happy Birthday.  We have decided his favorite cake is probably chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.”

My daughter thinks this is a great idea! Kids love birthday parties and it’s a great way to add another Jesus-focused element into your Christmas celebration.

Photo courtesy of Tim Notari.

45: Bedtime Stories for Christmas

If you aren’t already reading books at bedtime, this is a great tradition to start. It’s great for your infants, toddlers, pre-readers, young readers, advanced readers, and tweens! Here are some great Christmas titles for the season:

Photo courtesy of abbamouse.

46: Gifts for Grownups

If you are going to give gifts for grownups, give something consumable. Gifts to charities, gourmet foods, event tickets, are all great gifts for grownups.

As an extended family, we’ve decided to forego gifts for the grownups this year.

  • We have just about everything we want already, unless you count big ticket items.
  • We have a clutter problem.
  • Money is tight this year.
  • We want to focus on more than gifts.

Those are the main reasons. It’s not that we don’t enjoy giving other people gifts! Gift giving should be joyful, not stressful. If all we can think about is how we can’t afford it, whether or not the recipient will use/appreciate it, or out of time for shopping/baking/working/decorating/our family, the joy is gone.

Gift the gift of freedom to the people who struggle with gift giving! Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of Tammy Green (a fabulous food photographer!)

50: Day Fifty Checkup

Today, let’s take some time to check our progress. How are you doing with the first 50 days of preparation for Christmas? Do you know where you’re spending Christmas this year, or are you playing host/ess? Menu? Guests?

Have you scheduled a family portrait sitting and selected/ordered Christmas cards?

Are you handmaking gifts this year? Knitting projects? Soap? Exploding cards?

Have you tried at least one new cookie recipe? Please say that you have! Everyone loves cookies!

Make your lists and check them twice! Put them all in one place: a notebook/planner or PDA/smartphone. Stay on top of it this year and don’t be caught by surprise a month from now.

Photo courtesy of Adam Smith

53: Arts and Crafts Festivals

November is a great time to take the family out to a weekend Fall Festival or Arts and Crafts Fair. You can find all sorts of homemade gifts and decorative items. If you’re at a really fancy festival, there might be kids’ activities, music performances, storytellers, fine art shows, and food stands.

Photo courtesy of Ann and Dabney. Visit their cool website at http://mogogoods.com/. They make modern goods from scratch!

59: Christmas Time is Movie Time

Christmas has traditionally been a great time for movie watching with the family. There are already a couple of movies out for the whole family, but Christmas will have some new releases for your viewing enjoyment.

I took the kids to see High School Musical 3 on Friday, and I thought it was a really good movie! The kids enjoyed it and I was surprised and impressed by the scale and quality of the whole production. Some new ones coming out for the holidays include The Tale of Despereaux, Bedtime Stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Yes Man, Marley and Me, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Bolt.

Don’t wait. Guarantee your seat before you go and avoid a sold out show. Skip the box office lines and buy movie tickets at Fandango.com.