Thursday, December 3, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 5 Fun Holiday Activities for Kids

To celebrate and promote the premiere of Dora's Christmas Carol, Nickelodeon has invited Twitter Moms to share some of their favorite holiday activities and traditions they share with their kids.

When it comes to the holidays, I'm just a big old sentimental softie. I bet y'all wouldn't have guessed the obvious, huh?

I love traditions and I love making new traditions with my husband and sons. I want to create happy holiday memories that the boys will carry into their adult lives. And I hope, someday, they'll share some of these same activities with the kids.

The first and most obvious tradition I share with my boys is decorating the house for Christmas. Growing up, my family always put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and this is a tradition I strive to continue, although there have been a couple of years (like when I was pregnant with my second son), that it hasn't happened until later. I put on Christmas music and pull all the decorations down from the attic. I start outdoors with wreaths on the door and windows and garland around the door, a few lights here and there. Then we move inside where we have two trees. The one in our living room is a more formal tree with white lights and fancy decorations, but the second one is all about family! It stands in the corner of our kitchen near our kitchen table and has brightly colored lights and all the decorations the kids have made plus all of our special decorations that we have been given over the years by the grandparents. Part of this tradition is that each year I take the kids to pick out a new decorations for themselves and one for me and my husband. So far we have lots of Sesame Street and Star Wars ornaments for the boys and lots of guitars and musical notes for my husband while I get Santas because I love Santa.

Another way we celebrate the season is a tradition that started when my oldest was in preschool that we participate in through the school. The year he was three, as I was about to give birth to his baby brother around Christmas, this tradition took on new meaning for me. The preschool, which is part of an Episcopal church collects and organizes bundles of new baby items like diapers, blankets, bottles, layette, socks, pacifiers, etc., and puts them into what they call Baby Jesus Baskets. The baskets are then blessed by the priest at the church and taken to Atlanta's public hospital and given to new mothers and their babies who are in need of the items. I love doing this each year, but as I said, having my own December baby and imagining what it would be like not to have the resources to give him the basic necessities has made this tradition even more special to me.

Baby Jesus Baskets may not be as much fun for the kids as it is for me, but I hope they learn to give from their hearts, expecting nothing in return through that act.

Something that is more fun for them, and maybe the thing they love most other than Santa, is watching all the holiday movies and tv shows together. From It's a Wonderful Life to How the Grinch Stole Christmas we are a family that devours Christmas media. Our schedules are busy and since we also have a lot of basketball to watch at this time of year, we often Tivo the shows so we can watch them later, but we love sitting down and laughing or crying together as we bond over the perils, pratfalls, and precious moments holiday TV.

While my fantasies of spending a day in the kitchen baking 10 different kinds of Christmas cookies with my daughter may never come to fruition since I don't have a daughter and the boys seem to have no inclination toward the culinary arts so far, I am planning to introduce a new tradition this year that is tangentially related to baking: the gingerbread house. I figure the building aspect of the project will appeal to my little Lego lovers and give me a chance to play around with icing. Since I hate gingerbread I won't be baking it myself. We'll just buy a kit, but I think it will be a fun way to spend a day off from school in the week or so before Christmas and hopefully be a fun thing we can do year after year.

Our biggest and most meaningful tradition, the one that I think they will carry over with them in the most significant way, is spending Christmas Eve with Grandma, or MeMe, as she is known in our family. We spend the day at her house with all the cousins running around playing. There are usually Mimosas for the ladies and bourbon for the gentlemen. The kids create chaos but seem to love being with one another. At least until someone has a meltdown.

We eat a traditional Christmas dinner then we all go to Mass together at the church my husband and his brothers grew up in. There are so many of us now, we can take up almost two pews. We always sit in the same place if we get there in time and enjoy the beauty and solemnity of the Christmas Eve mass. I always cry when I feel the weight and beauty of the moment and am reminded why we celebrate Christmas. I look at our family, big and imperfect, and I am able to forgive slights and see only what I love about these people and feel thankful that we are all together for that moment.

After Mass, we head back to my mother-in-law's where we have dessert and the kids open their presents from MeMe. Then we bundle everyone into the car and head back home to snuggle in bed and wait for Santa's arrival.


ViolinMama said...

I love this!!!! So beautiful! Love the Mass one and description of your family. I think this Christmas Eve Mass will touch your heart greatly as well this year.

Your traditions are like your family - beautiful!!!!

Much love!

annie said...

Very sweet. . . And now i want cookies!

Shari said...

So wonderful that you all go to Mass together. We just started going on Christmas Eve as our girls are old enough to appreciate it. I hope it will be an ongoing tradition too.

Sarah said...

Those sound like some really lovely traditions! Some really meaningful memories to pass on to your little ones.