8 simple Christmas traditions, crafts and shortcuts

white glitter pinecones

white glitter pinecones

Christmas…The most wonderful time of the year, right?  But if you’re like me, sometimes the stress of shopping, wrapping and all the rest can get in the way.  This year I’m determined to pare down on the commercialism and simplify the season so that mommy can enjoy the holidays too!

Now, there are certain things I go all out on at Christmas that won’t ever change.  I LOVE decorating.  But I made less batches of cookies, bought less gifts, and am making more family time.  I’m focusing more on the special family traditions I can pass on to my kids, and on carving out more quiet time at night for us to just “hang out.”  Here are a 8 simple traditions, crafts and shortcuts that help me put the joy back into Christmas:

Advent Forest

Advent Forest

1.  Advent Forest.  This year we made this out of card stock (from Family Fun magazine).  You can download the cone templates from their website.  Then I wrapped trinkets (silly bands, stickers, etc.) in tissue to put underneath each one for the kids to uncover during Advent.  Or, if you’d rather, you could stash little Bible passages or Christmas messages underneath to read to the kids daily.  We had fun making it, and the kids can’t wait to see what treasures they find each morning.

make your own tag

make your own tag

2.  Improvise.  Forgot to buy tags?  Here’s an easy way to make your own:  Using white card stock, cut paper into strips or squares using patterned-edge scissors.  Tape them under bows for elegant, simple tags.  These are such a snap to make, and personally, I think they are much prettier than the sticker kind anyway.

easy gingerbread houses

easy gingerbread houses

3.  Easy crafts.  Whether it’s a gingerbread house or a popsicle-stick snowflake, pick a craft and have some fun with the kids!  White glitter pinecones are my favorite.  These have been around forever, but if you’re looking for something easy to do with the kiddos, these are simple and pretty.  Mix together glue and white paint, brush on pinecones, then sprinkle with white or iridescent glitter.  Finish by tying a pretty ribbon to the top.  I have these on my tree, and sometimes the kids give them as gifts.  Tip:  The more paint you use, the prettier they are!

make your own centerpiece

make your own centerpiece

4.  Use nature’s beauty.  Not all Christmas decorations have to come from a store.  Snip some evergreen from your yard and display it in pretty vases in your house.  Not only pine, but cedar, juniper and boxwood also make beautiful decorations.  Keep them in water so they last all season.  If you’re feeling creative, craft a wreath by tying or gluing the branches to a wreath form from a craft store.  Simple, elegant, and cheap!

5.  Family movie night.  Time to pour the eggnog or hot cocoa,unwrap the cookies and get out those great Christmas classics! Whether it’s Rudolf the Red Nosed Reinder, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or A Christmas Story–or newer movies like The Polar Express or Elf, a special movie night can make for great family cuddle time!  We love Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, a Jim Henson classic.  If you’re in the mood for live entertainment, you could also take the family out to holiday concert at a local school or church, or even to the theatre.  I apprehensively took my 4 year old daughter, who loves dance, to see The Nutcracker, and to my surprise, she loved it.

6.  Light-Peeping: Fun and Free.  Once a year, we pile in the car and drive around town marveling at the awesome light displays.  We stop for coffee and hot cocoa along the way and have the Christmas carols on full-blast.  We even stop at a drive thru live nativity at a local church (a mini drive-thru Christmas play), which we can view from the warmth of our car.  The kids love it!

7.  Give Back. Something as simple as taking some food to a local shelter can do alot to put the spirit back into Christmas for me, and it reminds the kids that it’s not all about the presents.  Sign up the family to ring the Salvation Army bell for an hour, or see if your church has any outreach programs your family can get involved in.

8.  Caroling. If you have anyone musical in your family, break out the guitar/keyboard/flute and start singing.  Get some other families together and carol around your street/neighborhood, or gather around the piano and have a caroling party right in your home.  Always puts me in a great mood.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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