We all have great expectations for the holiday season, and often we end our December with empty hearts and drained bank accounts. Not this year, folks! The best way to avoid the shiny slump is to plan ahead.  We love Christmas in our home, and here are a few things we do to make the season awesome.  

1. Tell the story of Jesus, more than once!  Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, who happens to be a really great guy.  Open up your Bible to Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 and find out together what the season is all about. If you want it simplified for the kids, Try The Action Bible or one of the 750 choices at Barnes and Noble.  Even if you have a 14 year old who gripes a lot, read the story. 

2. Participate in a Christmas act of service.  Volunteer with the kids.  You'll be glad you did.  Some of our favorites are:
            Community First Village
            Mobile Loaves and Fishes
            Make Christmas care packages for the homeless.  Pass them out around town.
            Support a Foster  Child for Christmas through Partnerships for children. If you live in the    
            South Austin area, contact me and I can connect you with a child!
            Fill a Christmas box through Operation Christmas Child.
            Nominate or donate toward providing a family with a Christmas meal and gifts through   

 3. Get an Advent Calendar! My kids surprisingly love it and my favorite is from Ann Voskamp. You can find every type of Advent calendar on Amazon.  
            The Advent Jesse Tree
            The Advent Book by Jack Stockman

4. Decorate the house with your family Let the kids hang the ornaments.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be the best Christmas. We are all about the memories. 

5. Go and pick out a real tree together.  We do this every year!  It makes the house smell fantastic and the kids look forward to it every year. We used to buy expensive ones, and now we stick to Home Depot for a beautiful and affordable tree.    

 6. Plan a day of baking and or cookie/gingerbread house decorating. We make our houses out of graham crackers.  It’s fun and easy, and my kids love it. It's also a great way to use halloween candy you've kept hidden for a month. 

7. Go see Christmas lights! There are many free ones around the Austin area.  Grab a hot chocolate and go! Check out free fun in austin for a list of displays. We try to hit as many as we can every season.

 8. Sing Christmas Carols!  Teach them new ones. Have them playing at home, in the car and if you have a piano or musical instrument, have someone play at Christmas time. Check out this website for easy chords for traditional Christmas carols. 

 9. Take Photos with Santa! Some of the best photos are the worst photos.  Take advantage of free photo ops in your neighborhood with Santa.  Every year I'm thankful we did.

 10. Pick out new Christmas tree ornaments for each family member!  Take a trip to Target or a fancy boutique.  It's a great way to make your tree spectacular. When the kids grow up, they can take theirs with them to start a collection of their own.

11. Pray with your kids before bedtime.  Remember Jesus together. Sometimes they'll pray out loud and sometimes they ask me to do it. I'm ok with both. You'll be surprised to hear what they pray for.     

12. Watch Christmas movies together, even if they’ve seen it before.  
It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34thStreet, The Star, Elf, Frosty, Home Alone, Rudolph, The Grinch, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Polar Express and a million more. 

13. Buy a Nativity Set kids can actually play with. Buy more than one! Get a pretty one for the mantle and a fun one for breaking, holding, chewing on, etc.  I buy them at garage sales, estate sales and resale shops.   

14. Go to a Christmas Eve service at your local church. Nothing beats candle light and tradition.    

15. Make Christmas cards together!  Everyone loves getting a homemade card in the mail. If you have a creative kid, pull out the hot glue or glue sticks, glitter, photos and construction paper.  You will be amazed at what they create.  Check out pinterest for card ideas. 

16. Go ice-skating!  There's a tiny rink at Whole Foods and somehow my kids talk me into it every year.  

17. Decorate your front yard or patio with Christmas decor.  Gabe goes the easy way and buys the laser lights.  My kids love the twinkles that flow into the windows from outside.  It's probably why my cat is going blind. 

18.  Take late-night light-watching walks around your neighborhood.  Get to see the lawn ornaments personally.  It's a blast.

19. Sit down and eat together.  Don't freak out over Christmas dinner.  Order a large bucket of Popeyes and be thankful for your loved ones.  Not everyone has children, or parents, or spouses to hang with.  If you have your people, thank God for them.  People matter, table settings don't. 

20.  Remember others.  Take time to visit your loved ones in the nursing home. Call your grandmother, mom or dad more this month.  Life is short, don't waste another day. 

Who has time for all of this nonsense?  Nobody does.  We make time.  Even if you only get one special moment for the holidays, make it happen. Kids need your time and they hold on to the memories.  

I only remember a few gifts, but I remember every year, sitting around the living room listening to my granddaddy tell the Christmas story and a pound cake in the kitchen.  Now it’s my dad’s turn to read and my kids love it.  Cherish this time with your family.  Just yesterday I was pregnant and now my baby is 14.  I want to make these years count.  Life is short and we need one another.   

And for my Christian friends, don’t try to squeeze a year of Jesus into a month or a day for that matter.  Be kind, and teach the truth all year long.

If you made it all the way to the end of this post, congratulations.  Please share this article, and tell me in the comments what you do every year.  I love new ideas.  I'm considering a neighborhood Christmas Pageant. . .we shall see.



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