Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is such a special time of the year to me. I have so many wonderful memories. I love Christmas traditions, and knowing that "some things will never change" makes me happy, and yes, that's probably due very much to my personality and slight-OCD tendencies. lol I love knowing that certain traditions will be continued every year, and I also love creating new ones as Tim and I start our own family traditions. I wanted to share with you a few of my favorites, and I hope you'll share some of yours as well!

Finding the perfect Christmas tree. Growing up, this was one of my favorite family events. We would drive out to Tom's Christmas tree farm, traipse up the big hill, and then search out "the tree." We'd argue, all in fun, and finally settle on the perfect tree. Then, we would head to King's for breakfast, hoping to sit next to the window so we could make sure no one stole our tree off the truck! Last year, Tim and I were unable to fit a real tree in our townhouse, but this year, in our new house, we had plenty of space, so off to the tree farm we went! :) We found the perfect tree, and Timmy had it down in 30 seconds flat. After several attempts to get the tree in our trunk, the guy at the farm just strapped it to the back of Philippe. And we were off......... :) We made it home in one piece! The great thing about a real tree is that the extra branches you cut off to get it in the stand are perfect for decorating throughout the house! Nothing goes to waste at the O'Brien home! haha

Decorating the house for the holidays (takes at least an entire day in our home lol) I love to decorate, as you know, but Christmas decor takes it to a whole new level. I've never had so much space to decorate before, so it definitely took awhile. As I decorated, I couldn't help but thank God over and over again for giving us a home that far surpassed our dreams. I've always wanted a mantle and banister to hang garland, He gave us both with this house~how fun! I love my decorating day. I wear sweats all day, barely eat, and get covered with sparkles~it's the life! haha

 Advent study. We tried to do an Advent study this year, but unfortunately, it is difficult with our current life schedule (Tim being in seminary). While we had to forgo the study, we are making an effort to think and talk about the gift of Jesus more this December than ever before. If you are looking for an Advent study to do with your family, check out this Advent Study from Women Living Well. I didn't know what Advent was for a very long time, but once I realized that an "advent study" is to prepare our hearts in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I loved the entire concept! I think it's especially important when you have little kids. In a world filled with ingratitude and selfishness especially this time of year, I think it's so important to share with your kids that Christmas isn't about them, and it's certainly not about stuff. An advent study is a great way to share the true meaning of Christmas with your family.

Setting up the nativity...or nativities. :) We have several little nativity sets throughout our home. I want there to be reminders everywhere of why we are celebrating this special time of the year. It's easy to get lost in the fun and traditions, so we want to keep Christ our focus, especially this time of the year! 
Someday I want to purchase the Willow Tree set because it's so beautiful and simplistic, but no matter how big or small your nativity, make it a special part of your Christmas decor. We love our outdoor nativity display. Doesn't it warm your heart when you drive by a home that has Baby Jesus prominently displayed for all the world to see? I love it, and I love the privilege to display our faith, in this relatively small way.

 Where's the Christmas owl? Tim and I personally have chosen not to participate in the "Elf on a Shelf" fad (even when we do have kids.) 1. It's expensive. $30 for a creepy-faced toy seems silly to me. (Great marketing though!) haha 2. While many people choose to celebrate Santa with their children, we choose to never pretend his existence. I don't write this to be controversial, but rather, if you feel the same way about either of our reasons for not doing the elf, maybe you'll like our alternative "game"~the Christmas owl. :) I purchased a little Christmas owl (like $2 at a craft store) and we play hide and seek with it over the Christmas holiday. When you find the owl, you get to hide it again. Tim and I have had a blast with this silly game. I wanted something fun like the elf game, and I think this is a great alternative! (It's currently hanging on the doorjamb on the back of the door of the red bathroom --we'll see if my hubby reads my posts...haha!)

Attend and host parties~the more the merrier! Tim and I attended our first "ugly sweater Christmas party" this year. How fun! We looked hideous and it was a blast! What a fun way to laugh with friends. We also hosted our monthly couples night-Christmas version this weekend; we always look forward to the fun fellowship while celebrating our Savior! This year we started a new tradition with my side of the family~a Christmas movie night. We had "movie theater" snacks like popcorn and candy and watched Christmas movies. It was blast and a wonderful new family tradition. On the night of Christmas Eve Eve, we always enjoy a family game and appetizer night at my parents. It's one of the highlights of my Christmas season. Spending time with family and friends is such fun, and it seems to happen more often over the holidays! Everyone is happy and laughing....there's just something about this time of year! So sponsor a movie night, have a cookie exchange, just fellowship and spend time with those you love! <3 And have sweets....lots and lots of sweets! 

Craft or bake. Find a way to show those you love some extra special care over the holidays. As you saw above, I baked cookies for an entire day! These cookies were used at some parties as well as in Christmas tins for our neighbors. A tin of cookies, a "thanks for being our neighbor" note, and the gospel will be given to show our neighbors love. Nothing big, expensive, or super fancy, but we hope to show them love by the thought and time that was spent on them. Also, I made Christmas wreaths for some family and friends. They weren't really part of their Christmas gifts, yet they were just a small token to say, "I love you." For the group that attends Tim's nursing home Bible study we purchased inexpensive little ornaments, wrapped a ribbon and a handwritten tag around each one, and gave them to the sweet elderly people. They were so grateful for the gift and I was so blessed to put smiles on their faces. They were so pleased to show off their gifts through the hall from "the pastor and his wife" as they call us. Maybe you aren't crafty, but you could make a meal for someone during this season. Or anyone can buy an ornament and tie a ribbon on it! Find an inexpensive way to bless those around you~I promise you will be more blessed by the act of giving the gift! :)

 Christmas is absolutely my favorite time of the year~everything about the season is wonderful. We spent extra time with family and friends, we buy gifts to show our care to those we love (I love buying gifts! :)), we stop and think about our Savior more (although we should be doing this more in the other 11 months than we do!), we put up Christmas lights (o my soul!), and everyone around us is just more jolly! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

I would love to hear about your Christmas season traditions! Please share them with us.

Wishing you the very Merriest Christmas!

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