Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jesus, Santa, and an Elf Named Oliver

Christmas as parents is so very different than Christmas before these two little dudes came along. Before, we could be selfish - buy ourselves gifts, celebrate when and how we wanted, all while knowing that Christmas was about more than just candy canes and Rudolph (but never really needing to explain that to anyone). However, now that we're parents, Christmas seems to come with a Huge Responsibility. We want the boys to know that we celebrate Christmas because it's Jesus' birthday, and we want them to experience the spirit of love and magic that the holiday season brings with it.

Bubba is really getting into Christmas this year, and we've definitely had to slow down the presents!presents!presents! talk more than once to remind him why we celebrate Christmas, and to reinforce that if he gets a gift it's because that person loves him, and we also give gifts to show our love for others.

I know that some families don't "do" Santa for a variety of reasons (and that's a-ok with me!), but we do and B is very excited about Santa visiting. He's asking for "a bike and Scooby Doo". (Which is bizarre because we don't recall ever watching Scooby Doo with him, so I have no idea where this came from, but anyway.) We're trying not to make Santa a BIG DEAL so they won't be terribly disappointed when they find out that Santa lives under their roof, not at the North Pole. And we're trying to avoid the "Santa is waaaatching" thing, because kid, you need to listen to me on April 12 just as much as you need to on December 12. We may take him to see Santa this year, maybe not. He's so shy I seriously doubt he would even approach Santa, let alone sit on his lap. For the most part, I think we're treating the "Santa thing" similar to the tradition that Joey and I both grew up with: he shows up on Christmas Eve, takes a bite of your cookie, leaves a gift, and we all go on with life.

I've seen the "Elf on the Shelf" thing popping up around the Internet the last few Christmases and this year decided we needed to test drive this tradition too. So I got the cutest elf that I could find: Christopher Pop-In-Kins. He's been a smashing success so far, B adores him. He's named him Oliver. Again, we haven't said anything about B needing to "be good because the elf is watching" (because whoa, creepy) but Oliver does get into some mischief overnight and always is hiding in a funny place when B wakes in the morning. Yesterday when B woke up I said, "hey, where's Oliver? You should go look for him!". B: "He flied away, back to Santa." (complete with arm flapping motion). The cuteness in that alone was worth the $20. :) We forgot to hide him last night (oops) and B found him on the couch this morning and proclaimed "MOM! Oliver (prounounced all-duh-ber if you're 2 1/2) was silwy last night! He was jumpin' on the couch!"

I wanted to try one more tradition this year - the Advent calendar. Growing up, we sometimes had the chocolate Advent calendars, those were fantastic. After talking about it with Joey, we want to make sure we're experiencing Christmas, rather than just talking about it. I remember wayyy back to Sunday School at church, we always had an Advent activity this time of year. I remember specifically hearing that Advent was the season of "preparing our hearts for Jesus' birth" - and while the elf and Santa thing are fun side distractions, I didn't want to lose Jesus in all of the elf mischief. So we came up with one thing to make/read/do every day from now until the 24th. To our family, it's really about squeezing every last bit of Christmas joy out of the next 25 days - this month always goes SO fast and I want to cherish it.

This is our Advent list, big stuff and little stuff mixed together. I had to take into account our schedules and how much we could do that day, etc. etc.

1) talk about Advent and the calendar + read a book
2) read a Christmas book
3) watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
4) B's Christmas program
5) make ornaments
6) B's Christmas program (yes, we have 2 (!))
7) Christmas devotional
8) make Christmas cards
9) pick out someone from the giving tree and buy a gift
10) visit Santa (hopefully)
11) bake Christmas cookies
12) deliver cookies
13) make hot chocolate & read a Christmas book
14) Christmas devotional
15) visit Living Nativity
16) do a Christmas coloring page
17) make teacher gifts
18) watch Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
19) unwrap a new book
20) drive to look at lights
21) Christmas devotional
22) "open" our stockings
23) watch a Christmassy - movie? (any suggestions? or it's going to be Thomas the Train Saves Christmas, HALP!)
24) Read Twas the Night Before Christmas

I don't think we're ever going to "do" this Christmas thing perfectly. So far B vacillates between admiring the month-old Toys R Us catalog for the 423rd time and climbing up on the piano bench so he can stare at the nativity set once more ("I was borned just like Jesus was, mommy!" quoth he.)

What are your holiday traditions? What are your favorite Advent activities? Where should we hide Oliver next?


  1. Love the Advent ideas! I've been trying to figure out some type of activity to help (my) B understand the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, even with our Elf, talking about Santa, and listening to Christmas music, I don't think he completely gets it all this year anyway:)

    As for where to hide Oliver next? What about in the bathroom, hanging from the curtain rod? Or if it's a day that you won't be home, you could hang him from your rear-view mirror.

  2. Love this post, because it is so true...Christmas is different with a child than without. We totally avoided the Santa is watching thing with my son, for same reason you said.

    At the moment, our big traditions include each year I buy 2 new books for our holiday collection (one Christmas, one Hanukkah) and we usually add 1 or 2 more movies/cartoons to the DVD roster. We put up the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving; we celebrate Hanukkah with the menorah (1st night of Hanukkah is latkes and dreidel games); Christmas Eve we open presents under the tree; Christmas Morning, Santa has come. (Oh and we leave cookies for Santa; and oat(meal) outside for the deer). Usually, each year I come up with one or two craft items to do with the kids, and usually one or two events to go to (like a tree lighting or a menorah contest).

  3. Ugh, drlloyd11 is me, Delenn (my husband is logged in)

  4. I like your elf, he's not so scary looking! I'm not completely sure that next year at 17 months Isaac will be ready for elf on the shelf, but we are SO doing it!

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  6. We have that first book, too! We also have "Who's Coming to Our House?" (my new favorite!), "The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas," and some to still be unwrapped. :) Our other activities include some crafts, we're going to do the applesauce ornaments thing; we've hung Christmas lights, and we'll make and deliver cookies, too. We started a new tradition last year on Christmas Eve Eve (because we do church and caroling on Christmas Eve) of putting the boys in pajamas, giving them hot chocolate, and getting in the car. Mommy and Daddy stop at Starbucks, and then we drive around listening to Christmas music and seeing Christmas lights until all the little people are asleep. :)
    Oh, I almost forgot until I re-read your questions: if B likes Curious George at all, the Very Monkey Christmas movie is really cute! We're big George fans here. :)

  7. I struggle with this too... but I've decided that I first want to instill the "magic" of Christmas and magic to a 5 year old means asking for a present to a bearded man and then getting it. Starting there then giving back in other places where it works is what I try to focus o!


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