Years ago when our kids were younger (they are now 13, 15 and 19), we wanted to take the focus off of the retail madness that surrounds Christmas and the holidays. Advertisers bring out the big guns during this season to entice kids and we, the consumers, are constantly bombarded with the idea we "need" a lot of stuff that we don't actually need. We were tired of hearing the "I wants" and didn't want our kids coveting every new fangled toy, electronic or shiny-blinged-out-whatchamacallit. Our solution was to limit gifts (from mom and dad, we don't really do Santa but I will post later on that subject) to three per kid. One need, one want and one outfit. Stockings were scaled down a bit too. In addition we came up with the 12 days of Christmas, named after the favorite song. A "bucket list" of holiday activities that we would try to punch out from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The idea was to focus on our family time and create memories that would last a lot longer than any toy you could buy at the store. In fact, I don't even think my kids remembered their gifts from one Christmas to the other before we started this.
Here is a sample of last years list. Please note that we have never made it through ALL 12 activities but have a blast trying to do so, I think last year came the closest.
1. Decorate the tree is always number one. Christmas music, hot cocoa or cider and stringing popcorn makes it last a little bit longer.
2. Cookie baking day, a whole days event of baking and decorating holiday favorites to give to friends. We play Christmas music, wear funny aprons and make a pretty big mess.
3. Ice skating. We have done the whole Seattle Center Holiday Fest rink but it is crowded, expensive and small so we just started going to the local rink. We pack hot chocolate and candy canes and invite friends and family to join. This is a favorite.
3.Christmas light tour. Usually we pack in as many passengers as possible to tour our local light displays. With gas prices so high, this may be too impractical this year and we didn't get to it last year.
4 Toys for Tots shopping. Last year we didn't shop for T for T's, instead we had adopted a few kids off of the "giving tree" that Costco employees sponsor from the local elementary schools.
5. Bowling. Has nothing to do with the holidays really, but my youngest son has insisted on this every year which makes us laugh, so it is added to the list.
6. Hosting a Holiday party. We invite coworkers, friends and famililies from our kids' sport teams.
7. Create gingerbread houses. There are five of us, so it usually turns into a village.
8. Christmas movie extravaganza. Elf is always number one in this house, my kids have every line memorized. The classics are great, Home Alone is another favorite, as well as The Santa Clause with Tim Allen.
9. A day of shopping. We give the kids (who don't have an income) twenty dollars. They make out a list of who they are buying for and choose the store, usually it is the dollar store. They enjoyed this the most a few years ago because their taste was simple and it was most important to buy Gramma and Grampa something cool. These days their friends top the list.
10. A trip up to the mountain snow. We live in between two mountain ranges, a few hours and we have snow for sledding. This task is hard to achieve because of time. Easier to accomplish on the weekends but we run out of Saturdays very quickly in December.
11. Watch a Nutcracker performance. Last year we went to the Christmas Eve, Pacific Northwest Ballet performance and ate at a notorious, fine dining restaurant. It was a great day but word to the wise, don't go to the Nutcracker when you are tired or you will catch yourself nodding off.
12. Christmas Eve communion at church. Last year we didn't go due to the Nutcracker. Usually we attend with our parents, it is a great way to end the evening and gives us a timeline, it is our cue to leave gramma's house. Afterwards we head home, hang out with whoever is sleeping over, usually my brothers and wrap up any loose ends in preperation to the next day. Midnight snacks are usually involved.
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