Lena at Listen to Lena is a mother of two and self-confessed shopaholic. But when the holidays come around, she knows just how important it is to focus on what the season is really all about — family. She shares this sweet and thoughtful family activity:
"Growing up, my parents always taught me that the spirit of the holidays is in our hearts — not in our wallets. So, now that I have my own family, I've tried to make certain that every Christmas season is about spending time together, and less about stressing over holiday gifts. As we have young children, our holiday traditions only began about two years ago, but this one is already a favourite: On a weekday evening leading up to Christmas, we all load up in the car, equipped with hot chocolate for the adults and warm chocolate milk (in spill-proof cups, of course!) for the kids. Then, we drive to the small pockets in the neighbourhood that have beautiful Christmas lights and decorations, marveling at the beauty and grandeur of the colourful displays. Our boys love pointing out magically lit Christmas trees, and my husband and I have a chance to feel the calmness of the winter night. Often, the boys nod off before we make it home, soothed by the twinkling lights and Christmas carols echoing softly in the car."
Now that sounds like a dream of an evening! If you like this idea and want to learn more from Lena, check out the great product reviews and passing thoughts she shares via her blog, Twitter and Facebook.
As a wife and mother of two tween daughters, Andrea at a peek inside the fishbowl knows just how busy and stressful this time of year can be. So she shares this wonderful way to recapture the true spirit of the Christmas season:
"The month of December is a busy time of year for just about everyone. No matter how much I tried, I found myself struggling to find a way to balance the fun of the holidays with my growing list of things that needed to be done. I knew I needed to get organized, but more importantly, I needed Christmas to be joyful again.
A few years ago I hit upon a solution that helped me stay on top of the chaos. I replaced our traditional chocolate-filled Advent calendar with 25 small paper envelopes of my own design. I filled each one with a fun task, seasonal event, or family activity. No chocolate, no shopping, and no cheap gifts — just family time.
It takes some planning but the end result is worth it. I sit down with my agenda in late November and schedule the larger and more time-consuming activities for early December. Once I've penciled in the things we need to do, I fill the remaining days with things we love to do, most of which are inexpensive kid-friendly activities. The result? Twenty-five days of holiday fun which emphasizes family instead of stuff.
It's been fascinating to see which activities our girls get the most excited about. It is almost always the simplest things that they enjoy the most. As an added bonus it gives me the opportunity to get organized in time for the busiest month of the year. Buying and decorating our tree, giving to charity, and baking cookies were all things we were doing anyway. Planning it out in advance this way makes it easier to handle and makes it feel like Christmas again. Hallelujah!"
Though you may not be able to do all 24 days, that's not what matters. Even doing just three days this year is a great start — and maybe take it up to 12 next year! After all, there are no rules when it comes to family time. You can customize this Advent calendar in whatever way works best for you. Check out Andrea's blog for more tips on how to create your very own family Advent calendar, and follow her on Twitter to keep up-to-date with how her family Advent calendar is going!
On her blog Coffee with Julie, Julie Harrison chats about everything from family and living, to travel and the media. When she isn't working as a full-time manager or sharing great tidbits with her blog readers, she has fun spending time with her kids in quirky and unique ways, such as this holiday idea:
"Oh dear, another 'mom fail' moment — we really haven't developed any particular holiday traditions for Christmas with our children. Sure, we decorate the tree. Sure, we put up some cheesy decor around the house.
Wait, you mean you don't have any cheesy decor? Then you, my friend, are a lucky friend indeed! We have scores of tacky things. But they are tacky things handed down to us from people we love and cherish. We just can't bring ourselves to toss them. And so they remain with us, year after year.
But this year? We have started a brand new, 'special' family tradition! We take all of this Christmas crap, er, I mean Christmas decor, and collect it together in one locale. It is our very own cheese-fest display! We even had the kids pose in front of it with serious smiles to create our own version of a Christmas portrait for 2012.
Sure, I'm not going to win any awards from Martha Stewart. Nor will I win Mother-of-the-Year. But gosh darn it, we DO have a special family tradition now!
P.S. If you have any fluffy snowmen who light up and sing songs, you know where you can send them now."
Julie offers the perfect reminder that you don't have to spend a fortune or run yourselves ragged to have fun as a family. Simply doing a little decorating together and taking a quirky family photo or two are great ways to bring you closer together. To keep track of all of Julie's clever and hilarious thoughts and discoveries, follow her on Twitter, or check out her blog.
And what about you? What family traditions will you uphold or try out for the first time this year?
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