In fact, my friend Amy Julia Becker summed it up in her book "Small Talk":
Shaking those sleigh bells and belting out ["Jingle Bell Rock"] lyrics are part of the celebration. After all, without Jesus' birth, there would be no reason to throw a party. It strikes me again that the whole point of Christmas, theologically speaking, is that the abstract became physical, the conceptual became concrete. For my children, for myself, it's important to celebrate Christmas, not only through words and hymns and spiritual practices, but through the embodiment of celebration and delight, through cookie swaps and presents around the tree and wreaths on the door. And, yes, through "Jingle Bell Rock."
And I like to throw a party.
In honor of a season that combines the hopeful waiting time of Advent and the celebratory chaos of the American "Christmas season" (which ends the day the church Christmas season begins), here are some of the things my little family is doing to celebrate. Does that mean our Christmas is perfect? Not at all. But I want to embrace this season in which my kids (well, kid) are young and excited and thrilled about every single thing. I was so scared at Christmas when I was pregnant with a Down syndrome diagnosis and not a baby yet five years ago. Now, Ellie is a huge fan of Santa. She loves baby Jesus. She sings carols loudly and with strong opinions about favorites.
* Advent Wreath. We started doing an Advent wreath at home several years ago; perhaps even for Ellie's first Christmas. Each Sunday, it's a time to pause and be together. And there's candles, which are always a win for Ellie. The Advent candles are also a bit confusing for Ellie, as we celebrate Jesus' birth and there are candles... but no cake!
* Tree lighting. I took the girls to the local tree lighting. We rode a horse drawn carriage, said hi to Santa, and saw lots of friends.
* Stockings hung by the chimney with care! We bought a house this year, and for the first time, we have a fireplace and a mantle. I got new stockings for the girls and we hung them the day after (um, maybe before) Thanksgiving. We got them from this shop.
* Advent calendar. My mom kept almost all of my Christmas stuff from when I was a kid. This "Decembear" wanders through his house, looking in a new spot each day in a search for Christmas. (He'll eventually find Christmas in the living room on December 24.) Ellie loves to find the right number on the list at the bottom and look through the big picture to place the bear in the right spot.
* Daily books. In addition to the 1980s Advent, we also have a stack of 24 books, each labeled with a number. Ellie takes a book a day to unwrap that we read with Caroline each morning. Bonus? She's practicing her numbers, rereading familiar books, and learning all kinds of Christmas stories - from Santa to Jesus. Her favorite so far is about a reindeer. Ellie is really into reindeer this year.
* Easy access to Christmas fun. I put a pair of reindeer antlers, a pair of reindeer glasses, and a couple Santa hats in the living room. I also bought a Melissa and Doug Nativity set.* Ellie likes when all the people in the Christmas story hang out on the roof of the "barn."
* Nutcracker. Each year, I take Ellie to go see the Nutcracker at our local production. She always falls asleep for the snowflakes and she always loves, loves, loves Act 2. Every year I get teary thinking about how I didn't expect to do fun stuff like this with her when I was pregnant. Every year I feel foolish for getting teary as she sits in my lap and claps.
Props to my former colleague who was sitting in front of us and snapped this photo!
* Party! And the reinbeer. Just because. This year I am also making reincheer, which are Cheerwine reinbeer, for the under 21 crowd.
I hope you are all having an amazing holiday season! What are your favorite traditions?
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