I wrote last week about my family's traditions, the ones I grew up with. I ran out of steam at that point, and decided to leave our new family traditions for another day. My cookie dough is chilling right now, so I have an empty hour. Since we're right in the thick of our Christmas season, I figure now's a good time to write.
I refuse to let Christmas start until the day after Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving too much to let Christmas crowd it out. Therefore, we don't break out the Christmas music until Friday morning. With Christmas music blaring, we clean the house to get ready for the decorations. After lunch, the kids, Matt, and I go in search of our tree. We decorate our tree that same night, after a dinner of Hasherole. It's a yummy casserole that has been our special occassion staple since Matt and I received the recipe at one of my bridal showers. This year, sadly, we couldn't have it on Christmas tree night, though. I forgot to buy the hashbrowns, and they sold out for Thanksgiving. Sigh!
Another fun tradition is to look for community events, such as concerts, plays, etc. The one we found this year was a reenactment of Bethlehem during the time of Christ's birth. It was a chilly night--34 degrees--when we headed up to Conway, AR, to go to Bethlehem. We waited in the sanctuary for our group to be called, enjoying the live music of the host church's worship team. Then we headed outside, where we were escorted to Bethlehem by a Roman soldier. We saw a mini drama, the prophet Isaiah proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. We also watched the angel appear to Mary to tell her she was chosen to bear God's son. Then we went into Bethlehem. It was like stepping back in time. Inside the walled town, people is period costumes were everywhere. All sorts of shops lined the streets. There were campfires, sheep and goats, children playing games, women cooking over the fires, and even the town well. We were given shekkels to spend, and were allowed to take as much time as possible. We visited the bread shop, where we sampled bread and cheese. We got the kids' names written in Greek and Hebrew. The kids bought old fashioned toys. Snapper got to dip candles, help weave a basket, and sample herbs. Pepper helped the carpenter hammer a wooden peg into a board. He also got to pet a sheep! The rabbi read from the Scriptures in Hebrew. We petted the donkey and horse in the inn's barnyard. Then we went into the inn for a hot drink. There, the inkeeper told us about a young couple who had come seeking lodging. The woman was obviously about to give birth. The inkeeper was surprised that the couple had been excited to sleep in the stable! Then he took us out to the stable. There, in the cold, windy night, we saw Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus all bundled up in the stable. A star shone down on them, and shepherds came to see the baby. It was beautiful, and so special! Snapper really seemed to grasp the whole thing. She was worried about the baby out in the cold, and wanted Mary and Joseph to go inside the inn. At the conclusion of our tour, we went back inside the church for cookies and cocoa. We love special events like this!
Last night, we did our annual Christmas drive. I baked gingerbread cookies in the afternoon. Then we went out to dinner at an awesome barbeque place in town. After dinner we swung by Starbucks for cocoa and coffee, and spent the next hour and a half driving through our town, munching cookies, drinking cocoa, and looking at the Christmas lights. There aren't very many lights this year, but we still enjoyed our time together.
Tonight we'll be going through a very cool resource, "What God Wants for Christmas" with the kids. We do this every year, and they love it. They'll open a series of seven boxes, each holding a character in the nativity. They'll listen to the story about each character, and set up the nativity as we go. The final box holds what God wants for Christmas. In that box is a mirror. The obvious point is: What God wants for Christmas is you! Matt converted the book into a puppet skit, so the kids will get their own private showing of our skit tonight!
The next few days will hold lots of special times as a family, and wish our friends. I'll update with pictures as those events come to pass. Merry Christmas!