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Don’t break the bank when celebrating Christmas

Christmas changed – a lot – when my husband and I had children. The first few years, we wanted to make sure our daughter (now almost 8) had the very best of everything.

Thankfully, now that she’s old enough to understand we can start imparting the importance of charity and giving back.

We want to be careful with teaching our children the reasons we celebrate Christmas and how our church celebrates the message of Christmas all year – not just December 25. We want to make sure our daughter and our son understand that Christmas is not just about the presents under the tree. It’s a time to celebrate family and a way for us to share our many blessings with those less fortunate.

Stephanie Boothe with daughter Juliet making hand prints for Christmas.

Last year we started a new tradition – 24 days of Christmas. We scheduled a daily holiday-themed activity. They ranged from craft projects and special dinners to helping others.

One of my favorite activities last year, was “pay it forward,” I bought a $5 gift card to McDonalds and told my daughter she had to give it to a member of her cheerleading team she’d never spoken to. We put it in a Christmas card, and we made a new friend.

Another activity I personally enjoyed was in conjunction with my work. We purchased duffel bags and filled them with necessities for children in need. Every department in my company filled a duffel bag, and many families (my own included) filled bags on their own. I let my daughter pick out the items that would go in the bag from our family and took the chance to explain to her how many children – maybe even some in her own school – don’t have the money for things like shampoo and toothpaste.

We concluded the 24 days with Christmas memories, in which we each wrote our favorite memory of the season and put them in a box to look at for years to come. I’m excited to open the box this year and see what stood out to us last year.

We’re continuing our new tradition this year. Some of the activities will be the same, but I’ve found a few new ones.

They’re all fairly simple and either free or inexpensive. But the most important part is it requires us to turn the television and the electronic devices off and just be in the moment -together.

Here are a few activities on our list:

  • Popcorn Garland – Make garland for one of the trees out of popcorn. This was an activity I remember doing with my mom and something I think my daughter will love doing as she sneaks a few kernels here and there.
  • Crafts – We have a few days of various Christmas crafts. Everything from ornaments to homemade gifts and our own wrapping paper.
  • Random Act of Kindness – My daughter will get to do something nice for someone she doesn’t know. We’ll lay out the parameters for her while teaching her again that we should always seek to do for others. I’m eager to see if she makes another new friend.
  • Christmas Karaoke – My husband and I love Christmas music and will listen to it in our cars for weeks. So a night of singing Christmas songs is right up our alley.
  • Red and Green Dinner – Our supper this night will be all red and green foods – on our red dishes.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Our kids will have a list of Christmas-oriented items to find.
  • Christmas Volleyball – We’re going to get red and green balloons and just spend an evening batting them around the house.
  • “Snowball” fight – By snowball, I mean marshmallows. My kids love marshmallows so this should prove to be fun.
  • Gingerbread House – We’ll get a kit to make our traditional gingerbread house. This year, our kit is a mini village, and comes with four separate buildings.
  • Hot Cocoa for Breakfast – Our daughter loves hot chocolate and will be over the moon at the prospect of having it for breakfast.
  • Bobbing for candy canes – we’ll use candy canes to hook and pick up other candy canes, without using our hands.
  • Cookies – Baking is an important part of the holidays, and we always have fun making cookies
  • Christmas Memories – Each of our activities will be in a box that on Christmas Eve we will fill with our new memories. Each of us will write our favorite memory from the holiday season so we can revisit them in years to come as we add more each year.
  • Christmas in the park and a game night are definite musts. Our daughter loves going to Christmas in the park, and I cannot wait until my son is old enough to appreciate it.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

–By Stephanie Boothe | Metro Voice Contributing Editor

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