Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let’s Talk Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Will (7) and Christina (2) giving their ornament gifts to Deb after the Christmas Eve candlelight service, 1992.

Will (7) and Christina (2) giving their ornament gifts to Deb after the Christmas Eve candlelight service, 1992.

Homeschooling for our family continued through the winter holiday season except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. We truly had a homeschool Christmas season … a season filled with lots of fun and meaningful family traditions.

Our winter break:

We always set our school schedule around what our family chose for the year, and we never took a normal Christmas vacation. When Will and Christina were young, we preferred to take a longer summer vacation – from the beginning of May to the end of August. So we took very few vacations during the school year.

Later on, we had a different schedule. One year, we went to Disney World in the beginning of December to avoid the crowds while still enjoying the Christmas festivities. For a few years, my children had U.S. Junior National Figure Skating Championships in early December. Later on, my children had U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in January. Those sorts of events were our winter break.

Our Christmas traditions, often woven into our homeschool day:

We had an Advent wreath and devotions.

I was the Christian education director for our church when Will and Christina were young and started an atrium in our church for the Montessori-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. At home, we reinforced what we did in the atrium and focused on the mystery of Christmas with an Advent wreath and devotions that went along with the church year and atrium presentations.

We used an Advent calendar.

We typically went shopping together for an Advent calendar. We enjoyed picking out our calendar together and opening the doors each day. When we had an event like Junior Nationals, though, we had to miss a few days and open a number of Advent calendar doors when we returned home. We always allowed flexibility for unusual events in our lives.

We read a Christmas book each day from December 1-Christmas.

Actually, we often started reading Christmas books on Thanksgiving, but we definitely started daily reading of Christmas books on December 1. Of course, during Junior Nationals, we might miss a few days again and read more when we returned home. I think Christmas was probably more special and less stressful because we did allow ourselves to get off schedule when necessary. When Will and Christina were older, we often read a chapter or short story from a Christmas book.

We watched a lot of Christmas movies.

Christina (4), Terry, and Will (9) on our outing to see The Santa Clause during an unusually warm Christmas season in 1994.

Christina (4), Terry, and Will (9) on our outing to see The Santa Clause during an unusually warm Christmas season in 1994.

We didn’t watch regular television – just videos and figure skating events, so it was a special time at Christmas to watch many Christmas movie videos in the evenings from Thanksgiving through Christmas. We also went to see Christmas movies at the local theater.

One year, we watched a Christmas movie each day during Junior Nationals. On Christmas Day, we always watched a Christmas movie in the afternoon. It wasn’t always the same Christmas movie but was always agreed upon by the whole family.

We made Christmas crafts, baked, drove around looking at Christmas lights, visited Santa (often at the mall), and participated in community events and service projects.

We did all sorts of activities, often varying them somewhat from year to year. We enjoyed seeing which community activities were available. Some years we participated in Christmas activities with our homeschool co-op. Other years, we went caroling or participated in a food drive. One year, we visited Santa and Mrs. Claus at the zoo. Another year, we went to an outdoor tuba concert. Even though our activities weren’t always the same, they were the same in that we enjoyed the holiday spirit.

On Christmas Eve, we had vegetarian chili, celebrated the Nativity, and opened our presents.

Terry, Will (18), and Christina (13) still enjoying our Christmas Eve traditions in 2003.  Here, Will and Christina are giving each other gifts.

Terry, Will (18), and Christina (13) still enjoying our Christmas Eve traditions in 2003. Here, Will and Christina are giving each other gifts.

I made vegetarian chili in the crock pot so I was free in the early evening to wrap presents (yes, I really did wrap presents on Christmas Eve!). We started our celebration with our dinner by candlelight. We often had a candlelight church service.

We never taught our children that Santa Claus was real, only that Santa Claus was a fun story. Will and Christina enjoyed Christmas and Santa Claus stories and movies as much as everyone else – and they enjoyed opening presents on Christmas Eve.

Before opening presents, we always read the Christmas story. When Will and Christina were young, we read a picture book of the first Christmas that we had gotten when Will was a toddler. We all grew so attached to that book that we always read it on Christmas Eve. We sometimes sang Christmas carols as well. Then we opened the presents. I helped Will and Christina make ornaments when they were little for Terry and me. The ornaments were their presents to us. And each of those ornaments is still a special part of our Christmas tree.

Will and Christina opened Christmas stockings on Christmas morning, and we spent time as a family on Christmas Day.

Like many other parents, we gave Will and Christina a gift of new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Will and Christina wore their new pajamas when they opened their Christmas stockings (which they knew were from Terry and me). The stockings were mainly filled with small, fun items.

We enjoyed Christmas as a time just to spend together eating (some years a feast similar to Thanksgiving, some years a simple meal), watching our Christmas movie, playing games, and giving Will and Christina time to play with their new toys. Will and Christina always had books as part of their presents, so there was time for reading as well.

Even though our traditions weren’t always identical from year to year, they were focused on what was best for our family each year. And that’s what mattered.

UPDATES: For LOTS and LOTS of ideas for celebrating Advent and Christmas, see:

December Family Activities (posts from 2010 and earlier – with resources and links that still work)

50+ December Family Activities

40+ Christmas Countdown Activities

Should You Use Unit Studies? (contains links to all my Christmas posts)

Linked with Christmas Traditions Link Up at JDaniel4′s Mom

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