Christmas 2018: What Worked & What Didn't

by - Monday, January 07, 2019

To say that this Christmas was different that any others is an understatement. A different country, different traditions, different foods to name a few. We managed to make this one to remember.

What Worked
Before the season began, I read "Sacred Holidays: Less Chaos, More Jesus" by Becky Kiser. Basically the idea to examine the ways we've been doing a certain holiday, why we've been doing it that way, dream how we want to do it in the future and offer ways to focus more on Jesus. There are a couple of ways to read the book. Cover to cover or jump to the next upcoming holiday. I began right before Thanksgiving and continued with Advent and Christmas. We decided to make a few changes this year.

We began the tradition of a Jesse Tree. We used the Greatest Gift resources from Ann Voskamp. As a family we read "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas." Each day features a scripture, story, discussion questions, activity and beautifully illustrated images. You can download the corresponding ornaments for your Jesse tree using the code in the book. By myself, I read "The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas". It gave me deeper insight into the daily reading and I felt more prepared for the family discussions. We are continuing this next year.

We also did advent calendars for the children this year. I purchased some $10 pre-filled calendars from ALDI, a Lego knock-off and a tween beauty version. Before you ask "why would you buy them a gift to open before Christmas." Hear me out! These things were really wonderful for three reasons:
  1. The kids could only open them AFTER we did our family devotion each day. When I tell you we did not miss a day, I'm NOT exaggerating!! It developed the habit of devotion time each night and they got a little bonus at the end.
  2. The kids stopped begging for cheap gifts from the store the whole month. There was no "wait until Christmas." It was "wait until tonight!" No fussing or whining.
  3. Advents are really fun and seeing their faces each day was a blast. There were lots of goodies and a few misses but overall well worth the money.

We adopted a "Less Is More" decor this year. I wasn't looking for perfection this year and what I got was perfectly imperfect. For our international move, the ONLY holiday item that we had shipped was the six-foot Christmas Tree I got on sale at Walmart for $5 (75% off). I was not going to let that deal go to waste. I had to buy a string of lights and ornaments (or baubles as they are called here. It took me FOREVER to figure out what they were to find some.) I got crafty and made a $10 ladder to hold our stockings (which is now holding our blankets in the living room). Two mini trees from the hardware store (for the porch), A pretty silver mercury glass vase from the store and a a selection of silvery themed items from the dollar store and everything looked great! I spent around $100, and several items will be used in other ways. I packed it all up in a hour. 

What Didn't Work
We tried to make snickerdoodle cookies. Every year we make cake mix snickerdoodles, a batch for cookie exchange and one for us. They are easy and don't require many ingredients or effort. Perfect for someone with my lack of baking skills. Let's just say food is different in England. Cake mixes here don't taste or work like American cake mixes (an issue I'm finding with many other ingredients).  I usually use a name brand french vanilla or white cake mix, butter and an egg. Swirling the dough balls in a cinnamon sugar mix and baking for 10 minutes or so. Too bad it didn't work this time. They were dry and crumbly while the sugar swirl turned rock solid and felt like chomping on sand. The kids liked it and ate most of it while me and hubs gave it a fail. I didn't bother to take a photo of the finished product.

We made a gingerbread house. Another tradition from back home. Pre-made ones of a decent size are extremely hard to find here as well as extremely expensive. Let's just say did find one (thank you Amazon), but I paid twice as much since it was likely an import. A third of the kit was broken but some salvageable. It arrived just before Christmas Eve so there was no time for a replacement. It was a nightmare trying to mend the house. I gave up completely on fixing the giant tree. My toddler was impatient and the 9 year old wanted to do more by herself.

I think we were focused on what we were used to doing over what made sense to do here. I knew baking was a risk since my usually delicious red velvet cake was a horrendous disaster at Thanksgiving. The gingerbread house hurt my pocket a little but I wanted the experience again. 

I think we will keep the new traditions, ditch these two and be more flexible and graceful with ourselves in the next years.

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