Friday, January 4, 2013

Holiday Reflections

We did it! We made gingerbread cookies!

The holidays have come and gone again. Our decorations are still up, but the parties and gift-opening and cookie-making are over. Now that I have children old enough to remember their Christmases, I am trying to make them more memorable, more filled with meaningful traditions. Here are some traditions we enjoyed doing this year, as well as some traditions I aspire to doing in the years to come:

Fabric Gift Bags

This is the second year we used reusable fabric gift bags for all gifts within our immediate family. I am so very pleased with them. We use them for birthdays as well. I'm hoping to repurpose the wrapping paper (what I could salvage!) from gifts given by others to make some homemade cards next year. How do you wrap gifts?

Christmas Book Advent Calendar

This was our first year unwrapping a Christmas children’s book each night to read together to count down to Christmas and we all really enjoyed it. We had a few other advent-type activities, but had trouble remembering to do them each night. My kids fought about taking turns opening the books for the first week, but after they got over that it became something to look forward to each night at bedtime. We kept it eco-friendly with reusable fabric gift bags, ribbons, and numbered tags. How do you count down to your favorite winter holiday? 

Christmas Tree

We bought a real (possibly local?) Christmas tree in early December this year so we would be able to enjoy our tree for a long time. We still haven’t taken it down, and it’s true that there are needles littering the floor, but they are from my rambunctious children climbing under the tree and putting on and taking off ornaments innumerable times. We also managed to make a few ornaments for the tree: long paper chains and little cut-out elves (template came from one of the books we read). These will be saved and brought out again next Christmas. Next year I would love to visit an actual Christmas tree farm and make more homemade ornaments – like a popcorn chain! What kind of tree did you have this year? 

Paper Snowflakes

It’s true I had to do almost all the work myself, but it was still worth it, and I’m glad I set the precedent. Someone tipped me off that coffee filters work well. We don’t drink coffee but have a lot of coffee filters (left by the in-laws when they packed up and moved to South America). When I run out of coffee filters, maybe I can ask my neighbors if anyone gets the newspaper. Then we could try making this lovely newspaper snowflake garland. What holiday decorations do you enjoy making?

Child-friendly Creches

I have two creches I'm happy to let my children play with. One is felt figures glued onto 2x4 pieces of wood and the other is a beautiful wooden set inherited from my husband's parents. Both are displayed at my children's eye-level in accessible locations so that they can move the pieces around and enjoy them all season long. This was a favorite activity of mine as a child. If you are in the market for a child-friendly creche, I've bookmarked a few on Etsy for you (I can't help myself!).

Watch Holiday Shows

My son refused to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD this year (he said he didn’t like that they stole ornaments from Snoopy’s house to decorate the tree!), but we did watch the Grinch and a realistic version of the Nativity several times. We also tried to find Rudolph and other shows from my childhood on Netflix and ended up seeing some really weird stuff from the 50s with highly stereotypical depictions of children from around the world. My kids weren’t pleased when I abruptly shut that off. Fail! What are your favorite holiday movies? 

Gingerbread Men

Over two years ago a friend of mine made gingerbread cookies with all of our kids while we were at her home. And since then I often look guiltily at the Christmas-themed cookie cutters my SIL gave me years ago, thinking about how my children would love to use them. This year we actually did it! Ideally, we would have made gingerbread men the day after we opened and read The Gingerbread Man as part of our advent celebration. Unfortunately, I finally got around to making them with my kids on Christmas Eve, which meant I picked a recipe not based on the reputation of the source, but based on the fact that it only used ingredients I had on hand and did not need to be chilled overnight (no time for that!). I ended up using the recipe on the back of the children’s book. They were a little on the less-sweet side (I used blackstrap molasses – maybe not the best choice), and didn’t get any frosting, but my kids were still thrilled to make them and deliver them to neighbors. My 3yo and I were the only ones who ate them, but my 5yo and 3yo sure had a wonderful time having their gingerbread men chase each other all over the house. Do you have a fabulous gingerbread cookie recipe? Please share in the comments! 

Sing Christmas Carols 

We did this a lot, but I wish we had done it even more. It is challenging for me to play the piano right now because my one-year-old thinks that she should be on my lap playing herself whenever I sit down to play. We did play and dance to a lot of Christmas CDs this year. But nothing beats making music yourself with family and friends. What is your favorite holiday song?

Next Year

There were still plenty of things we didn’t get to. I would love to help my children make cards and gifts for family, friends and helpers (teachers, etc.) next year. We only mustered a card for my kindergartener’s teacher this year. I know you Boothers must have a million ideas for homemade gifts that can be made by young children (probably whole boards of them on Pinterest). Do tell! Maybe if I select the gift now, and get the materials together by October, we’ll have a shot at this one in 2013.

We did exactly nothing for New Year’s this year. In our defense, some of us were under the weather. I found out that my sister (who has elementary-aged children) does a fake countdown a few hours early and then has a dance party with her family. I’m hoping to do this next year! I haven’t discussed resolutions/ goals/ wishes for the new year with my kids, because, honestly, I have mixed feelings about that process myself. Do you have a favorite New Year’s tradition? Especially one that works with little (under 5) ones?

Eco-novice wishes you a wonderful 2013!


Elizabeth said...

We have a hanging quilted thingie with a tree that is blank and 24 pockets underneath. It have 24 little stuffed Christmas shapes that get added to the tree...sticks with velcro. Our oldest turned 28 on 12-25. It is not quite as old as him but close.

We always used to have a real tree but we like to keep them up a long time and they invariably get too dried out, even when cut our own. So about 15 years ago we switched to artificial. Plus the pine needles always made my arms break out in eczema anyways.

We moved to this present house 20 years ago and it has a fireplace mantle that runs the whole span of the family room and is about 10' deep. Target stores were selling the ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE Christmas village....I bought it all. Have the Gower Drug store, the library, the Bailey Boarding house, the bridge etc. All the people figures. I have dozens of trees and bushes. I have supplemented with bits from other sets so I have a farm with animals way on the end ...the outskirts of town, a skating rink, a couple more houses. It takes quite awhile to assemble and I have a schematic to follow so that I get the cords all plugged into the right spots and the buildings in the right order. I keep it up Dec through March.

My favorite Christmas song is ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH.

My favorite Christmas movie is naturally, IT"S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Along with WHITE CHRISTMAS, RUDOLPH, CHARLIE BROWN, THE SNOWMAN, A CHRISTMAS ROMANCE (with Olivia Newtown John), THE BISHOP'S WIFE (Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young), MIRACLE ON 34th ST (the original) and 2 newer ones...FOUR CHRISTMASES and DECK THE HALLS.

Elizabeth said...

I had to go back and read the post as could not remember what the rest was...Oh and the mantel is 10" not 10'. I mean inches.

We have 2 mangers. The first is pretty old and kind of falling apart with plastic figures. Probably from the 50's. It belonged to my great aunt and she handed it down to me with the rest of her Christmas decorations. The 2nd manger is actually a puzzle that I saw in a catalog ...the puzzle bed is the shape of the manger and all the pieces are painted and fit into the shape for storage but you take them up and stand them on the table to assemble. Not explaining well, but my 23 y/o was having fun setting it up still this year.

Anonymous said...

Here's a great gingerbread recipe. I catered desserts for a wedding Dec 27th. For one of the sweets the bride wanted gingerbread cookies. Out of 4 batches (and one batch makes loads), they had 5 left! People even put them in pockets and purses to take home. The cookies were best with icing as they retained their moisture and chewiness. And make SURE to not overbake, unless you want a teething biscuit!

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Wow, Elizabeth, I bet that Christmas Village turns your home into a winter wonderland. Thank you for all the recommendations and description of your decorations!

Will check out the gingerbread recipe, thanks!

Nicole said...

Wow. Thanks for making me feel like a real underachiever! lol. We got some Christmas baking in, and we painted a few holiday related items, and that's about as far as we got on any of that. We did make a lot of food from scratch, so that's working in our favor I suppose.

Lisa Sharp said...

We reused some gift bags from years past, recycled gift wrap I've had for several years, and some cloth bags.

We have a recycled felt advent calendar that I put candle in for a count down.

We have to have a fake tree as I'm allergic to real ones. We did get a mostly PE one this year to reduce the amount of lead.

I crocheted a penguin this year and that's about all I ended up making this year.

I can't pick just one movie. I like Home Alone, the newer Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, It's a Wonderful Life, the Santa Clause movies, and many more. :)

O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas song.

Larisa said...

My mom bought an online advent calendar for my son through Jacquie Lawson's website. Each day there was a different animation or activity to watch, and an information "brochure" to read (it was London-themed so we learned about various London landmarks and English traditions). It was such a treat every day, and no waste or calories!

I used a combination of pillow cases, gift bags, fabric pieces, and free gift wrap that World Wildlife Fund sends me each year to wrap my gifts.

No baking or singing... though we did watch Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales on YouTube which my 6-year-old loved.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Vallejos, not anonymous! Anyway, I use Martha Stewart's recipe for gingerbread snowflakes, but make gingerbread men out of it. Very spicy (even includes black pepper). For the little ones (and big ones), I dip the legs of the gingerbread men in melted white chocolate so they have white "pants". No naked gingerbread men in this house! LOL!

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I love hearing what other Boothers do to celebrate the holidays!

Nicole, this is the first year we've ever baked cut-out cookies. I think it took me 3 years to get around to it.

Lisa, LOVE Elf! I'm not sure my kids are old enough to get most of the humor, so I haven't watched it with them yet. Also, I wish I could crochet. I think it's super cool you made a penguin!

Larisa, my mom bought that for my kids too -- and then the computer I loaded it on crashed! So sad! I even bought it again but my husband didn't get around to fixing their computer in time to use it. Still haven't downloaded it -- I could on my own computer, but then my kids would be on my laptop all the time :(

Mrs. Vallejos -- dipping sounds so much more manageable than decorating with little ones. Thanks for the tip!


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