Our Christmas this year was almost exactly how I pictured and hoped it'd turn out: relaxed, focused on the true meaning of Advent, and not overly indulgent. We enjoyed a variety of activities including Maggie and I seeing The Nutcracker ballet at the San Diego Civic Theater (on the 2nd row nonetheless, thanks Groupon), several family drives to see lights (with cups of gingerbread lattes and vanilla steamers in hand), a tree-lighting ceremony in our neighborhood square (where there were easily 500-600 people and at one point I thought we lost Curren--it was a stressful 10 minutes), an outing to our local Botanic Garden where they had a sledding hill (1 1/2 miles from the Pacific nonetheless), crafts, hot chocolate, sleigh rides, live music, and marshmallow roasting, baking Christmas treats for ourselves and neighbors and hosting friends several times for dinner, Maggie singing in her Kindergarten "holiday" performance (come on, why aren't there ANY songs about the birth of Jesus?? Why can they sing "Dreidel, Dreidel" for Hanukkah, and sing about Kwanzaa, but not say anything about the King born in the manger, instead only signing about Santa?? LAME), and lastly, my sister and her family spending the night Christmas Eve (we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together and watched the kids open some gifts).
We kept gifts simple this year for our family; it's something I started last year. They get 3 gifts: something to wear, something to read, and a toy they want. We did the whole scooter/skateboard/bike thing this year and they loved it! And we did new Christmas Eve jammies. Yeah!
I enjoyed our home decor and listening to Christmas music all season. And I loved how the Advent calendar turned out below; we read a passage of the Christmas story daily and talked often about what this season is truly about. Our pastor in Texas, Matt Chandler, had a powerful sermon last year about the Advent season and encouraged us to "focus on the Substance and not the shadow" (Col. 2:17) of the holiday. I *loved* that and pondered it last year and daily this year. The fun activities and gifts and decor and parties are all but a reflection of what this time of year is all about: the God-man come to live and redeem mankind. If you have 15 minutes in the coming days, I HIGHLY encourage you to read his sermon (click on the link above). It was life-changing for me for the Christmas season. Maybe think about incorporating it into one of your morning quiet times soon.