christmas with kids & this year’s plan

December 20, 2013

It’s such a strange transition to go from being the child during Christmas, to being the parent. It feels like a lot of pressure! Meredith is two and a half now, and I feel like this is our last “practice” year before she will really start caring about and remembering everything. Her first Christmas she was only five months old, and last year she had a pretty bad case of roseola so was down for the count, poor girl.

xmas 2012

This year she is two and a half. She likes all the decorations, and if you ask her what she wants for Christmas she will say “candy.” But I still don’t think she really understands anything. So I’ve been trying to figure out how we are going to “do” Christmas in the future: the traditions we will have as a family, how we will handle the whole Santa situation, our gifting philosophy, and the scheduling of everything. I have some pretty good ideas and want to share them, but I’d really like to hear your family plans as well.


I love traditions, and I love holiday activities, but I am also a working mom and I like to keep expectations realistic. Apart from the traditions I have going with my parents (shopping with my dad and the Messiah with my mom, as well as having pigs in a blanket on Christmas morning) and for myself (like a holiday minibook) there are a few more that I’d like to add for our own little family.

>Christmas cards. I didn’t do any last year or this year, but I’d really like to start them up again next year.

>A drive to see lights in the fancy neighborhood in town. Preferably with hot chocolate in hand. We have plans to do this on Christmas Eve and I hope Meredith cooperates!

>Advent calendar. Nothing with daily activities or anything, but just something visible to mark the counting down, maybe with a Bible verse to read along with it. I have the calendar, but eventually I need to add the stuff to put inside. Maybe some ornaments to add to a special Advent mini tree, or a Christmas scene to build as we go.

>New PJ’s for Christmas Eve (for the kids). I think I’m going to start this this year, but they might be hand-me-downs. She won’t know the difference. :)

That’s about it. There are other activities that I’m sure we will do year to year, but I want just those few things to remain constant.


I found out that Santa wasn’t real so early on in my life that I don’t even remember it. I don’t know how or why my parents decided to handle it the way they did (I should ask them!) but I know that I always knew the gifts were from them, even when “Santa” was written on the label. Christmas was still a magical time for me. (I also got in pretty big trouble on occasion for spoiling the secret for other kids. ) My husband is a sensitive soul and he remembers being shocked and even feeling a little betrayed when he found out at an older age.

My thoughts on the matter are that Santa is a fun character, but I definitely don’t want him (and all the presents) to be the focus of the season. Right now I am thinking that we won’t really bring up Santa in conversation a lot and won’t use him as a threat for good behavior, but we won’t deny that he is real. Instead, when they are old enough to ask, we will tell our kids that there is a secret to Santa, and when they find out the truth it will all come clear.

Gifting philosophy

We like gifts at Christmas. We aren’t big on them throughout the rest of the year so it’s fun for us to look forward to. But we are also on a tight budget and want to make sure the gifts that are given are special, so I don’t want to go overboard. The kid(s) will get gifts from all the aunts/uncles/grandparents too so it’s already a lot. So far we haven’t done much for Meredith ourselves (except for every birthday and Christmas I have gotten her a classic book and written a note inside, and that’s something I will continue) but this year we are getting her a few things: a dress from an Instagram pop-up shop, another book, and some more kitchen play toys (these and these). I also know for sure that she’s getting a new doll and stroller from her Mimi. I specifically requested these gifts for her to help prepare for the new baby. This is also the first year that she’ll have her own stocking gifts. For some reason I am super excited about this especially. I plan to fill it with things like this: m&m candy cane, band-aids, toddler-appropriate makeup like lip smackers, underwear, socks, stickers, stamps, crayons, matchbox car, cup, small flashlight, and play-doh. Hopefully the dollar store can help me out with most of this.

Going forward with our whole gifting philosophy, I want to try and keep it simple. David and I usually just get each other 1-2 things, or we decide together on a big gift (like this year we both upgraded our phones and called it good). I like the four gift rule: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. And then on top of that I’m considering doing one “Santa” gift as well.

The schedule

Every year is going to be different for us as far as scheduling because we have to coordinate with several different families and in-laws, and take work into consideration. This year I only get Christmas Day off. On Christmas Eve we are all going to services at my brother’s church (ours doesn’t have one) at 6pm and it is going to be a rush for me to get there in time so I’m going to plan to meet them there in case I can’t leave early. On Christmas morning everyone from my family is coming to our house, but my married brother won’t make it until around noon so we plan to hang out and eat a nice breakfast and then once he and his wife arrive we’ll do our stockings and gifts. Then in the late afternoon we will be heading to my husband’s family gathering for dinner and gifts.

That’s it! It’s a busy week ahead (I pray every day for energy to make it through) but I am grateful that we don’t have to travel and that everything is working out so far. Like I said at the beginning of this, I’d really like to hear about how you handle Christmas with your family! How do you keep the focus on the right thing, balance all the activities, and not get overwhelmed?

Posted in: personal, holidays, motherhood, personal

Comments on christmas with kids & this year’s plan

  1. 1

    From Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout:

    I have so much to say about this post — it seems like our brains work similarly! I would love to sit down over coffee and talk Christmas stuff with you, but since I can’t, I’ll ramble on here for a bit. You are right about the age thing — my son is 3 1/2 and he totally “gets” Christmas. I have taken a similar approach to Santa as you (I also don’t really remember “finding out” about Santa, it was just always a fun thing but I knew he wasn’t real) but they talk about Santa at preschool apparently because I’ve been peppered with questions about it all month. My husband grew up getting unwrapped “Santa presents” under the tree so we’re continuing that tradition. Instead of Xmas jammies, I’ve decided I’m going to let the kids unwrap new Christmas books on Christmas Eve. I always wanted to be one of those families that opened presents (or at least one present) on Xmas Eve but my mom would never let us. I try to keep the focus on Jesus and not just Santa by reading lots of Christmas books about the Christmas story and singing Christmas carols like Away in a Manger and Silent Night before bed (instead of our normal songs like Twinkle Twinkle). I’ve tried to include him in buying gifts for the angel tree at church, but he doesn’t really get it — it’s also kinda confusing when he thinks Santa is supposed to bring the presents…

  2. 2

    From Nora:

    This is such a great idea for a post. I may have to borrow it… possibly for Monday!

    I grew up receiving presents from both my parents + Santa and like your husband, am sensitive about how and when I found out there was no such thing as Santa. My parents (and myself) make the presents from someone who could be a clue as to what the present is about to make it a bit more fun and entertaining. That’s a tradition that I have kept up with D, and will do so with the girls as they get older. The girls get presents from us and one from Santa.

    The schedule. Last year we ran our butts off and it was too much so this year we are doing Christmas Eve just us, then to my parents for the Eve/Day and night and then we are seeing D’s family closer to NYE (which is also his birthday, so it works out.) Last year we were in 3 different cities in less than 24 hours.

    Traditions: D and I don’t really have any of our own… yet. That’s something I want to work on though. Growing up for as long as I can remember my parents always read A Christmas Carol to us, we went to candlelight service on Christmas Eve, stockings were at our door when we woke up and we weren’t allowed to go downstairs before our parents so as to not ruin the Christmas Magic (which even though I know doesn’t exist as an adult, I still don’t go downstairs before they do… just in case. How silly, right?). Our holiday season is so nutso with trying to see so many people, so I’m hoping that as we evolve as a couple we can get some more of our own traditions started.

    This was probably more than you wanted to know :)

  3. 3

    From Lauren W:

    I don’t remember being particularly betrayed about Santa, but definitely a little disappointed. I’ve heard of some parents staying that Santa will bring presents as long as you believe in him…so the kids figure it out on their own terms but the parents never really admit anything. Not sure if that works or not. I think my favorite idea is to talk more about the real live person of St. Nicholas because he was pretty great. I’m sure there are story books about him??

  4. 4

    From Melanie:

    This was a fun post! I might steal the idea for the future. :)

    My tips are to be flexible and realistic. If there’s something I really want to do with the kids, put it ON the calendar and guard it! And don’t feel guilty about letting a couple ‘must-do’ items go. Once the kids are older, they tell you what is important or memorable for them.

    Santa: we combined traditions and give an unwrapped Santa gift as well as small stocking stuffers. When questioned, I say, ‘what do YOU think about…’ We try to focus more on Jesus’s birth and the reason we give gifts, and the spirit behind the first St. Nicholas.
    We usually give 3-4 gifts from us, I like having a focus, like ‘wear, read, want, need.’ And we take the siblings shopping for each other, they can spend $5 on each other and we try to steer away from toys and toward fun one-sided, socks, toothbrushes, nail polish, etc.
    We often are not home on Christmas, so open our family gifts one at a time, or whenever we get a free time.
    I have had to let go of a lot of my ‘ideal’ Christmas plans for the Eve and Day, and try to make special memories and traditions during advent and New Years, when I have a ‘little’ more control.

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