‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas
And all through the house
EVERY creature was stirring,
Probably even a mouse.
It was December 23rd, the night we celebrate our little family’s Christmas at home before joining our extended family in Ohio for Christmas.
Our “night before the night before Christmas” traditions have evolved over the years. It started out as the night we exchanged our yearly Christmas ornaments, but in the past few years it has evolved into something more.
It is now the night we exchange family gifts, with the exception of the gifts the kids receive from Toby and I on Christmas morning.
This new tradition came about as a result of the kids getting older and us wanting to highlight the thought and effort they put into the gifts they give each other.
When the kids were little I would set aside a day to take them Christmas shopping at Dollar Tree where they were each given $10.00 to shop for family members. This was something they looked forward to. I remember the excitement they felt as they pushed a cart independently through the store, secretly stashing gifts under their coat that acted as a cover to prying eyes. They felt so grown up as they checked out by themselves, handing over their ten-dollar bill to the cashier.
This is a tradition I have continued with Tyler and Ozzie but the older kids now execute their Christmas magic on their own, planning and preparing for weeks to come up with the perfect gift for each family member. Most of their gifts are handmade with a lot of thought and love going into each gift.
A few years ago they asked if we could exchange these family gifts on the 23rd when it was just our little family. The tradition started then and has continued ever since and has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
Exchanging gifts apart from the large pile of gifts from family and Santa under the tree allows us to really enjoy and appreciate the gifts that the kids all put such love into, without having to rush through the experience or having their gifts lost in the chaos of Christmas morning. It also allows siblings to really appreciate and express appreciation for each other’s smaller gifts without those gifts losing their value to the larger, more commercial, Santa gifts.
The kids couldn’t wait for Toby to get home on Friday night. Their gifts were all wrapped and in the living room, ready to be handed out.
Toby arrived home at 7:00pm. We had a homemade soup and bread dinner and then it was time for our family Christmas celebration. We began by handing out an unexpected gift to each of the kids. Normally the only gift the kids receive from the parents on December 23rd is their ornament so when we handed out large clothing boxes they were confused.
Most years the kids receive new PJs on Christmas Eve to wear to bed. This year I decided to give them their PJs a day early so they could wear them for our family Christmas and enjoy them a day early.
I couldn’t remember when I had been so excited by my PJ purchase. This year I found onesie character PJs for all the kids, each matching their personality perfectly. I couldn’t wait for them to open their boxes and I wasn’t disappointed by their response.
Don’t they all look adorable?!
After everyone had changed into their Christmas PJs and were snuggly warm we began exchanging gifts. We went from youngest to oldest, allowing Tyler to hand out his presents first. The gifts were handed out one at a time so that everyone could see what was given to each family member.
The little boys were thrilled with the gifts they found at Dollar Tree and couldn’t wait to hand out their presents.
The older kids all spent the month of December shopping for each other and working on their homemade gifts. I was blown away by the time, talents, and thought they invested in their gifts.
The little boys received a sled and mittens from Grace and Molly:
Grace received the Kim Possible movie, one of her favorite shows as a little girl, from Molly :
Grace made Molly a fandom bag containing a lot of small gifts that were nods to some of their favorite movies and books (all homemade):
Molly bought Rusty a Pokémon hat and Grace painted him a Disney Magic Kingdom corkboard for displaying his Disney pin collection:
I received crocheted washcloths from Molly, hand decorated Christmas plates from the girls and Tyler, handmade drink coasters from Rusty, and an angel figurine from Ozzie.
This year Toby and I also exchanged gifts with each other early. We kept things small and simple this year with the big bus trip we took in the fall being the real gift we all enjoyed early, but I did find this “Lego”treasure for Toby:
After everyone finished handing out their gifts we exchanged ornaments. I took care of everyone’s ornaments this year. Toby was out of town so our usual date to shop for the yearly ornaments was skipped this year, allowing me to come up with a secret plan that could include Toby’s ornament.
This year I had ornaments made through Shutterfly. Each person received a cube ornament that contained six photos on the six sides of the cube. The biggest event in all our lives in 2016 was our cross-country bus trip so I knew that had to be the theme of this year’s ornaments. I picked six photos from each person’s favorite National Park to create their memory ornament.
They turned out even better than I expected and I know they will be a treasure for years to come as the kids reflect back on that special experience..
We ended our evening with family devotionals, Christmas carols, and the reading of a Christmas story.
It was a perfect way to slow down, reflect on the reason for the season, and appreciate the greatest of gift of Christmas… Family.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!