Happy December! How did that creep up on us so quickly?
The advent season is in full swing and we are enjoying the wonders of the season through the eyes of a two-year-old who finds everything about the holidays to be AMAZING. I can’t drive past any sort of twinkle lights without Little Lady pointing outside and screaming “It’s Christmas!” Our family has several Christmas traditions that we observe each year and occasionally we add something new and exciting to our list. Here are five of my favorite ways to get into the holiday spirit.
People either love or hate these little guys. I’m planted firmly in the former category, but I think that is partially because our elves aren’t mischievous and are content just to observe from a different perch every day. Every morning our two younger kids burst out of bed to check and see where our elves, Schoon-zen and Snowflake are perched for the day. We adopted our first Elf on the Shelf, Schoon-zen, from a small mom and pop toy store in Beverly Hills back in 2007 before they were really a thing (and there was only one type of elf you could even buy). I liked them because they reminded me of the old Christmas elf figures that my grandmother had when I was growing up… and maybe because Jennifer Garner had one. Anyway, our elf was nameless for a whole year as we didn’t get him out of the box until the following year when Big Guy was a bit more appreciative of all things Christmas. Big Guy came up with the name Schoon-Zen and it stuck. No one really knows where the name came from, but he was insistent that we use it. There are lots of kids with elves named “Buddy” or “Candy Cane” but I’m pretty sure we have the only Schoon-zen. Our second elf, Snowflake, came along several years later when, in a weak moment, I allowed Little Man to adopt his own elf (this time from Barnes and Noble). He chose to adopt a girl elf and named her Snowflake because he thought that it was a suitably feminine name for his little girl elf.
I love advent calendars. My grandmother used to have one (that I have since inherited) in which a little mouse moves to a numbered pouch each day until it reaches the 24th (Christmas Eve). The kids each have their own chocolate advent calendar and all three of them share a toy calendar. In the past, we have done everything from Lego Star Wars to TsumTsums. This year we have an Olaf’s Frozen Adventure calendar because our Little Lady is obsessed with all things Frozen. Admittingly, this calendar is less exciting for the boys, but they still help their little sister out every day and they feign excitement with each new toy she pulls out. Every year I hunt for the perfect permanent advent calendar, but everything I find falls short of what I have pictured in my head. Maybe someday.
It is hard to pick a favorite Christmas time activity, but this one is right up there. It gets more exciting each year as the kids become more involved. We have always made and decorated traditional Christmas cookies, but this year we are taking it up a notch with a gingerbread house decorating party. Everyone, including all the little kids, will have their own gingerbread house to decorate, so things could get interesting. I’ll let you know how it goes after the party.
Holiday Movie Fests:
There are certain holiday movies that are non-negotiable, like A Christmas Story, Elf and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, and there are others that are fun if you happen to catch them (think Hallmark). We are big-time into Christmas movie marathons. Some years we do movie challenges or movie games and other years we just enjoy watching whenever we get the chance. This is our favorite holiday movie game and we can get crazy competitive about it. Nothing is better than a family movie night filled with holiday cheer.
This one is non-negotiable and AWESOME. It might just be my favorite Christmas and it wasn’t even something I observed until I met David. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tradition, Mikulás is the Hungarian version of Saint Nicholas. The feast day for Saint Nicholas is on December 6th each year. On the eve of the feast (December 5th) Hungarian children place their cleaned and polished boots on the windowsill or by the front door and Mikulás comes while they are sleeping and, if they have been good, fills their boots with candies, fruits, nuts and small keepsakes. If they have been naughty, they will find onions, coal and willow switches. As per tradition, Mikulás is sometimes accompanied by a creepy elf that is often depicted as a half goat, half demon (I guess he is kind of like a demonic satyr) called Krumpusz who punishes naughty children. They made a horror movie based on him, but he creeps me out, so he has conveniently been left out of our tradition. Our kids look forward to a visit from Mikulás every year. My American friends always ask if the kids get Mikulás and Santa confused, but while both Mikulás and Santa sport long white beards, Mikulás’ attire is more like that of a Catholic bishop (because Saint Nicholas was a Catholic bishop). The kids actually woke up this morning and excitedly reminded me that Mikulás is coming tonight. You can read more about what Mikulás tends to bring to our house here.
What are some of your favorite Holiday traditions? I would love to hear all about them.