Christmas Bucket List

I saw lots of fall/Halloween bucket lists a couple months ago, and while I thought they were super cute, I didn't feel the need to hop on the "make a list" bandwagon. I started to go through our calendar the other night, though, saw all of the fun things we have on our agenda leading up to Christmas, and realized, "Now this would make a great *personalized* Christmas Bucket List!" I think it's especially interesting to see what all everyone does during the holidays, b/c there are SO MANY DIFFERENT options & ideas, no one could ever do them all. Here's our's for this year:

* Zoo Merry Members' Night
* Put up our tree, stockings, & decorate outside
* Christmas cards
* Advent: family storybook, gratitude tree, nativity
* Advent devotionals
* 2011 ornaments
* Christmas cookies
* Salvation Army Red Kettles
* RiverQuarium Members' Night, geocaching & ornament making
* Local Christmas parade
* Gingerbread houses
* Winter Wonder: Santa & live reindeer
* Annelise's Christmas Dance Program
* Messiah Sing Along

* Junior League Christmas Party

[PROGRAMMING NOTE: I am ALL ABOUT STRESS-FREE CHRISTMAS! I don't do any of this stuff begrudgingly "b/c I should" - I *only* do it b/c we want to. :-)]

I already blogged about our zoo's Merry Members' Night and our tree. We hang stockings at our house every year, but they are purely décor. We've never spent a married Christmas at home - always with family, since we're the only ones who aren't local. Both JB's parents & mine have their stockings for all of us, so these are just to look festive. I was also excited to decorate a little outside for the first time four years! Three years ago we moved over Christmas, so the décor was packed; the last two years, what we had didn't go with our two different houses, and since we knew we wouldn't be in them long, we weren't going to invest in one-shot decorations. (For the record, we didn't miss them. It was too cold to be outside; I didn't care.) This year, though, I'm reveling in where we live! I found the Christmas decorations we had bought for the last home we owned...and they actually work GREAT here! They took 15 minutes to put up in 70°+ sunshine. :-) And I love to see them shimmer as we drive in & out.

I mailed our Christmas cards out on Monday. I personally digiscrap a 4x6 photo card and include a short new-address-&-sentence-about-each-of-us letter every year. Thanks to FB familiarity, our list has gone down a lot (85 this year, down from 130 a few years ago.) I still send them, though, to everyone who sends us one and to close friends & fam not on FB. With as much as we move, it means a lot to me to stay connected to people; so even with most people close to us already knowing our business online, I like keeping up the card tradition. Plus, I put all of the photos we receive as/in cards on our message board & keep their faces present in our home ALL YEAR, until the next season's batch arrives.

I'll post this year's after everyone we sent them to has received it, but here are the last seven years:

[Yay, memories!]

I've already talked a lot about Advent devotionals and our family Advent storybook we're reading together daily, our nativity, and our December evergreen version of the gratitude tree. We used to do the traditional candy Advent calendars (Trader Joe's has great, cheap, chocolate ones!) but I really hate giving the kids candy either when waking up or going to bed, so the last two years, I had a sticker that was part of a big nativity scene in each day. I also LOVE the idea of doing a Jesse Tree. (I got this great resource from Ann Voskamp last year.) We're doing none of those this year, though; I feel like we have enough with our gratitude tree thankful ornaments and the family Advent storybook.

Every year since Will was born, I've gotten a simple metal ornament with the year engraved on it that I put the kids' picture with Santa in. All but two years, it's been the same ornament style from Target; but ours doesn't have it this year, so I went with a nicer 2011 one I found at Hobby Lobby. This sounds like a little thing, but it's become really important to me. We usually go see Santa early (in November - before he gets jaded ;-)) but this year...

Our pediatrician is hosting their annual Winter Wonder event:
Excited to support the Lily Pad & get a great, unique Santa experience, so we'll wait for the 6th. :-)

I am usually involved in a holiday cookie exchange (wow - 1st year in ages I'm not!) but I *did* realize a couple years ago that I rarely like anyone else's cookies as much as my family's #1 ultimate super duper fave recipe: chocolate-covered cherry cookies. :-D It's the only cookie I *MUST* have for it to be I'm making 5 batches sometime in the next week. They are crazy labor-intensive, but oh-so worth it. [I really wish Jackie & I could make them together like last year! Way more fun!]

Every time I pass a Salvation Army Red Kettle, I'll donate. Reputable, simple, a beautiful reminder that you can do over & over.

The RiverQuarium here is having "The Twelve Days of Fishmas" - cute! We're going to do their geocaching scavenger hunt for 12 animals hidden around town one day, (we have the coordinates list, so we can do it whenever we want,) the kids are also going to do their ornament contest, and we're going to try to make it to their Members' Night. I feel blessed to have this cool facility here!

Our town's local Christmas parade is this Saturday morning. It's a big deal this year, I guess, b/c Luke Bryan (a big country star) who was born & raised here is coming to be the Grand Marshal. [I haven't followed country music in years, but I'm a total faux-celeb stalker, so I can get on board with the hoopla. ;-)] I'm so excited to be back South, where it's actually WARM enough with NO threat of snow to have Christmas parades! :-D [Up north, they are really big on the 4th of July parades to make up for it. ;-)]

Every year, the kids & I make our own gingerbread houses from scratch. Last year, we invited our neighbors & BFFs to come do one with us, and it was a ball! We're making this year's with our new neighbors Sunday afternoon. And yep - we rip them apart and eat them (over about a week) every year. Best tip: save Skittles, M&M's - any candy that you could use to decorate - from your kids' Halloween candy! (Why buy more, you know? :-))

Annelise's dance school does a Christmas show every year, and I'm about to burst to see her perform on Sunday, the 10th! She has showed me her routine about 20 times, and it's GOOD! I am totally impressed that the teacher is having this age really dance, instead of just doing a few heel digs and arm waving. I am so picky about quality dance schools, and I *LOVE* knowing we've got the best around here!

A local chorale is having a Messiah Sing Along on the 12th, and I would LOVE to go! I'm playing this one by ear, though, b/c it doesn't start until 7 PM, I would probably have to take the kids with me alone (yay culture! boo missing bedtime & potential bored whines!), and it would be just us - I don't have any singing friends here. :'( I'd give the WORLD to be able to have my BFFs Wendy & Christa in NC come with... Oh, our former Christmas concert glory days...

My Junior League Christmas Party is the 13th. I'm bringing the famous chocolate-covered cherry cookies, of course. I also need to get an ornament for the exchange. I asked if they usually do fancy or silly? Fancy. I can handle that. (Any excuse to go back to Hobby Lobby for the 4th time in a week, right? :-P)

Cute trendy tradition we don't do: Elf on the Shelf - I think this is adorable, but we needed it when our kids (5 & 7) were younger, like 2. Had we done it since then, they'd still be on board; but they would never go for it starting now. They believe in Santa, but they know he's an angel from Heaven (the real St. Nicholas) & wouldn't believe this fake doll talks to him! :-D :-P Makes me a bit sad, though, for them to miss out on this cute tradition. Oh well. I think we have enough other stuff to make up for it! :-D

My fave Christmas CD: "Christmas Caroling" by Ray Conniff is THE sound of Christmas to me. My dad was old school, and this is what we played in the car all December. It's what I hear when I think "holidays". Everyone can keep their current-artist-Christmas releases; give me the Ray Conniff singers! ;-)

Our fave Christmas movies: we adore Elf (newer fave) and A Christmas Story (my family's tradition - we have the 24 hrs of it on TBS playing in the background all Christmas Eve/Day! :-D 100% memorized.) For all you parents, I also want to recommend Why Do We Call It Christmas? by the creator of VeggieTales. His whole What's in the Bible? DVD series is AMAZING!!!! We have all 6 that have been released so far, and not only do the kids LOVE them, but *I* have learned a lot from them, too!!! They are amazing - they have truly made the first 14 (so far) books of the Old Testament *engaging & accessible*!

Now, these are just *SOME* of our Christmas activities, traditions, & faves - we can't wait to do the big Carolina Christmas light show at Charlotte Motor Speedway whenever we get there, and who knows what else we'll get into?! You know I'll keep y'all posted. ;-)

OK, so now it's your turn to fill me in! Tell me what all YOU do to celebrate the Christmas season! I love getting new ideas from sweet friends!!!


  1. RE: A Christmas Story. I just saw the musical version here in Detroit a few weeks ago. Um, not good at all. I was disappointed, but not surprised. Not all movies translate well to the stage, and this was definitely one of them. My whole family does love that movie though! We also watch White Christmas (we saw the stage production a few years ago when we were in Minnesota, and it was awesome!).

    Church - We love going to the midnight mass at St. Paul's Cathedral when we're in Minnesota. It's one of the few churches I've been to in the US that has the European-cathedral feel, and I love singing the carols at the old-fashioned service. The only thing is you have to arrive 30-60 min early just to get a seat, and it tends to run pretty long, so it's a major commitment for those with young kids.

    Music - Bing Crosby! I'm old-school too. I have at least a dozen Xmas music CDs, and most are orchestral (with some choirs/soloists). I have the Harry Connick ones, but that's the extent of my collection of contemporary performers. No Mariah Carey or Justin Bieber in our household! I have several piano books of Xmas music, so we play (and badly sing...) carols at home too.

    Cookies - My mom's iced sugar cookies *ARE* Christmas. I usually make at least one batch per year. And I feel the same way as's not Christmas without them.

    Lights - We've actually never hung lights outside our house, yet, but we *LOVE* driving around checking out other houses in our community. We must spend hours doing it every December.

    Tree / decor - I laughed at your earlier post, because it exactly describes how I like decorating our tree...lots of glass and traditional/sentimental ornaments. I am adament about having a live tree...I've been doing that since college, and it is an annual tradition lugging home a tree with a compact car! We have a dog paw stocking for Turbo and will put a bone or treats in it for her (we have antlers for her too, and she looks just like the dog in the Grinch when we put them on her :P). I like old school natural garlands and wreaths etc. I love the woodsy smell in our house.

    Cards - Yeah, ahem, not yet started. That's my goal tomorrow. :)

    Gift giving - I'm trying to convince my family that instead of the adults exchanging gifts, we collect some money to donate to a charity (but still give gifts to all the kids). We'll see if I'm successful!

  2. Wow - lots of fun going on with your family during this season!

    I like to incorporate as many traditions as I can, but I think my favorite is our Christmas Eve outing. We eat an early supper at home, then drive downtown to a fancy dessert restaurant (that stays open late that night). After dessert, we walk around and look at all the decorated storefronts and go in one of the fancy hotels that's always beautifully decorated.

    Then we come back home, the kids put on pajamas, and we read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and the Christmas story from Luke before they head to bed.

  3. You must post the picture with us making those cookies with Will in the baby Bjorne! That was a fun day. Do you realize out of the last 7 years weve made those cookies 3 times !! Not to shabby for friends who haven't lived in the same area in years!!

    I have each one of those cards!!! :).

    Merry Christmas to one of best friends in the whole wide world!!!!

  4. Heather - errr, I am passionate about musical theatre...but yeah, some things shouldn't be messed with. ;-) :-P

    I think midnight mass would be BEAUTIFUL!!!! The church I grew up in never did a big Christmas Eve service, so our Christmas Eve dinner was always a HUGE family get-together at our house. That was the big holiday thing *we* hosted. (Christmas Day was at Grandmommy's.) My mom always made beef stew (barf :-P) "b/c it was easy for the older people to chew." All the kids would have KILLED for her lasagna, instead. :-D Now that so many of that generation (all but my Grandmommy & great Aunt Frances) are gone, and my mom & Hershel moved out of our hometown (45 min away - you'd think they'd moved to Asia!!! Some family members consider them almost as far away as me :-P) our Christmas Eve fête has really shrunk...but also no more beef stew! ;-)

    Tracey - your Christmas Eve sounds DREAMY!

    Jackie - I will find that pic!!!!! One of my ultimate faves! And that means we have to make the cookies together sometime next year to keep our average up. (Praying it's easily in ATL!!! ;-)) I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!

  5. Your Christmas bucket list sounds like lots of fun, fun, fun things going on! I am cutting back on Christmas cards a bit this year. Last year we sent out over 200 because I combined it with our "we have moved" information as well. Unfortunately my dear husband about had a heart attack with the cost of the cards+mailing!!!! So I am going to do less than 100 this year...working on those today!

  6. Michelle - I totally get that! I always want people to get all our "we have moved" info, too. (4 addresses since 2008!!!) B/c I'm so cheap & want to do so many, that's why I do the digiscrapped 4x6 photo card - when you print them at Sam's or Costco, they're like 10¢ each; and they're almost free when you get a big Shutterfly code like that 75 free prints code in November. Our stamps cost more than our cards by far, but they're perfect, b/c the #1 thing most people care about is seeing a family pic. :-)

  7. Sounds like a great bucket list if you ask me!!!


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