Monday, December 8, 2014

CHRIST-mas Countdown Begins! Five ways to put Christ back in Christmas!

Who doesn't love the magic of the Christmas season?  Twinkling lights, delicious treats, beautiful decorations, carefully wrapped packages, peaceful music, time with family and friends, and the wonder-filled eyes of children.  However, it saddens me that so many dread the season these days because of the hectic craziness that shopping, parties, and unfulfilled expectations have brought upon it.  So many have forgotten, as it's said, "The Reason for the Season!"  It's not about presents, Santa, or black Friday deals at the local shopping center.  Christmas began in a humble stable and should be remembered and celebrated with the same quiet, humble, and peaceful love that it began.

I, like most of you, am guilty of getting caught up in the busyness of the holiday season, and forgetting its true purpose and meaning.  That is why I set a goal a few years ago to make something different of the season, beginning with my decor, and continuing on to the way I count down each moment leading up to the big day.  This has not only impacted my own perspective, but my hope is that it will shape the way my children and their children celebrate the season that is Christmas!  As much as we love Santa, he's not the man in red I want them to focus on! :)

So, with no further adieu, I share with you some of my favorite ways to count down to CHRIST-mas!  After all, the word "mas" means more in Spanish, so shouldn't we have a little more Christ in our homes this time of year?
I hope that you find these ideas helpful as you strive to bring the spirit of Christ back into the Christmas season in your homes and your thoughts.

A Video A Day
I put together this video compilation of some of my favorite short Christmas videos a few years ago for my family and friends.  I have now uploaded it to Youtube so that hopefully others can benefit!  Please share it with anyone you know!!!  Watch one a day with your family starting December 13th all the way to Christmas!

Day 1: Dec. 13th The Christmas Spirit     0:00
Day 2: Dec. 14th The Coat    4:01
Day 3: Dec. 15th An Angel Foretells Christ's Birth to Mary        6:16
Day 4: Dec. 16th Mary & Elisabeth Rejoice Together         10:26
Day 5: Dec. 17th Look To The Light         15:35
Day 6: Dec. 18th The Christ Child Is Presented At The Temple     20:12
Day 7: Dec. 19th Mary & Joseph Travel To Bethlehem     22:07
Day 8: Dec. 20th Shepherds Learn Of Christ's Birth         24:18
Day 9: Dec. 21st The Wise Men Seek Jesus     27:12
Day 10: Dec. 22nd Wise Men Still Seek Him     32:55
Day 11: Dec. 23rd The Old Shoemaker     36:33
Day 12: Dec. 24th A Gift To The World     40:05
Day 13: Dec. 25th Good Tidings Of Great Joy     49:21

He Is The Gift Website
Check out this website for awesome videos, stories, and information about the Savior for you and your family to learn, watch, and study together.  It's AMAZING and answers so many questions you or your children may have about Jesus Christ and Christmas!

Countdown to Christ Calendar

I can take no credit at all for this idea...I found it on Pinterest of course!  However, I couldn't find exact dimensions I needed so I had to work through trial and error to make mine.  Here is the link for the beautiful calendar I found on Pinterest (I wish they could have just sent me one because I honestly like theirs better than mine!), and here are the dimensions and details of how I made mine, in case that's helpful for any of you out there!

*Board 20" X 25" MDF Wood painted a brick red with a glossy spray on laquer coat on top.
*The word Christ is on a separate board of wood 3" X 15" hung 3.5 inches from the top of the large board painted a sage green.
*The white swirly stuff behind the Christ sign is some lacy-type scrapbook paper I had lying around that I mod podged on before nailing on the Christ sign, to add some dimension since mine was lacking!
*Nails are started 3/4in. down from the Christ sign and 3in. from the sides.  They are spaced 3.5 inches apart from the middle of each nail to the next one and end 3 3/4 in. from the bottom of the board.
*Each square is 3in square and cut from a thin MDF then drilled holes in the tops.  I also painted them white before I put on pictures and paper so if there was any border it would be a pretty one.
*The fronts are just scrapbook paper cut down to 3 in squares mod podged on with a vinyl number in the corner.
*The pictures on the backs I bought from Deseret Book.  This is the most expensive part of the project as some were about 50 cents to a dollar each.  I did 2-3 layers of mod podge to get these to stay after cutting them down to 3 in. squares.
*Just make sure to give plenty of dry time to all layers!  You don't want to go to all of that work to have it stick together and ruin your beautiful pictures!

The baby socks have a story or scripture for each day (along with a small treat of course! :)) and are just numbered with vinyl numbers.  I looked for cheap socks for FOREVER and finally found them here.  They are out of stock now, but who knows if they will come back.  Some of the socks also have a small nativity character in them for special days when we do a character study of a different person in the nativity.  After we study each character, we add them to a small nativity that will be completed by Christmas.  This is an idea I got from an AMAZING book called A Christ Centered Christmas.  I highly recommend it!  It's a quick read with awesome stories and activities to do with your family to help them to draw closer to Christ.

Names of Christ Star Ornaments

This was also an idea inspired by A Christ Centered Christmas, but the ones you can purchase were silver and I wanted mine to stand out on my tree a bit more.  Mine are very simple, but I love how they make me think of the Savior just a little bit more whenever I look at my tree!  Remember, He was born in a very simple, humble place!  My humble stars remind me just a little bit more of that place, and that perfect child!

I bought the wooden stars (20 of them) for about 30 cents each, had my husband drill holes in them and then painted them yellow with a silver sparkle glaze (I made the mistake of doing the glaze after the letters though and messed up a bunch of them because it smeared the paint!  Sadness!!!  So, IF you glaze, do it before you write!).  
To put the words on them I just printed the names of Christ on a sheet of paper in a font I liked and traced it onto the wood (the wood was soft enough that tracing indented the words on the wood).  After the wood was indented with the name, I just used a permanent black marker to trace it.  Thread them with ribbons and you're done! 
Kid-friendly Nativities
 Some of my favorite memories of Christmas time are of an old Nativity that my mom gave to me to play with.  I would spend hours playing with the figures and recreating the Christmas story.  Far too often a Nativity is a touch-me-not decoration in our homes.  And yes, I have one of those too.  However, I think it's so important to teach our children that the Savior is not this distant being that we cannot get near.  He is our loving brother and friend!  He is accessible and as close to us as we allow and want Him to be.  What better way to teach that to them than giving them access at a young age to those figures that tell the story of His birth.  A small thing that can really create a fond memory and feeling.  

Yet again, I got this idea from Pinterest at this site, with a little variation according to what I could find at the craft store and then  just used scraps of material to make the clothes for the little wooden nativity.  I am NOT very creative and crafty on my own to be honest.  I mean, the glue gun and I have a love/hate relationship, leaning more towards the latter!  My sister-in-law did the sheep for me which were pretty awesome I thought!  I would have just glued on a bunch of cotton balls and called it good!  I can't tell you how to recreate the wise men hats (sorry!)...they just kind of happened as I attempted to take needle and thread to a small scrap of fabric (this was huge for me since I don't even own a sewing machine!).  I could never do it again, but I'm glad they turned out okay!  My husband used his engineering skills and made the stable and manger out of popsicle sticks and a glue gun after my daughter insisted Jesus have a stable.  He has a similar relationship (and scar) with the glue gun after that experience but it turned out pretty awesome I think! Oh the sacrifices we make for our children! :)

Fisher Price also has the cutest Nativity that we just bought last year on sale and my kids love it just as much!  I probably would have never made the first one to be honest, had I been able to find it at a reasonable price when I was looking, but now you can even find them in Wal-Mart and Target for around $30!!!  So worth it!

Merry CHRIST-mas to you all! 
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