Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Family Traditions #9: Christmas 2011

"Family traditions give identity and belonging to each member." - James Dobson

Like November is a month long celebration of thanksgiving to our God, December is a month long celebration of our Savior's birth. This year was even more fun than last because the boys are really starting to pick up on the Christmas story. We only get a short time to instill in them the truths on which we base our lives before they decide for themselves what they want to embrace for their own. These holidays provide a wonderful opportunity for this. For that reason we are very picky about what we choose to include as part of our Christmas.

Here are the traditions we started last year:

1. Decorate the Tree Together by December 1: We lit the pine scented candle Kiki shipped us, poured the ponche and turned on the Christmas music. I wasn't sure if the boys would ever be interested in decorating our tree, but they found it rather entertaining at least for a while this year. They loved pointing out our photo ornaments and finding their tractors.
{Silas helping Daddy with the tree}
They aren't normally allowed in the the living room since there are cords and a fan, so that helped add to the excitement.
Soon they moved on to other fun things like taking turns rocking each other in the chair.
It ended up being something we all shared together. It surprised me since I had low expectations for 2, 2 year old little boys. This was taken right before bedtime. Jimmy and I finished after the boys fell sleep.

2. Ornaments as Souvenirs: We had several to add to our collection this year because of our furlough. These 2 were my favorite.
{The spot where Jimmy proposed that we got to revisit close to our anniversary.}
{From our first trip to the zoo with the boys!}

3. Soccer Socks for Stockings:
{The boys with their stockings on Christmas morning}

4. Nance Garland Homemade Garland: This Guatemalan tradition must be a mountains thing here because I never found nances this year except for on the way home from Guate, which still didn't help since they wouldn't make it through the fruit check point after entering Petén. Instead of nances though, Becca made us a beautiful garland while she was here.
She made the letters from scratch. They are sparkly and I love sparkles at Christmas time!
Each year when we hang it we will think of Becca!

5. Ponche: This is one Guatemalan tradition that we can keep. Jimmy even made some from scratch this year. (Usually we buy the prepackaged dried fruit and sugar cane to boil). Jimmy has been making at least a batch a week since the beginning of November. We love this stuff!
Domingo gave us some sugar cane plants that are now growing at our forever house.
Maybe we can harvest our own next year!

6. Fireworks on Christmas Eve: Here in Guatemala, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is Christmas. They stay up till midnight and then set off fireworks. Until the boys are a little older we will set ours off before the boys' bedtime.
I think this was the first year that the boys really enjoyed fireworks.
They brought their flashlights from Kiki & Papa outside with them!
Their faces don't look that thrilled in this shot, but I think they were a little shocked after the whole thing. Atzi & Lucha jumped our backdoor gate and were hiding in our house because of all the fireworks in our yard. They are not fans.

7. Open a Family Present on Christmas Eve: In future years when the boys are old enough it will be a game that we can all play together Christmas Eve night. This year they skyped with Papa, Kiki, and their Great Grandma Wootton on Christmas Eve and got to open the presents from them. Part of that present was the flashlights pictured above. They had a blast with those.

8. A Birthday Cake for Jesus: So last year my mom brought down a mix but I didn't have a tube pan. This year I found a tube pan and made Alton Brown's Angel Food cake from scratch. I was super thrilled with how it turned out. It smelled good. I think of scents rising into Heaven as a type of worship. That is how our family meant it. We sang happy birthday to Jesus.

9. Attention to the Little Things the Boys Might Miss from not Being in the States: The smells and sounds of Christmas!

Besides our pine candle which we might each morning during breakfast, this year we did find pine needles. The fire department in San Benito was selling Christmas trees to raise money. The trees were a little sad looking, but Jimmy made a donation to pick up some branches. Next year I will have to use them to make a wreath.

As part of our night night routine we sing out of the hymnals. For December we sing Christmas carols. As part of our nap time routine we sing just fun Christmas song.
{Singing Jingle Bells out of their Christmas song book. Their new stick horses have bells, so that is why Jimmy has the horse.}

10. Our Advent Calendar: We celebrate the coming Messiah all month! These devos break down the Christmas story and why we needed a Savior.
For more about our advent calendar and the verses we do for each day click here.
Each day before the boys' nap read one of our devos and then talk about the ornament. They are pretty short since the boys are 2, but I still think they get a lot from it.
Sometimes we would do it in the morning before Daddy would leave. We both love this time with them.
{Silas looks like he's really reading his Bible!}
Each day Jonah and Silas take turns getting to hang the ornament on the tree.
High five!

11. Serving Together: Since this has been a transition year and we don't have a work up and running in San Pancho or the other villages around the KBI land we didn't have a normal Christmas outreach like a drama or caroling in the past, but hopefully next year we will. We have been enjoying doing evangelistic outreaches as a family.

12. Yearly Family Photo Ornament:
Soon after we decorate our tree, we take a family Christmas photo to send with our ministry update for December. This year Jonah was really in a photo taking mood.
{Kisses for mommy!}
{"I love my brother!"}
{"Where's Eden?"}
{My sweet boys!}

13. The Food: We swapped out french toast for pancakes with crispy edges since Jimmy said that was a Christmas morning tradition he remembered from his childhood.
{Big yawn from Silas!}
We remembered this year and bought 2 turkeys at Thanksgiving so that we would have one for Christmas. Last year the grocery store in SE didn't restock at all during the month of December. This year we planned ahead and had a delicious Christmas dinner!
We had turkey, stuffing, green beans, and cranberry sauce (I found some in Guate on this last trip). Christmas morning must have worn Silas out because he almost went face first into his stuffing he was so sleepy.
Another Christmas food that we have found here are mixed nuts. I keep them on the table all month and Jimmy cracks a few for us after each meal.

We added 2 new traditions this year:

14: Making Cookies: This was the first time we ever made cookies with the boys. We would give them a ball of dough and they quickly caught on to patting it out, using cookie cutters, and their favorite part - sprinkles!
They really liked it. When I was packing up all of our Christmas stuff in the living room the other day, Silas saw the bag of cookie cutters and immediately took them into the kitchen... since that is where you use them!
I remember making sugar cookies with my grandma and the other grandkids each year. I cherish those memories. I know my boys might grow out of this, but I am going to enjoy it while it lasts!
{Their little works of art!}

15: A Hands on Nativity: When the boys are old enough I want to start making some nativity scenes with them. This year we used a felt one as a manipulative that really helped them learn the Christmas story.
We tried to do it every day. By the end of December they could identify each of the characters as I told them the story.

We had a great month of celebrating the birth of our Savior! We pray that all of you had a wonderful Christmas as well.

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