Sunday, January 30, 2011

Holy Days

There's probably an unwritten rule somewhere about writing your Christmas post before February of the next year, so I'm attempting to meet the deadline.

This Christmas was different from any of our previous Christmases, in large part because our children are home all the time now. In past years, December has signaled an onslaught of events, invitations, and school-related obligations, buckets of candy brought home from school parties by the children, endless requests for toys, treats and entertainment, a focus on "neutral" holiday figures like Rudolph and Frosty, and a general lack of true Christmas spirit. I am NOT blaming public schools for this; much of it is done with good intent, and schools are by law no longer allowed to recognize Christ in Christmas. And it was easy for us as a family to get caught up in the busyness of holiday parties and choir concerts because we were expected to participate.

One of the best parts of homeschooling is that we have the freedom to choose our own focus during this sacred time of year. We had a Family Home Evening at the end of November to read and discuss our prophet's words about the true spirit of Christmas. We wanted to plan ways to keep that spirit in our home and to make this Christmas a peaceful, reverent time of worship. Our goal was to have a Christ-centered holy month.

We handpicked a few simple things we wanted to do during the month of December: plan and carry out a service project of some kind, sing Christmas songs together, read inspiring stories, enjoy spending time with family....

We also carefully selected what NOT to do: we would finish our shopping early, and limit gifts to a few useful items; we would avoid focusing on Santa Claus as if he were the center of our celebration; we would keep it simple and try not to overbook ourselves.

The results were glorious. We had a candlelight devotional every night in which we read an inspiring Christmas story from a church magazine or a message from one of the prophets. We invited a few of our ward friends who live alone over for an evening of Christmas music (the children put on a short program) and cookies. We drove around our town and looked at the Christmas lights without worrying about rushing to be on time for anything. For our school time we read A Christmas Carol and excerpts from the Little House on the Prairie books. We memorized Bible verses about the Savior's birth. We studied the life and music of George Handel. The children were speechless as we listened to the Hallelujah chorus. We talked of Christ, rejoiced in Christ, and worshipped Christ.

We didn't stress out about shopping or wrapping because we kept it simple. (We didn't have a huge post-Christmas credit card bill either!) We didn't bake tons of different cookies and deliver them to all our friends. We didn't have a month-long sugar high and cranky, overscheduled children. We didn't visit the mall Santa and then feel obligated to purchase whatever toy our child told Santa was the only thing in the world he wanted for Christmas (even though he never once mentioned said item to his parents.) We didn't feel that let-down at the end of Christmas day: "What? It's over already? But I didn't get to enjoy it!" We did have time to enjoy it. That was the best part. There was plenty of time for a classic movie like Little Women, an act of service for a neighbor, or a lazy afternoon of reading all cuddled on the couch under a blanket. And there was room in our home for the Savior.

It was the best Christmas we've ever had.

Marty and Abram

Mr. Peeps, our house elf

We brought home a live tree this year! Marty really was happy to decorate it - not sure why he resembles the Grinch in this picture.

Isaac begged to shovel our elderly neighbor's driveway every day; it was really heartwarming.

Abram sees the Christmas tree lights for the first time.

Family - it was wonderful to have all of my brothers and their families in town

Uncle Danny, the human jungle gym
(he swears he's the favorite uncle)