Monday, January 12, 2009

Christmas Vignettes IV: The Experiment

Christmas morning at the Wilcox house was a little different this year. Since Christmas Day always includes a three-hour car trip to my grandparents' house in Virginia, Christmas morning always ends up feeling rushed, harried. There's so much to do before we travel: a special breakfast to eat, Bible stories to read, stockings and gifts to open, new toys to assemble and explore, Christmas clothes to be put on, a car to be loaded up... Inevitably, we arrive at Gran's later than we would like. I know some families who solve this problem by backing up the gift exchange to Christmas Eve, but Dave's job strikes that option for us, since he works all day and evening for our Christmas Eve service at church.

So we switched it up this year. We did our little family's exchange early in December, on one of Dave's days off--the 8th, I think it was. It was an experiment, and we weren't sure if we would like it. Would the gifts be less special because they weren't opened on sacred December 25th?! Well, no, as it turned out--at least, not for us. In fact, we loved it doing it this way. We had the whole day (or at least until nap time) to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, open gifts, and let the kids play with them. No rushing through anything, no anxiety, no push.

We capped off the day by taking the kids out to dinner and driving through the lights at Great Seneca State Park. It was Meg and Matthew's first time seeing the display, and they were mesmerized. Meg sat on my lap in the front seat as we crawled around at about 5 mph. She alternated between awed silence and excited narration. ("Look, Daddy, a penguin and a teddy bear! See it? See it, Little Bugga? See the penguin and the teddy bear?") Matthew, who remained in his car seat, spent the entire ride with the most rapt smile on his face. He never made a sound until we were out of the park. (Very unusual for him--he normally does NOT like slow car trips.)

So where did that leave us when the real Christmas morning rolled around?

Our main goal was to celebrate Jesus' birthday in a way that would be fun and exciting for the kids. So... we had birthday cake for breakfast. Here it is:
Christmas Cake

And here it is again, immediately before the word "birthday" was rendered illegible.
Christmas Cake 2

Christmas Cake 3

Christmas Cake 4

After breakfast, we read our special Christmas morning book, This Is the Star. And we closed out our Advent celebration with Meg finally getting to place Baby Jesus in the manger. This was a major highlight for Meg--so much so that she actually sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" with us that morning, as I mentioned here.

Oh, and we did let them open one present--it was the one that happened to be under the tree, since we had just received it that weekend. Thank you for the book, Aunt K! What a great choice. I know that I can always trust you to add to our library in a beautiful way! Meg loooooves it, and we have already enjoyed it many times!
Christmas Cake 5

All in all, it was a sweet and simple morning. Of course, it didn't go perfectly. Dave and I were sort of tired from the previous evening's show, so we overslept, which pushed everything a little later than we'd planned. But it was still a far cry from previous years, with much less packed into the schedule. And it really was refreshing to spend Christmas morning with a more single-minded emphasis on Jesus Christ, the Great Gift.

And we got to Gran's in time for Christmas supper, which was a first. Merry Christmas to us.

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