Yesterday Angela and I started making plans for Christmas. It may be the last time we get David and Stephanie in the same room at the same time–and for a holiday–so we want to make it special. (David and Stephanie, if you are reading this, you might as well stop now. There are no spoilers. Ok, maybe a few.) And of course, we will get to see Flora and Cristopher and their kids, and hopefully Skype with Carmen and Cristian and their precious babies.
There are three things that go into making a holiday family time special. Here they are in ascending order:
#3 – Traditions. Traditions help build an identity around intentional family time. For us, there are several Christmas traditions. The foods we eat, the music we listen to, and even the movies we watch. For years, “A Christmas Story” was the one we had to see. Then a few years back we added “Elf” to the list. (Please don’t get me and David started quoting lines from our favorite movies. The title of this blog is of course from “Elf.” Feel free to comment on this article with your favorite Elf quote. There are so many good ones!
But traditions can also be managed for maximum benefit. We used to decorate our tree a week after Stephanie’s birthday. But now, with David and Stephanie arriving within a few minutes of each other on December 16, we will be pushing our tree decoration back until the seventeenth. This way everyone gets in on the action. So let traditions give your family time structure, but don’t be so married to the traditions that you lose sight of the goal.
#2 – Time. Speaking of movies, the made-for-TV holiday movies all follow the same formula. Everyone gets together for Christmas but stays focused on their own lives. No one connects. Some are distracted, some are angry. Then something bad happens, and everyone has to pitch in together to save Christmas. And by doing that they all realize how selfish they have been and so Christmas is saved (usually at a church watching children re-enact the Christmas story.)
Yeah, right. So much truth to that except for the happy ending. People don’t usually snap out of selfishness. You either go to visit family and focus on them, or you don’t. So make sure you plan to leave the cell phones in the other room, and turn the TV off. Put on nice music, pull out the board games, or mix a hot drink and share stories from your lives.
Be intentional about your time together.
#1 – Anticipation. Start talking about it now. Do you realize we are just 10 weeks away from Christmas? Yeah. Let that sink in. I know we still have Thanksgiving, but trust me you better get serious. You haven’t even started shopping yet. And more importantly, you haven’t even started teasing your kids about how great it is going to be this year.
So get busy. Build some anticipation. It makes the event that much more fun.
[SPOILER] Kids? Want to know what I have planned? “First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.” (Buddy, the Elf)