Capturing the Magic of the Season

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Capturing the Magic of the Season - how do we push past the hard things, the challenges of the holidays to bring joy to our families?

Our Christmas tree, the real one, not the cheap, fake tabletop one I bought, is sitting in the front yard, right now, dripping wet. It’s a family tradition, passed down from my dad. The tree can’t come inside until it’s washed. Washed, people.

My husband humored me in the early years of marriage until he realized that washing the tree was an effective means of getting debris, bugs, and dead pine needles off the tree before bringing it inside. Yes, really. I got a high five from a friend whose husband refused to wash the tree when she asked. Now their floor is covered with five million pine needles. Ahem.

Ours is a tree straight out of a Peanuts cartoon. We didn’t pick it out like we normally do, instead buying it from a local school fundraiser. It’s a bit short, and lopsided, and sad looking. That’s okay. My kids won’t notice that.

Capturing the Magic of the Season - how do we push past the hard things, the challenges of the holidays to bring joy to our families?

What they notice are the special ornaments that we use every year. They’ll notice the new ones we bought for everyone. They’ll notice the lights. And, yes, the broken string that only blinks sometimes. And the cross on the top of the tree.

As I get older, trimming the tree feels like a duty. There I said it. If I’m honest with myself, I just want it up and decorated. I don’t exactly love the process, anymore. Some of the magic is gone from my own experience. But, I know that it’s important to my kids.

In times like these, their joy becomes my joy.

How do we recapture the magic?

We just got back from spending three days in Santa Barbara. Usually we go a little farther north and stay with the grandparents. This time we stayed with friends in town and visited with the grandparents over dinner one night.

On our way back to our friends’ house, we took “the long way” in order to catch some light looking. Several streets were done up nicely with lights and outdoor displays. The excitement in my kids’ voices was contagious. I loved hearing them ooh and ahh over the different light displays.

That adds to the magic; that creates the magic for me: doing fun things with my kids and seeing their joy.

That’s what I remind myself of when I drag a still damp tree into the house or wrangle with Christmas lights to hang. This is making memories with my children. This is bringing “magic” and joy and delight into our home.

The kids don’t know it, but the school plan has changed today so that we can decorate the tree, do some baking, and rock around the Christmas tree.

Speaking of which, I don’t think the FishMouse has made his appearance this year.

Goofy though he may be, it’s things like the Christmas FishMouse that help us make memories together. While we’re not doing all the Christmas-y things there are, here are some of the little touches that make Christmas special for my kids and that are easy to incorporate into our days:

  • snowmen mugs and hot cocoa (bonus points for marshmallows or whipped cream)
  • decorating the Christmas tree
  • reading Christmas stories (we have a big collection now)
  • watching Christmas movies
  • baking Christmas cookies
  • playing the FishMouse about fifty times too many
  • hanging Christmas stockings
  • lighting the stairwell with colored lights

Capturing the Magic of the Season - how do we push past the hard things, the challenges of the holidays to bring joy to our families?

This year a new addition to their traditions has been to use the North Pole Communicator that Hallmark sent us. Even though we don’t “do Santa”, the three littles have faithfully played the messages every morning.

And if he’s honest, FishBoy9 is a little miffed when the girls play the message without him. The recording only plays once per day, so if you snooze, you lose. Literally. It’s hilarious to watch the girls huddle in a bed each morning and pretend they are talking to the elves at the North Pole.

These are the things that make memories. These things, though fairly unimportant to the rotation of the earth and the workings of the world, are the things that give my kids sweet memories of Christmas, of home, and of our life together.

That is magic worth capturing.

What’s something that’s hard for you to pull off (like my tree decorating) that you know brings value to your kids’ experience?

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Disclosure: I have been compensated by Hallmark for my time spent writing. All opinions are my own.

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  1. Like you, I’m over putting up the tree and decorating it. However, same as you, it’s super important for my children so I make sure it happens one way or another. It’s gotten easier now that they are older (9, 11, 11) and can do a lot of it themselves.

    Another thing we do even though it’s kind of a pain is go camping with the family. We have a small pop up trailer, so it’s not as hard as it could be, but it still takes a lot of preparation to make sure things go well, In addition we often throw the 15′ canoe on top of the ol’ Suburban as well because . . . well, the kids like to canoe out on the lake at our favorite camping spot. My husband I will remind ourselves we’re not camping, we’re making memories for our children.

  2. Decorating the Christmas tree is not one of my favorite things to do either. Neither grandmother was able to coax a single grandchild to decorate theirs. I have a secret weapon up my sleeve. Every year our girls choose an ornament to buy for themselves. Each girl has their own storage box too. When it’s time to decorate our tree the girls rush to dig out their box, unfold the tissue paper and stroll down memory lane. It’s fun to have watched their tastes change over the years.

    When each of them leave for good because they’re not coming back, they will be able to take a box of ornaments of their own with them. And when the last one leaves? I get to pay a decorator to come and make me a tree just like the boutique!

    When the Christmas stuff goes away back into the boxes for next year, I bring out all my snowman items for the month of January. We all have a hard time adjusting to the bare look of January.

  3. I love that you were talking about the making the magic for your children. I’m such a kid at Christmas, so I start to “believe” in magic this time of year myself, but even if I didn’t on my own, I would believe in magic every time I watch the lights sparkling in my baby’s eyes. I run, excited, to make that magic for my children, and for myself. I’ll also take anybody along who will come!

  4. I find that the older I get, kids or not, I am sort of bah-humbug. Maybe not having my parents around anymore takes something away. I used to love everything and looked forward to all the decorating. Being in the real world with a full time job and all that comes with that and two kids just takes all my spunk away. I did put up a real tree this year because my daughter wanted one. If I didn’t have them to force me to decorate, I don’t know that I would. Question though, when you say you don’t do Santa, I really wanted to go that route but it’s just impossible when we are surrounded by kids and school who make it what it is. I imagine being homeschooled makes things like that a little easier to tackle, but how do you give your kids a “kid” Christmas and still keep things realistic?

    1. Yeah, I imagine homeschooling does make things a little easier. Our kids still get the surprises of Christmas, they just know that we bought the presents. (Reasons here: There are still lots of fun things and surprises.

      The funny thing, though, is that kids’ imaginations will still lean toward Santa. My girls will ask, “That’s not the real Santa, right?” Even though we’ve talked about what’s what. They still get their fair share of pretend.