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BR Parents Blog: A Christmas We Didn’t Expect Might Be the One We Need

Originally posted on Baton Rouge Parents magazine blog.

2020 has been a year we didn’t expect, so a Christmas that looks different will fit right in.

In this upside down season in an upside down time, some of the Walker family’s holiday traditions can remain intact. I’m not entirely bah-humbug and am looking forward to making at least some sparkly magic with my girls at the end of this unbelievable year.

One thing we love to do each year, which is on-brand with my goal of raising readers, is open a Christmas-themed children’s book each night in December leading up to the big day. 2019 Mari did 2020 Mari a solid by wrapping them–all 48, because although my girls will share, it’s really hard to watch someone else open a gift, even reopening the same book for the fifth or tenth time. To wrap, I used tissue paper sourced from after-Christmas clearance (see you again in 2021, I hope), so all I have to do is get out the wrapped books, put them in a basket and let both girls pick one each night. 

I go a little nuts with the Advent calendars in general–I have the 99-cent ones from Trader Joe’s with chocolate, Melissa & Doug countdown-to-Christmas trees with magnet ornaments (two again, because the who-puts-the-ornament-on-today was exhausting and I got a deal), and because 2020 has sucked, I got them each a character Advent calendar (LEGO Harry Potter for  nine year old and Doorables for four year old). I’ve decided not to fill the Arendelle castle calendars we used last year (without realizing they were empty when I bought them!), but I’ll keep them in case we want to re-fill them in future years. Elsa & Anna are always in style at our house.

Of course we decorate the house with a tree, wreath, stockings, garland and twinkly lights, wear matching jams, watch classic holiday movies and shows together, and although we don’t celebrate Santa the way many families do, we will make cookies and other treats, just like we would any “normal” year. Plenty of Christmas crafting happens, and I know that will continue this year. I might even break and allow glitter! And our annual dressed-up-in-front-of- the-tree family photo with the camera and timer will definitely happen!

But other traditions will give way to something else, something new; something smaller but certainly not less.

Christmas Eve may look like the four of us worshiping along with a video rather than the girls dressed up as animals in the barn for the “live” nativity in our church’s sanctuary. We will still worship. We won’t welcome house guests or travel to see family this year. We will still offer hospitality by staying home to protect the health of those we love and even those we don’t know. We’ll also have an amazing Christmas dinner for just the four of us, and we’ll be sure to share our abundance with our church’s incredible food ministry and its Great Turkey Giveaway on December 19.

A different, smaller holiday season, a smaller celebration won’t have to diminish the wonder and joy that can come from preparing for and celebrating Christmas. Stripping things down could perhaps give us new vision, allowing us to experience the season in entirely new ways as our hearts are cracked open one more time.

What are some of your favorite holiday or winter traditions? How will you adapt your season to fit with COVID-19 best practices and restrictions? Any ideas for new traditions we might consider adding to our list?