It all starts with a list that I hang up on the refrigerator on Christmas eve after the kids go to bed. The list contains each day of Christmas, and what special thing we will do that day. I mix it up with some easy things and some more involved things. The easy things, like watching a Christmas movie or coloring lunch bags, give me a much needed break during the 12 days, while the more involved things, like going for a hike or going to see Christmas lights, take a little more planning, but I don't put anything on the list that is super-involved or time-consuming. Part of the joy of Christmas, in my opinion, should be keeping it simple and easy and relaxed.
Anyhow, once the gifts are opened and the candy binge ends, the kids love to run to the refrigerator on Christmas morning to see what fun things they will be doing during the rest of Christmas. I'm always pleasantly surprised by just how excited they get over reading the list, and I think they look forward to that as much as opening their gifts. It also has really helped drive home the idea that Christmas doesn't begin until December 25, which allows us to put more emphasis on Advent during the weeks before.
Even after the 12 days ends, we still celebrate by eating leftover candy, using our Christmas dishes, listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas videos, and leaving all our decorations and tree up. But after the Baptism of the Lord (tomorrow), we'll take our decorations down and put away the Christmas dishes, and eat the last of the candy (I must stop eating candy!). However, our Christmas lights and nativity will stay out until Candlemas (February 2) partly to remember the old 40-days of Christmas tradition, and partly because I love having the lights up in the house during the long, dark evenings of winter.
If you haven't done the 12-days of Christmas tradition with your family yet, I really encourage you to give it a try. Just keep it easy and work from there. Sometimes, we forget just how little it takes to make a child happy. Below is our list from this year (since we homeschool year-round, not doing lessons is a big way to celebrate) and a few photos from our 12-days of Christmas. Do you do this tradition? If so, I'd love to hear what you do!
Tuesday - December 25 - Day 1: NO LESSONS, Gifts, Steak
Wednesday - December 26 - Day 2: NO LESSONS, Go on a picnic; eat birthday cake
Thursday - December 27 - Day 3: NO LESSONS, Go see Christmas lights
Friday - December 28 - Day 4: NO LESSONS, Decorate Graves (Feast of Holy Innocents)
Saturday – December 29 –Day 5: Family Hike
Sunday – December 30 – Day 6: Saint Bingo (Feast of the Holy Family)
Monday – December 31 – Day 7: NO LESSONS, Lunch with our priest then go to Mass
Tuesday – January 1 – Day 8: NO LESSONS, Stay with grandparents; Christmas Bird Count
Wednesday – January 2 – Day 9: LESSONS, Family Christmas movie & make kettlecorn
Thursday – January 3 – Day 10: Co-op; decorate lunch bags (Feast of Holy Name of Jesus)
Friday – January 4 – Day 11: LESSONS, Adoration
Saturday – January 5 – Day 12 (12th Night): Make treats
Sunday – January 6 – Epiphany Party; Gifts