Thanks for hanging in there to get to this part - the ideas! You were so generous to share your ideas with me and now I can pass them on to more people. Thank you!
I hope you find a nugget or two that will help you steward the holidays in such a way as to bless your family. Just a reminder - do not look at these ideas as a "to do list"! Don't let yourself think that to be a "good mom" you need to do them all - or even any of them! Let's keep our eyes on the goal of genuinely joyful holidays, drawing near to Christ and to each other. Family relationships grow through simple (keepable) traditions and time spent together - not in knocking out lots of activities to post on FB!
Some (ok, most!) of these ideas are very simple (intentionally) but a few require some planning and elbow grease. If there are things listed that you like but resources don't allow wise execution of the idea, remember there is always next year. Bless, don't stress.
1. Read the Christmas story. Yes, read the account in Luke of Jesus's birth. Such a simple thing but amazingly easy not to do. Make this a priority - over presents and parties and everything else - read the Christmas story. Maybe even on Thanksgiving - thanking God for His indescribable gift! And again and again in December. The kids might even hear it enough to recite it by Christmas Eve - your own Charlie Brown production!
2. Speaking of Thanksgiving - begin a journal and record each year five things each person present is thankful for. In our family, we enjoy reading the previous years' lists out loud before we eat our Thanksgiving feast. It's a precious record of growing kids, seeing how their lists change from year to year.
3. Another Thanksgiving idea some of you shared is to create a "Thankful Tree". According to your level of energy and/or creativity, you can make a tree from a branch off the wood pile or a poster board on your kitchen wall. Have art supplies nearby so family members can add a daily "I'm thankful for..." leaf and then read them aloud together before your Thanksgiving feast.
4. Other friends shared that they give their kids Christmas PJs on Thanksgiving night as a way to kick off the Advent season. Here are some suggestions for Advent celebrations - http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2010/11/baby-steps-for-celebrating-advent-a-cornucopia-of-ideas/ I especially like the one about setting up a nativity scene and adding a piece of straw to the manger whenever a kind act is observed!
5. Not a "thankful tree" but a Jesse Tree is another idea. Without going into all the details here, I am sharing a link that will explain and guide you through this idea. It is an Advent idea, placing an ornament on a "tree" every day, displaying how Jesus is promised and foretold all the way through Scripture. This is a powerful Gospel message that you can deliver in small doses daily. The ornaments can be simple or elaborate, depending on what suits you. When I have a discipleship group, we end our year together by making these for each gal. I love looking at all the sets I have and how they are a sweet reminder of women who are very important to me! My daughter Katie is hosting a Jesse Tree ornament exchange this year - each woman will make duplicates of one ornament to share and then leave with an entire set - like a cookie swap! Here is a link with more info on that - https://www.dosaygive.com/jesse-tree-ornament-exhange/
6. One of my (most fav :) ) readers shared an idea that helps planning the holidays, involving each family member, and creating sweet memories - she calls it "The Holiday Bucket List". Early in the season, they sit down as a family and make a list of the things they want to be sure they do during the holidays. Each person gets to contribute (and parents get to approve before it goes on the list!) And lest you fear kids will insist on a Disney Christmas cruise, my friend says the things that top her kids' lists are sweet, simple traditions like hot cocoa by the fire, seeing Christmas lights in a certain neighborhood, and reading a book aloud together. Things that remind us that kids enjoy time spent together more than elaborate, stressful events.
7. Several readers said they were intentional about providing opportunities for their children to focus on others during a season that tempts us to be otherwise selfish. One suggestion was a "Good Deeds Bracelet" - I'll let my friend tell you in her own words - ". Last year we gave them each a 100 Good Deeds bracelet. The premise is to "move" a bead every time they do something nice for someone, anyone. It can be any act of kindness..paying for someone's meal, talking to someone who's lonely, etc. The bracelet doesn't force them to be kind but it does remind them. My children are compassionate by nature and I want to encourage that wonderful trait." I love this idea!
8. Another "others-focused" idea came from a friend, well, actually, her Mom. Each year at Thanksgiving, the grandmother gives each child an amount of money...to spend on someone else. When they reconvene at Christmas, they share the stories of how the money was spent,rather invested in someone else! So many sweet things to share - from groceries taken to a man dying of cancer to coffee and donuts distributed to Salvation Army bell-ringers to gifts purchased for children of incarcerated parents with a note of the love of our Heavenly Father for them.
9. Lots of creative ideas for helping our families focus on loving others - one of my favorites that my youngest daughter and I did one year was "RACK's" - Random Acts of Christmas Kindnesses". Here is a link with some ideas that you can adapt for your own family https://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/advent-calendar-idea-random-acts-of-christmas-kindness/
10. One of my friends, realizing that so many folks have family too far away and would likely be alone during the holidays, hosts a relaxed Christmas Night party. Everyone brings their leftovers or whatever they want to share and they create an enormous eclectic potluck! At some point during the evening, they have a Birthday Cake for Jesus as well as sharing prayer requests on index cards that my friend saves and prays for throughout the year.
11. Another prayer idea is one my family greatly enjoys. We save our Christmas cards every year and draw one or two out each day to pray for that family. Through the years, our kids have "gotten to know" our friends from other cities from these cards/pictures and our telling their stories as we pray for them. It is so fun to see the kids grow up through the years!
12. Establish a "no gifts" policy (gulp) for a year or two...or three or four... and instead have that money given to missions or your favorite charity. On the years we have done this, I promise we didn't miss the gifts at all.
13. Spread the season out! Instead of cramming all the things you want to do before December 25, let some spill out into the week after Christmas. This slows down the pace and helps with post holiday letdown. We love seeing the Holiday Light displays after Christmas Day (and splurging on hot Krispy Kreme donuts on the ride home!)
14. Not sure what category this fits into but it's a great idea for moms of littles - to encourage sibling love and gift giving, consider having a "Mom store". Purchase lots of small gifts and then let your kids "shop" one at a time for their siblings...with money they have earned doing chores!