It's snowing here at home today! And the kids are all wrapped in big blankets while doing their schoolwork. Of course, that makes me think ahead to the upcoming holiday season, and what kinds of things I will be preparing for it.
The fondest tradition that we have is making our nativity set the central focus of our Christmas decorations and festivities. We do all we can to keep Jesus at the center of it all. Without even delving into the topic of whether He really came on December 25th or not (which makes a very interesting study!) the truth of the matter is that if you don't plan what you want the top priority to be for your family, then your kids will set their own agenda, which usually includes thinking first and foremost of themselves and what presents they would like to have!
Since this post is on decorating only though, let me get back to the Nativity set... At the beginning of December (or sometime after Thanksgiving) we set up an empty stable. I will put a few animals in it, and maybe a shepherd or two to take care of those animals. We started out with a lovely ceramic Nativity set, but over the years, have replaced the pieces as we come across resin ones, since little hands and ceramic pieces don't seem to mix well! (Yes, we do have an ear-less donkey that still resides in our little stable, though!)
In the beginning of the month of December, we introduce Mary, Joseph, and one old donkey to the mix, only we do not set them up in the stable. Every night we hide them somewhere in the house, and the kids have to find them. You see - they are on a journey to Bethlehem, so they cannot just sit idly in the stable for weeks! As the days to Christmas draw closer, Mary and Joseph get closer and closer to the stable. They have been found in some interesting places: the fridge, the laundry chute, shopping bags, nestled into a wreath hanging on the wall....
On Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph finally arrive at the stable, set up centrally in the middle of the living room. Dad reads the Christmas story, and the kids go to bed. While they are sleeping, baby Jesus arrives and takes up residence in the stable, joining Mary, Joseph, an angel, and the animals.
Later on, usually in the evening of Christmas Day, we will bring out the shepherds and add them to the stable setting. We do bring in the Wise Men later on in the week to complete the story, and then leave the Nativity Set out for the kids to play with and reenact the Christmas story. Even though they are growing older, they still do enjoy this activity which has become a unique tradition for our family.