Merry Christmas! We have been looking at the concept of Jubilee and rest, but at Christmastime I want to pause and reflect upon the Christmas season. We will pick up where we left off with Jubilee in the New Year. You may recall I set out to Savor 2020. In the Spirit of savoring, I want to challenge us to Savor Christmas. To be fully present and enjoy every moment with friends and family.
To that end, I want to share with you three of my family’s holiday traditions:
1. Christmas Baking
I love to bake, and I especially love to bake with my kids. At Christmastime we have a tradition of making copious amounts of Christmas cookies and sharing them with teachers, friends and family. I want to share with you one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes – Molasses Sugar Cookies. These cookies are not only delicious, but as they bake, they will fill your home with the aroma of pure Christmas – cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Enjoy!
Molasses Sugar Cookies
¾ cup butter
1 cup sugar (you will need additional sugar to roll the dough in before baking too)
¼ cup light unsulfured molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 375° . Melt butter and let stand until cooled. Mix in sugar, molasses and egg.
- Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt and nutmeg. Stir into butter mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Shape dough into 1” ball. Roll each dough ball in sugar, coating completely. Place on cookie sheet 2” apart.
- Bake cookies until they start to crack, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
We also always make homemade sugar cookies every year from a family recipe, but I discovered a shortcut this year I want to share with you. These cookies taste the same as the recipe I typically make, but it shaves significant time off the process and eliminates the step of refrigerating the dough 2-3 hours. Thus, you can jump right into the fun of rolling out the dough and cookie cutters.
Betty Crocker sells a bagged Sugar Cookie Mix. Follow the “For Cutout Cookies” recipe, but add ½ tsp Almond Extract. After the cookies have baked and cooled, we normally glaze the cookies with a brown butter glaze before frosting and decorating. My kids love to decorate these cookies!
My husband tasted these unaware they had come from a bag mix and was thrilled we had made the much more time-consuming family recipe!
2. Jesse Tree
Every year we set up two trees in our great room – a Christmas Tree and a Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is an advent tree. My MOPS group did a Jesse Tree Ornament exchange where moms could sign up to make 25 of the same ornament. We then had an exchange where moms each received 25 different ornaments, one for each day of the advent. Since I have three kids, I discovered my kids were much happier and more engaged when they were each able to hang an ornament every day. So, I did the exchange 3 times to accumulate 3 sets.
The idea is that each day in December your child hangs an ornament on the tree, and you explain the meaning of it. Each ornament represents a Bible Story and each one points to the birth of Christ. There are even books you can buy and read to your kids for each day.
Now I’ll be honest, this is meant to be a daily task, but I am terrible at daily tasks. I don’t sweat it though. In my house this looks more like every couple days the kids get to put multiple ornaments on the tree. I have one of those books, but I prefer to ask my kids if they know what the ornament represents and talk to them about it. We have been doing this for a while and I am familiar with the stories, so I feel comfortable doing this. You can do it however you like.
3. A Play Christmas Village
I have four large bins full of Christmas decorations. Yet, every year when we decorate, I leave a portion of those decorations in the bins. Why? Because they are fragile, have sentimental value and I have young children. I realized early on the draw of the decorations for my kids. At that time my kids were really into Fisher Price Little People. They were even gifted Christmas Little People.
So, every year I pack up those Christmas Little People with the decorations. Then when we decorate the kids pull those out of the bins. We have a designated area next to the Jesse Tree for their Christmas Village. The kids arrange it themselves and we have established it is fair game for play all Christmas season. They can touch and play with it all they want.
The point is these decorations are for playing and the others aren’t. We still have the occasional broken decoration, but my kids love playing with their Christmas Village. This year they even added a Lego Santa’s Workshop.
FYI, my kids are honestly beyond the Little People years, but they still love to play with these toys that only come out at Christmas. You can make a kid-friendly Christmas Village Play area out of any toys your children will enjoy. The contents aren’t important, it’s the concept and the idea that these decorations are fair game for them to touch and play with as often as they like.
I hope these ideas have encouraged you to try something new with your family to Savor this Christmas Season. We will pick up again with Jubilee and forgiveness in the New Year. Until then I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May this Christmas Season bring to light all that is good and the blessings in our lives. May we Savor time with family and friends. May we find rest and peace. And most of all may we find the wonder and love of God’s greatest gift to us – a baby born in a manager who was sent to redeem us all – Jesus.