By Sarah Hamaker, Crosswalk.com
The Christmas I was seven or eight, my parents surprised me with a dollhouse my father had built, and my mother decorated. When I walked down the stairs Christmas morning, there it was, sitting in front of the Christmas tree. My eyes must have popped out of my head; I was so excited and shocked. That and a few other Christmases stand out in my childhood memory as the most magical of December 25ths. (We won’t talk about the Christmas the stomach flu visited my childhood home or the year head lice nearly derailed our children’s Christmas—some holiday memories are best forgotten.)
As parents, we want our children to enjoy the wonder of Christmas. After all, the reason we celebrate is one of the most “magical” stories of all—a God who came willingly to earth as a human baby to grow up to die on the cross for our sins. The Christmas story has all the wonder and awe anyone could imagine.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t create some sugar-plum-fairy dust of our own to put stars in our children’s eyes. Before we talk about how you can make Christmas morning more magical for your children, let’s discuss two things we should not do.
We shouldn’t ignore the true reason for the season. To give our kids a wonderful Christmas, we have to start with a tale as old as time—the birth of our Savior. Putting Christ front and center in our Christmas morning celebrations will ground our children and us.
We shouldn’t try to buy magic with gifts. In other words, making Christmas morning filled with wonder doesn’t have to come with a high price tag. We can give our children a magical Christmas without spending a fortune.
Here are ten tips for adding a little Christmas magic to December 25.
1. Start with baby Jesus.
Our children know that the first thing we do before doling out the gifts piled high under the tree is read the story of Jesus’ birth from Matthew or Luke. Maybe your family sings “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Whatever your tradition, beginning Christmas morning with our Savior brings natural awe to the proceedings.
2. Make an entrance.
There’s something magical about waking up to see the living room transformed overnight. One way to do this is to “wrap” the entrance where the Christmas tree is located. After the kids go to bed, cover the entryway or door with wrapping paper so the children can bust through on Christmas morning. Another less messy way is to put all the gifts under the tree after the kids are in bed so that they won’t see all the presents until the morning.
3. Slow down.
Some kids want to rip through the wrapping paper as fast as they can, but you can’t rush magic. Slow down the gift opening to create both anticipation and a sense of fun. Some families start with the youngest, allowing each person to open one gift at a time until all the gifts are opened. Some draw numbers to order the gift opening. Some allow one person at a time to open all their gifts at once.
Whatever you decide, avoid a free-for-all and institute order to your present opening. This also allows Mom or Dad to track who gave what gift to which child, making it easier to write thank-you notes after Christmas. (You are going to make your kids write thank-you notes, right? To help, I’m giving away my ebook Reviving the Lost Art of Writing Thank You Notes for free.)
4. Draw out the gifts.
Some presents lend themselves to a days-long opening schedule, which you’ll need to start before Christmas. Here’s one example I did when our two girls were younger, based on something my mother did for me one memorable Christmas. Starting a week before Christmas, each morning, my girls awoke to find two of their dolls dressed in brand-new outfits and a short story written about the doll’s adventures for the day. The outfits—and adventures—grew more elaborate as the time marched closer to Christmas, culminating in beautiful ball gowns. It was such fun to see their eager faces and excited chatter as they listened to the stories and played with their dolls ahead of December 25.
5. Have a special breakfast.
When I asked my two teenage sons what made Christmas magical, both mentioned one of our traditional breakfast items. The first Christmas I spent with my now-husband, he introduced me to jelly cake, a family Christmas morning tradition we’ve carried on with our own kids. Nothing says Christmas morning to our children more than a slice of jelly cake covered in powdered sugar. A few years later, we added a sausage-and-grits casserole to the must-haves for our Christmas morning breakfast. Create your own special December 25 breakfast, and watch the memories grow.
6. Tap into the older generation for assistance.
Grandparents have a wealth of magic at their fingertips—and they often have the time to make the magic happen. If you’re strapped for time, try asking grandma and grandpa for ideas or help to create the magical morning you envision. Most grandparents would be delighted to bring their creativity and energy to making their grandkids smile.
7. Play games.
Someone always got a group game for Christmas in my family, and we always played it in the afternoon after the gifts were opened. This can be a wonderful way to spend time together as a family.
8. Watch a Christmas movie together.
Some families have a favorite holiday movie they watch every Christmas Day. Pop fresh popcorn, heat up some hot cocoa, and snuggle down to view a classic like Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life or more recent favorites like The Christmas Chronicles or The Polar Express.
9. Play seek-and-find.
If your kids enjoy hunting for Easter eggs, they might also enjoy seeking candy canes hidden around the house. This is a good game to play in the afternoon after the presents have been opened, but the kids still have plenty of energy. A twist on this game would be to hide one final present for each of the children somewhere in the house, but you don’t tell them about it until mid-afternoon. Be prepared for squeals of joy!
10. Export the magic.
Some families enjoy volunteering on December 25 at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen to share Christmas with others. You can also spread joy by baking treats for your neighbors or inviting some of the older folks in your church or area to Christmas dinner. Often, international college students can’t make the trip home over the holidays, so consider asking some of them to enjoy Christmas with you. Magic shared is even more magical.
Incorporating some or all of these suggestions will make your Christmas Day a little bit more magical and exciting for you and your children. But don’t worry if your magic generator is a little rusty or if the thought of adding one more thing to your to-do list is overwhelming. The very idea of Christmas is magic itself, so rest assured, your children will see that come December 25.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images_svetikd
Sarah Hamaker is a national speaker and award-winning author who loves writing romantic suspense books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s also a wife, mother of four teenagers, a therapeutic foster mom, a UMFS Foster Parent Ambassador, and podcaster (The Romantic Side of Suspense podcast). She's a biblical parent coach and certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ with a heart for helping parents develop stronger relationships with their children. For more on her encouraging and commonsense approach to raising kids, visit her online at sarahhamaker.com.