Dinner under the stars in Jerusalem … My favorite family tradition!

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Kind of off the topic of Deals – but my favorite family tradition I wanted to share!

Let’s face it – with all the commercials and toys and Santas at the mall, the lights, the plays, the sledding, the outings, it can be really hard to control just what part of Christmas our kids really focus on.

We have a super fun tradition of Lucinda – the Christmas Elf (like Elf on the Shelf), who shows up and does all kinds of crazy stuff.  She’s from the North Pole and reports to Santa how the girls behavior is doing.  She also is a bit of a goof ball… we find her sleeping in the kids beds some mornings.  She loves to sleep in stockings too – and she is a HUGE mess-maker when she pops herself some popcorn at night while we are sleeping, you can ALWAYS see the evidence…  Once we found out she’d been cruising around in the minivan at night!  It was parked backwards in the driveway, the door was open, and when we turned on the car, Christmas music was blaring on the stereo.  She often turns up with fresh baked cinnamon rolls in the morning or has hot cocoa all ready for us when we come home from a night out in the cold.  Very occasionally, she brings a Christmas movie from the North Pole. Having Lucinda around has really brought a lot of fun and magic to our Christmas season, but with Lucinda pulling a prank nearly every day, it can be a little hard for the true meaning of Christmas to come through.

We bake cookies for our neighbors, act out the nativity, the girls will make each other home-made Christmas presents and we sing all the faith inspiring Christmas carols – but still – when there is a pile of presents sitting under the tree and stockings hanging on the wall, HOW do you keep the true spirit of Christmas alive?!

Last year in a desperate attempt to start off with and KEEP the right feeling of Christmas in our home all season long, I began a Christmas tradition that would involve all 5 senses.

Enter “Dinner under the stars in Jerusalem”. Before any decorations are brought out, before even one present is put under the tree, and before Lucinda has a chance to show up and start the kids thinking about the fact that she was JUST at the North Pole with Santa, we have a surprise dinner.  The girls don’t know that it’s coming, they walk in the door from school and are hurried upstairs and told they can come down ONLY when mom calls them.  (A little mystery and excitement is now evoked.)  Smells start coming up the stairs that are a bit … unusual.  By the time they are invited down the stairs, music (hopefully unfamiliar, string quartet, feeling “foreign”) is playing.  It is dark outside and all the lights are off – except the “stars” and the table is filled with odd food. Dried meats, green stuffed olives, crackers that have dark flecks of grain in them, pitas, hummus, goat cheese, nuts (other than peanuts or almonds), figs and grape juice.  Okay, the grape juice isn’t odd, but it fits in.  There is a lot of food the girls won’t eat, and that’s okay, but the dinner is all about things that Jesus would have done, really eaten when he was here on earth.  For them, He is so much more real when they eat what he ate and imagine what He did in His day to day life.  We ask the girls if they can think of a part in the scriptures that talks about the different foods.  The answers are so fun – our 4 year old mixed 3 different stories about fish, but she had the right idea.

Years ago my grandpa brought this handmade box back from Egypt.  This is the night we pull it out and put it in the center of our table with a pad of paper and pencils.  We talk about the story of Herod and how Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until it was safe for Him to come back.  We talk about what it might have been like to live in Egypt and that He might have had a box JUST like this one, with wood taken from the same forest or same kind of tree.  And then we talk about our gifts.  It is our constant Holiday activity.  Our box stays on the table through Christmas day and we drop our “gifts” into the box – we also drop in “gifts” that we noticed other family members doing (services the girls noticed their sisters did).  The box is private – there is no point in showing off, because Mom and Dad aren’t going to read them, and you can write anything you want, because Mom and Dad aren’t going to read them.

Although we have only had our “tradition” for the last 2 years, it has allowed us all the fun of Christmas and magic of elves and reindeer, Santa, music, games, villages and goodies while keeping the true meaning of Christmas at the heart of it all.  Our spin on it all is that the ONLY part of Christmas that is real, is the celebration of Christ’s birth – everything else is a way we celebrate just how special the event truly is.

Merry Christmas!  If you have a favorite Christmas tradition you’d like to share, please email it to us with your pictures so we can spread the cheer.  [email protected]

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