I love Christmas. Not very many people in my life know it, but I LOVE CHRISTMAS. There is just something so magical about it. So many of my favorite childhood memories were during Christmas time. I can remember decorating our tree. We have home videos of me introducing my sister, brother and me as we began to decorate our tree. Somehow over the years, decorating the tree became this huge production for me. Then, we started going to see the Christmas Lights right after our Christmas program. This too became something so important to me that I became very upset if we didn’t do it. There was also the Gingerbread House, the cookies, Tamales on Christmas Eve, Singing in the Christmas Eve Mass choir, leaving cookies and milk for Santa and the list goes on and on. See for me, there is no other time of the year that filled my childhood with so many fond memories.
Now that I have my own children, it is very easy for me to get overwhelmed when December comes around. I want to make sure my children’s memories are filled with as many magical Christmas moments as mine was. That is why I started making a Christmas bucket list. It was my way of making sure we were doing everything that made Christmas Magical. I also do it because let’s face it, with all the secular Christmas traditions it is easy to forget the focus should be Jesus and his birth. This list is my way of keeping my children, but mostly me, in check when it comes to focusing on what really matters this time of year.
So here it is, the ULTIMATE CATHOLIC CHRISTMAS BUCKET LIST!
- Go to MASS every Sunday During Advent
This one is a big one. I hope for all of you it is a no-brainer but I figured it can’t hurt to put it front and center on my bucket list. We should all go to mass EVERY Sunday but there is something so special about seeing a giant advent wreath at the front of the church. I remember seeing first one candle lit, then two and then the PINK one and thinking Christmas is almost here! Of course, it is a good reminder of how we need to prepare for Christ’s birth but it is also a great way to countdown to Christmas and most importantly get our kids to mass but not only that it makes them excited to go to mass because it means they are one Sunday closer.
- Light your Advent Candles EVERY Night
This one is very similar to the first one. Again, it is about reminding us constantly that we are getting closer and closer to Jesus Birthday. It is also about making sure even with all the craziness we are sitting down for dinner as a family and saying a special prayer. We used to say our normal prayer before eating and either read a reflection or simply say “Come, Lord Jesus, Come”
- Get a Real Christmas Tree
So most people get Christmas Trees but there is just something so special about getting a real tree. Go as a family to pick it out and if you can, even go to a farm. Spend time finding the perfect tree. I promise it will make it even more memorable if every year your tree is a tree you picked out at as a family. Besides, who doesn’t love the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree???
- Decorate your Christmas Tree
I don’t just mean make it look pretty and all matched out. No, that’s not really magical for a child. I mean decorate it with memorable ornaments. The ornaments that each have a story. My great grandmother used to make us ornaments every year and so now I put those up on my tree. I also have all the ornaments my kids have made. There is nothing more special than pulling out your favorite ornaments every year and putting them on that tree.
- Put out the nativity together
I know it seems silly but another one of my many great memories was putting out our nativity set. My grandpa had made the stable for my parents and my dad has made us our stable. So let your kids set out Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. Don’t put out Baby Jesus yet though! And make sure the wise men are on a bookshelf somewhere else and slowly move them closer as you get closer and closer to Christmas and the Epiphany. What better way is there to teach your children that the wise men were not there on Christmas!
No real reason for this one other than it is a fun way to build memories your children will never forget.
- Have a Happy Birthday Jesus Party
This one is just yet another way to make sure Jesus is not forgotten in all the magic of the season. Have your children decorate a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. You could even explain to them the legend of the candy cane or do other fun birthday party stuff. Doesn’t have to be anything crazy a simple cake and a few candles will make it memorable
- Have a Polar Express Movie Party
So I guess it doesn’t have to be Polar Express but I absolutely love the Polar Express! Not only is it just flat out magical, it has a great message. We don’t have to see to believe. Not only does this apply to Santa Clause, but it can be applied to our faith in Jesus. We don’t see him but because we place our trust in him, we can really see him working in our lives.
- Bake (and decorate) Christmas Cookies
Yet another way to make sure we are spending time with our families. One of my fondest memories is baking with my mom. I would read the recipes to her or pour it in the mixer and as I got older I would even get to measure the ingredients. Just don’t forget to make it even more special with aprons! We had Christmas aprons that only came out with our Christmas decorations and my sister and I would fight over who got to wear the cute one.
Try and find the neighborhoods that go all out. Sometimes it is an entire neighborhood and other times it is the one house that goes all out, even with their own radio station. Just make sure you take a night to drive around and listen to Christmas music while you look at lights. You could even walk around and drink hot chocolate!
Really no explanation for this one. One idea I really like though is making sure your children are thinking of others when they tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Maybe encourage their wish to be not for a toy but that someone in need is helped.
- Buy a toy for someone in need
This is one that I never really did as a kid but started with my daughter. We used to do a gift for toys for tots because my husband is a marine but now that we are in Arkansas toys for tots is really no different than doing something like an angel tree. Just make sure to let your child pick out the toy or gift. There is nothing more exciting for a child to actually get to go pick a toy out around Christmas time and it is even better that they are learning how good it feels to help someone in need.
I am not saying to get really crazy with this one and go door to door singing Christmas Carols (as awesome as that sounds). I am simply saying sing them in the car or while you put up decorations. You only get to listen to Christmas Carols once a year and again nothing more magical than a Christmas Carol.
Again, this one is about quality family time and making memories. Years down the road, there will be nothing you cherish more than pulling out all the ornaments your children have made through the years.
Or midnight mass. I am such an early riser on Christmas (see the next item on the list!) that Christmas Eve mass just makes more sense. There is just something special and so exciting about sitting in mass the night before Santa Clause comes. The anticipation is so special and something you never forget!
- Wake Up Really Early on Christmas
Will you be tired? Yes! But it will be so worth it when you are opening presents as the sun rises and your kids will never forget the excitement!
This may seem like something weird to have on a bucket list but I just think actually sending out the cards is memorable. I remember we used to form an assembly line and we would each have a job. I would put the return address label, my sister would put the stamp and my brother would seal. Even if it makes the job slower, just remember the memories you are making for your children!
I am just going to leave this one right here. There are like a million posts out there for you to read about it!
Not just any Christmas books, the classic Christmas books. Some of my favorites are the Gift of the Magi, the Polar Express Book, and the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
- Have a Nativity Advent Calendar
Just another great way to countdown to Christmas and to keep it Christ centered. Make putting up the next part a part of your routine every morning.
- Go Shopping with your children for your spouse’s presents
This is just a great way to get some one on one time with your kids while teaching them the spirit of giving
I realize how extensive this list is. It is no wonder I plan for Christmas in October! Even if you don’t get to all of them though, just remember the magic of the season and how many memories you are giving your children.