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I’m so excited to share this series “How We Celebrate Christmas” with you! For years and years, I’ve been so curious as to how other families celebrate Christmas. It’s not to say I don’t like the way our family celebrates, but I just think it’s very interesting to hear how other people “do” Christmas. After all, there is nothing wrong with taking the good, weeding out the bad, and creating your own meaningful family celebrations.
So I did something brave– I reached out to some families I admire and asked them some questions. And I’m excited to share their answers with you in this mini series: How We Celebrate Christmas!
I’ll be sharing these interviews over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!
Meet: Jan and the Clark Family
1. Tell us about your family!
I am so happy and excited to share my family and our Christmas traditions here! Thank you for having us. My husband (Jason) and I have been married for seven years. We have two small children, Ellie (age 3) and Chad (age 1). In our 7 years of marriage we have moved 11 times (five of those times have been in different states) but we currently live in the Salt Lake City, UT area and love it here. College degrees and career opportunities have taken us all over the United States but we are happy to be where we are, closer to family.
2. Tell us a favorite memory of Christmas past!
One Christmas a couple years ago, we attended our church party. Jason was asked to be Santa that year and the costume they had him wear was a really nice one. It was so good that even I barely recognized my own husband wearing it. Our daughter, Ellie, was only about 8 months at the time and definitely did not like strangers. When we sat Ellie on his lap that day, I was fully expecting a complete meltdown. She hated when strangers held her! But this time she was calm and stared in his familiar eyes for a LONG time and then said, “DADA!” It was so sweet. When she looked beyond the costume, she found comfort. She saw her dad: her safe place. That morning I found myself feeling stressed about all the last minute things I needed to do before Christmas and my little Ellie taught me a lesson that day about keeping my eyes on what this season is really about – WHO this season is really about. I realized I was getting caught up in the parties and last minute shopping that I was missing the point of Christmas. I know that this is all obvious, but it was such a sweet reminder to me to take some time looking for what can bring peace, comfort, safety and love and not let the disguises of the season become so distracting that I missed what was familiar and safe. It made for a magical Christmas.
3. How do gifts work in your home?
This is really the first year where we have a child old enough to understand the concept of “Santa.” I’m not sure what our decided “stance” is on anything. But this year we definitely have played the part and written letters to the North Pole, talked about what Santa will bring and have had to explain daily why we celebrate Christmas all December long but it is only at the end we get the gifts from Santa. This year we have opted to get the kids one big gift each with a couple small things with it. We have taken our kids separately to the store to let them pick out their own presents for each other or Mom or Dad. Jason has been especially good at this- getting them excited and having them wrap the presents they picked out themselves. I’ve actually been very impressed at how well my 3 year old has kept her secrets of what the gifts are. I was hoping to figure out what Jason got me early this year. 🙂
4. If married, do you and your spouse exchange gifts? What about sibling gifts?
My husband’s love language for gifts runs deep so we try to make or find each other something meaningful. We also each come from large families (6 siblings in mine and 5 in his) and thankfully each family rotates who we have each year so we can take the time to give a gift that’s meaningful.
5. What special Christmas Eve traditions does your family have?
We have actually spent Christmas Eve with either Jason’s family or my family almost every year since we’ve been married. So our traditions for that have piggy-backed on whatever our parents have done. This usually includes some combination of take-out chinese food or a nice dinner, playing Christmas songs with the chimes, the nativity story, exchanging sibling gifts, Christmas pajamas, games, treats, and cousins playing together.
6. What special Christmas Morning traditions does your family have?
Just as with Christmas Eve, we have usually spent Christmas morning with extended family, so depending on where we are it always includes a big breakfast (pumpkin pancakes if we are at my parent’s house), opening presents all together once everyone wakes up, taking a picture on the stairs before we come down to open our gifts. No matter where we are, it’s always a magical and fun experience being with family and sharing these memories together.
7. Do you have any favorite holiday recipes that make an appearance each year?
Growing up we would always make pumpkin pancakes with apple cider syrup. (similar to this recipe – https://www.tasteofhome.com/
8. Do you have any Christ-centered Christmas traditions you want to share?
My sister made us all these incredible advent boards with pictures and a scripture from the life of the Savior. Every morning my daughter brings me that day’s picture and we read the story of the Savior for the day. We then watch one of the LDS Bible videos that goes along with that story while I explain to her in 3-year-old-terms what is happening and why that is significant. It’s been really special this year to watch the wheels turn in her mind and put together why believing in Jesus is a good thing and how it can help. I’ve been especially touched as we’ve done this and her prayers all now include some variation of the phrase, “We are very grateful that Jesus can be here with us.” It helps me feel like she is feeling the real reason for Christmas and the literal power that comes in simply talking of Christ.
9. What are some ways you have simplified Christmas to keep stress lower?
10. Any other favorite Christmas memories/ideas/tips you want to share? We love hearing how others make their season magical but not overwhelming!
This year I didn’t put up a tree. I have a very busy one-year-old who would not let that tree stand a chance. So this year I opted to put up garland above my kitchen cabinets and decorate it as a tree. I even have been putting our gifts up there so little toddler fingers won’t be tempted to open them and it has been a game changer!! Our house still feels festive with all the other decor and I didn’t have to worry about keeping the tree in a safe place all season long.
11. Do you have a website, blog, or social media account we can follow you?
You can find me at @rootedandrising_ on instagram.
Thanks so much for sharing, Jan!
Want more? You can find all the other “How We Celebrate” posts right here! There are so many real, good ideas you’ll love!