If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland.
Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids and now her 13 grandchildren the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight:
- Relaxed and loving time with family
- Realistic gift expectations
- Evenly paced holiday season
- Reliable family traditions
When her kids were little, Connie would spread the excitement of Christmas throughout the month. She did that with little notes—one tiny note per child, per day.
Most days the notes were similar, such as:
- Tonight we hang the Christmas lights or tonight we go look at Christmas lights
- The family will do a puzzle tonight or play a favorite game
- Tonight we get our Christmas tree
- Today we bake the Christmas cookies
- Tonight we read the Christmas story; bubbles for your bath
- We’ll pop popcorn; hot cider and a movie tonight
But on certain days one child’s note was unique:
- Today is your day to Christmas shop with Mom
- It’s your turn to open the Christmas Bag
“Inside the decorated cloth bag would be a small, inexpensive, or homemade gift. I made sure that throughout the month each child got an early gift or treat via the Christmas Bag,” Connie told me.
She would cut out very simple little angels from white paper—all one size, and place them in a dish available to all members of the family. Throughout the month of December, we would do a good deed for another family member, keep it a secret but leave a tiny angel behind.
Here’s an example: Make your sister’s bed and leave an angel on the pillow. No telling who did it—simply do kind deeds without expecting to get credit.
Now that her children are grown with families of their own, Connie mails angels to her grandkids and they keep the secret deeds of kindness going at their homes.
One year, Connie wrote the Christmas Story in easy kid-friendly language. On Christmas Eve he and the kids gathered all the robes and towels, hung a cardboard star from the end of a string tacked into a broom handle and staged the Christmas story throughout the house. “The men grumbled the most about doing such a dumb thing, but we had lots of laughs and made precious memories.”
Each Christmas the kids and Connie did a craft together. They made ornaments, bean bags, and glued pictures with all sorts of beads, ribbons, and pom-poms. They stacked oranges into snowmen and used cloves for the eyes, nose, and mouth.
“Another year we glued all my old junk jewelry onto Styrofoam cones. Then we dusted the ‘trees’ with glitter,” Connie recalls. “We have enjoyed the flops as much as the successes. One year, the dog ate all the decorator lids we made from salt clay while we slept. She was thirsty for days.”
Now, when the grandchildren come for Christmas, Connie has a surprise bag for each day of their visit. The bag may be nothing more than candy or popcorn or a note that they’re going ice skating or whatever.
“My grandkids and I begin the discussion of what they want for Christmas months before December. We write emails, send catalog pictures, and make phone calls sharing what we find. I have sent clues like pictures cut up into puzzle pieces, riddles and rhymes, too.
“One Christmas, I gave my grandsons $10 to make a movie for me. They used their parents’ video camera and took movies of each other playing instruments, singing, and acting out Charlie Brown Christmas. It is a real treasure.
“I have given each granddaughter a teacup set. Sometimes we have tea together over the phone.”
Every year Connie and her family play Holiday Bingo. She wraps all kinds of random small $1-store gifts including lots of what she calls really dumb things like a tire gauge.
Each family member takes as many cards as they can control and then they play Bingo until she’s given away all the prizes.
“We were a noisy, crazy group,” says Connie.
“One year we set up game stations all over the house and yard (we live in Arizona). We set up Hop Scotch on the driveway, Bowling on the patio. We dropped clothespins in the bottle, Twister, Croquet, Penny Toss, and Gestures. Each family member was given a sheet with each station outlined on the sheet. Every time I rang the bell, they changed games and players. What a hoot it was. I still get requests for that weird event.”
For grandchildren that cannot come for Christmas, Connie sends little gifts for the Twelve Days of Christmas, with instructions that they are to open on the specified day.
Thank you, Connie. You have blessed your children and grandchildren with memories to last a lifetime!
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