Of course there have been a few changes throughout the years...as things change when you get married and have another family to celebrate with! Thankfully, I married into a good one. They do Christmas Eve and my family does Christmas day, not only is that convenient, but we do them together. Yes, together. As in my parents and my in-laws celebrating Christmas with each other. Crazy, I know. But I have been blessed by having my parents and in-laws get along so well. It just makes things a little easier (as I'm not a fan of change).
I also very much enjoy shopping for Christmas gifts. I love giving. I love trying to pick out a gift I know the person will really love and want. I also am impatient and have a hard time keeping what I'm giving a secret, as I get way too excited for the other person. I've ruined the surprise a few times, being this way. I also love giving to others in need. We limit our own kids gifts (they get plenty between the 2 sets of grandparents and an Uncle) and we do Angel Tree and Operation Christmas Child. I find that doing these with Ryan (I think he's now at the age of understanding) helps him learn that Christmas is more than just getting gifts but giving to those that aren't as fortunate as he is. He did have a great time picking out toys for the Operation Christmas Child he got so excited that we got so many things that we had to rubber band the shoeboxes multiple times to keep them closed! I hope he'll enjoy doing this every year and that will become a tradition for him as he gets older.
I usually decorate my tree(s) before Thanksgiving. It's a lot of work and takes pretty much one full day to do everything. This year my MIL helped me decorate my main tree (it's not pre-lit and it goes on branch by branch). I appreciated the help and it turned out great--I did run out of lights so it's a bit brighter on the bottom than on top--but I wanted to get it done and not wait to run to the store and get more to finish!
I love the way they glow in the evening and how cozy it feels! So far I've only lost one ornament to grabby hands, but that is getting better and it wasn't an expensive or personal ornament that was lost!
Christmas to me is also about appreciating family and friends. I am blessed to have a great family and some wonderful friends. I had many wonderful friends when we lived in Indy and every year that passes that we are no longer there, the more my heart aches to see them as often as I used to. What faithful friends they have been! We always try to get together a few times a year for a girls weekend. To just be together and get caught up on our lives and our happiness or struggles. This year we want to start a tradition to get together before the Holidays and just be together and even exchange small gifts. We have booked a hotel in downtown Indy and made reservations at a pretty fancy restaurant for dinner. We plan to walk around downtown and do some Christmas shopping or some window shopping, taking in the lights and sounds of the Holidays! Then we'll do a small gift exchange and stay up late just talking and having a great time. The next morning we'll get up and have a small breakfast before I have to return home. I am so thankful I have friends in my life that I am able to do these things with. I only wish I lived closer to them (and the rest of my dear friends that don't live near me...I see a pattern here, all my friends live AWAY from me!!! This brings me to a whole new post about living where I am!) but I'm so thankful we are able to do something like this to keep connected! They are all a blessing!
Katie and I (friends since we were born. literally) I could go months w/o seeing her, but when I finally do, it's like we've never been apart! We've been through it all together and I can always count on her to be honest and truthful and real. She will always be a lifelong friend.
Lindsay and I (and Madison!) Met the first day of college, we didn't like each other at all. Somehow we became the best of friends, so much so she was in my wedding, I in hers and she was there to see my Son born. Our daughters were born on the same day (1 year apart) with only a few minutes different. We were just meant to be friends! She is always there for me and I miss her soo much!
I hope you can find something about the Holiday's (even if they are hard for you) to be joyful about and thankful for. I hope you take time to really think about what it is that makes this season so special for you. Hopefully the real reason, the birth of our Savior, God's Son, Jesus Christ will the main reason this season is so special!