Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It is never too late to introduce new traditions into your family. Through the years we have tried many things to bring us closer to Christ and the true meaning of Christmas. Some of the traditions have "stuck" and we love doing them year after year. Some things we have tried and have not done a second time. But, there is fun just in trying new things. I figure even the things that flop, create memories for our family.

A site called Tip Junkie is talking about different ways to keep Christ the focus of your Christmas and I really appreciate all of the ideas being shared. (New ideas to try!)

As I think about the short number of days until Christmas I feel the need to keep my own thoughts focused more on the Savior. I want to slow down and truly feel and see the beauty of this time of year. I want to be part of bringing a little more peace into this world and teach my children to focus more on others.

One specific idea someone shared was to pay for the fast food order of the car behind you, or the car behind you if you were driving through a Christmas light display.

Do any of you have an idea of anonymous service, little things that can be done day to day to bring a little more kindness into the world?

We would love to hear your ideas!

I think doing kind deeds for others on a daily basis may be the best tradition of all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

LDS Publisher's Christmas Story Contest

LDS Publisher is a blog "dedicated to helping LDS authors successfully navigate the LDS publishing world". They are currently holding their Christmas Story Contest. The submittions are in and now the voting is open. I haven't had a chance to read all of them, but I have enjoyed the ones I have read. Some of the stories are just fun and others are very touching.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twinkle, Twinkle, Christmas Star

I had the opportunity to help in the Nursery today and learned two new Christmas songs that our nursery leader taught to the children. They both are darling and easy to learn.

(This song is song to the tune "Itsy Bitsy Spider")

The itsy bitsy shepherd went up to Bethlehem.
(walk two fingers up your arm)

Down came the starlight to lead him to the inn.
(start above head and wiggle fingers down)

Out came the sunshine to start a brand new day.
(join hands, with arms raised over head)

And the itsy bitsy shepherd saw Jesus on the hay.
(cradle arms as if rocking a baby)

This second song is sung to the tune "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"

Twinkle, twinkle, Christmas star,
How I wonder what you are.
Shining high up in the sky,
Showing all where Jesus lies.
Twinkle, twinkle, Christmas star,
How I wonder what you are.

Simple, but oh so sweet!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gifts for the Savior


Gift giving has become a big part of Christmas tradition, so much so that we can sometimes forget the reason for the season.

While we are plotting and planning what gifts to give our family and friends we could also include some gifts for our Savior on the list.

About.com has a list of Top 10 Spiritual Gifts to Give the Savior.

These are gifts that are not only meaningful at this time of year, but the whole year through and an eternity to come.

More Christmas Stories

About.com: Latter-day Saints also has a long list of Christmas stories for all ages, many pulled from church magazines.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bethlehem Dinner: Sfeeha (meat pies)

I was looking through old posts and realized I forgot to include the recipe for Sfeeha, which are middle eastern meat pies, for the Bethlehem Dinner Menu.

1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper and allspice to taste

Bread dough

Brown the pine nuts in a skillet. Set aside.

Saute the onion in butter. Add the meat and spices. Saute until tender. Add browned pine nuts and lemon juice. Mix well.

Roll dough into small balls (raquet ball size), flatten into 3 inch circles on a greased cookie sheet. Spread meat stuffing evenly on top of circles to within 3/8" from the edge.

Bake at 400 until meat and dough are lightly brown (about 7-8 minutes)

Optional: Serve with Laban, a yogurt spread.


Plain yogurt

Put your yogurt in the cheesecloth. The yogurt will start to drain off liquid. Allow it to drain over night in the refridgerator. (you will have to figure out a way to hang the cheesecloth over a bowl without touching the liquid) The result is a creamy spread that is yummy on meat pies and pita bread.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Around the World

Poland has some wonderful old traditions that center around Christ. On Christmas eve the family gathers around the dinner table that is covered with straw with a white tablecloth laid over it. They wait for the sign of the first star in the evening sky before sitting down to eat their meatless meal. This is called the feast of the little star. Originally there would be 12 courses symbolic of the 12 Apostles. They set an extra chair and table setting to welcome Christ, or any unexpected guest, in remembrance of Joseph and Mary needing a welcoming place that night long ago.

Do you know of any traditions from other countries that help you remember Christ at Christmas? Please share with us!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Service

Segullah is an LDS literary magazine. They have an online blog and one of the articles for this month is Christmas service: Bitter? Sweet? Or Some of Both? The author talks of personal bitterness from being the recipient of service and then discusses how her view has changed through the years to one of gratitude. There uses some good quotes from general authorities about the motives of service.

Another article in the Segullah archive is I Believe in Santa. But I Didn't Used To about a young mother who decided it was a good thing for her small children to believe in Santa. She sees it as a first step of faith that could be transferred into faith in our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Symbols of Christmas FHE

Chocolate On My Cranium has posted another Christmas FHE on her blog about the Symbols of Christmas. The lesson includes scriptures and pictures to go along with each symbol.

I love the idea of doing sugar cookies and using cookie cutters that go along with the symbols you talk about in the lesson.

My ever faithful Sugar Cookie recipe can be found at Everyday Recipes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

FHE Nativity Game

About.com has a Family Home Evening Nativity Game complete with files to print off the cards either in color or b/w. It's Go fish game using pictures from the nativity including the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the angel, shepherds, wise-men, and more.

Christmas Thoughts

"Christmas can be so glorious! We can visit the sick, bring joy to the despairing, peace to the unfortunate, and like the Master...give more of ourselves and less of our assets."
Spencer W. Kimball

"It is not what we receive that enriches our lives, it is what we give."
George Albert Smith

"The response of the selfish will always be that
there is not room in their inn."
Neal A. Maxwell

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Grab a Button

To put a Christ Centered Christmas BUTTON on your blog
copy and paste the following code into a new Html/JavaScript gadget.

The Wonderous Nativity

Here is a print out published in this month's Friend magazine of a nativity scene you print, cut, and assemble.

Video: "The Nativity" and "Breath of Heaven"

Years ago I learned of this video/music combination in Church. It is the video "The Nativity" produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the song "Breath of Heaven" sung by Amy Grant. They are quite beautiful when you play them together and we watch them together every year.

I have always just played them together manually myself by turning down the volume on the tv and turning on the cd and the video at the same time. With the blessings of the internet there are a few people that have done the work for you and have posted it on YouTube.

Christmas in the Book of Mormon FHE

Chocolate on my Cranium does a weekly FHE post. The one for this week is Christmas in the Book of Mormon. The Family Home Evening lesson includes scriptures, pictures, and maps along with other materials.

Living Christ Christmas Tree

TJ Hirst on her blog Illuminate Everyday is sharing the special symbolism of the ornaments on her Living Christ Christmas Tree in a series of posts.

She explains:
"I chose each ornament for our tree to symbolize a particular aspect of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from The Living Christ. Some are well-known symbols like doves for peace, but others represent my own associations and creativity."

The series will continue on Wednesdays until Christmas. You can move from the beginning post to the next ones by clicking on "Next in the Series", which is at the bottom right hand corner of each post.
Pictures used with permission

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christ Centered Advent activites

Here are several ideas for daily activities to do as a countdown for Christmas. I write these on little pieces of paper and place one daily in our little Christmas socks that hang on the mantel. I mix in some just plain fun ideas as well. Just choose the ones that suit you and your family.
(The links included in this list will connect you with the specific post on this blog with more details for that idea)
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday!
  • Make thank you notes to use after Christmas
  • Learn a Christmas hymn to sing as a famil
  • Play the wise man game
  • Introduce the baby Jesus secret service in your home
  • Read an uplifting Christmas classic like "A Christmas Carol" together as a family
  • Make pita bread and read bread of life scripture
  • Read a Christmas story from the Friend or Ensign
  • Write down on paper, roll up and tie with a bow a gift you are going to give to the Savior this year
  • Cut general shapes and many colored pieces of felt to make a flannel board nativity and leave it out for children to retell story
  • Make simple costumes to act out the nativity story
  • Act out nativity story while someone read from Bible
  • Write letters and make cards to send to loved ones far away
  • Make cookies together and secretly leave at someone's doorstep
  • Make bread to deliver to neighbors or shut-ins with a tag that has the bread of life scripture
  • Color or paint a picture of the shepherds
  • Color or paint a nativity scene and hang it in your home
  • Watch an uplifting Christmas dvd together
  • Watch Luke 2 video while listening to "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant
  • Have a "white" Christmas--attend the Temple
  • Go shopping together for sub for santa or angel tree gifts
  • Donate good quality used books to your public library
  • Help children clean out toys and donate good used ones to charity
  • Make dinner for a shut in
  • Help children write a story about being there at the manger on Christmas night
  • Write a note to a missionary
  • Have a Bethlehem dinner
  • Tell story of the miracle of loaves and fishes. Sit on blanket and eat fish sticks, or fish crackers and bread and talk about miracles Christ performed
  • Have a family Christmas music night, sing together, play instruments, get kazoos so everyone can participate
  • Attend a live nativity together
  • Listen to Handel's Messiah and learn story behind music
  • Make a Christmas advent candle, and read a Christ related scripture each night as candle burns
  • Wrap meaningful and uplifting Christmas books and open one each day and read together
  • Collect uplifting Christmas stories and compile in a binder to read as a family each day
  • Collect or make from paper symbols of Christmas and teach children the meaning. They could draw one from a gift bag and tell how it reminds them of Christ
  • Go for a night time winter walk and enjoy the beautiful stars and talk about the special star that appeared at Christ's birth
  • Make star shaped sugar cookies, make a tag with scripture that tells of signs at birth of Christ and share with someone
  • Make nativity Christmas cards to send
  • Make handprints of children, cut out and print"I will have helping hands for Jesus"
  • Determine a need and perform a service anonymously
  • Forgive and make amends with someone

Christmas Music

I look forward every year to Christmas music. It is the one time of the year that I have music playing most of the time. I love the spirit of the music and the memories that come with it. Every year I add another CD to my collection.

This year I discovered Pandora. It is a commercial free internet radio that allows you to customize your "channel" to your likes and dislikes. You are able to type in the artists or songs you like and they will play music that is similar. Today I made myself a Holiday channel by typing in Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sarah McLauchlan, Josh Groban, Amy Grant, etc and selecting their holiday version. Now all I have to do is turn up the volume on my computer and I can have a wide array of Christmas music wafting through my house.

Handel's Messiah is another all time favorite of mine. The spirit of that music is unlike any other. There is a book availible that tells the story behind Handel's Christmas music.

Teach a Christmas hymn to your family that they do not already know and sing it together in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

We have had so much fun having a special evening set aside to share Christmas music that we sing or play on different instruments. We love playing Christmas music on the bells, flute, violin, cello, harp, trumpet guitar, and piano. It is never perfect and it is a good thing that all the windows are shut so no one else can hear, but it is a lot of fun.

We have felt so blessed when a group is out caroling and comes to our door to sing a beautiful carol to us. How wonderful it would be to go and sing to someone in a nursing home or hospital.

We have some friends that have a Christmas tradition of have having families come over and gather around their piano and sing Christmas carols together and share goodies. It is a great way to share in the friendship and music of the season.

Make it a tradition to go to local Christmas concerts even if it is just supporting the highschool band.

Christmas Message from the Prophet

I realize many get the Ensign in there home, but for those of you who do not here is a link to the First Presidency Message by President Thomas S. Monson The Best Christmas Ever and here is the link to the entire December issue in pdf format.

Bread of Life Gift Tags

Everyday Food Storage has a post about doing homemade bread for neighbor gifts. She has made darling tags you can print to go with the bread using the scripture John 6:35:

"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: 
he that cometh to me shall never hunger; 
and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Decorating for Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is over it is time to get into the Christmas spirit. I am always excited to pull out the Christmas decorations and transform the house. I love having Christmas lights all over inside the house, garlands, and of course the Christmas tree. I love the atmosphere that all these decorations create. There are many ways to make the decorations in your home Christ centered. Obviously there is the nativity, or in my case multiple nativities, but there are also other things you can use to emphasize the true reason for Christmas.

One idea is to display beautiful pictures of the Savior in prominent places in your home. We have moved pictures to place on easels with evergreens around to make them become an important part of the Christmas decorating of our home. An inexpensive source for pictures are old calendars or church publications.

What do you do in your home to emphasis Christ in your decorations?
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