The Not-So-Perfect Christmas

xmas6Our world (and often times my own blog) communicates that your life should look a certain way in order to attain ‘Happy Home Status.’

This is especially true at Christmas.

xmas13We should all have perfect Christmas cards and perfect gifts for people and perfect homemade Christmas treats and perfect Christmas outfits and perfect moments under the mistletoe with our husbands and perfect holiday dinners and perfect drama-free encounters with relatives and perfect children who respond in perfect gratitude when given perfectly wrapped gifts.

xmas12Well, friends, hear this message tonight – the first Christmas was far from ‘perfect.’

xmas10Mary carried a severe social stigma for being pregnant and unwed.

Mary and Joseph were forced to travel many miles during the final stages of her pregnancy.

When they reached Bethlehem, they were exhausted and yet turned away from every inn.

They had to spend the night in a dark and dirty stable.

Mary gave birth alongside stinky animals.

A feeding trough was the Savior’s first crib…

xmas9All these things could have despaired the main characters of the first Christmas story, but they chose to quietly surrender their own ideas of ‘perfect.’

xmas11

**They chose to obey.**

xmas7

So this Christmas let’s surrender what we have in our heads as the ‘perfect’ holiday, the perfect memory, the perfect photo {ahem}, the perfect life.

xmas8Because in His perspective, it is perfect.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Merry Christmas, sweet blog world friends.

Love,

Julie

Christmas Minute-To-Win-It Game Ideas

One of my most popular posts was the Minute-To-Win-It game ideas I shared several years ago HERE.

I just love Minute-To-Win-It games because they are always so EASY and very, very fun.

With Christmas Eve being tomorrow night, I thought you might need a little something up your sleeve to make your event even more merry.

12 simple and hilariously fun Christmas-themed Minute-to-Win-It games!Here are a few of my favorite Christmas Minute-To-Win-It games…

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1.  Candy Cane Pile Up – Players put a candy cane in their mouth and then see how many candy canes they can move from the table pile to a bowl in 1 minute using only the candy cane in their mouth.  Player with the most candy canes transferred after 1 minute is the winner.

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2.  Stacking Snowmen – See how many snowmen you can make by stacking mini marshmallows in 1 minute.  Player with the most snowmen in one minute is the winner.

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3.  Whipped Cream Tannenbaum – Each player gets 2-3 cans of whipped cream.  They have 1 minute to make the tallest Christmas tree.  Player with the tallest Christmas tree after 1 minute is the winner.

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4.  Snowball Toss – Players stand behind a designated line and have 1 minute to toss marshmallow (snowballs) through a Christmas wreath and into a bowl.  Player with the most snowballs in the ball at the end of 1 minute is the winner.

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5.  Oh Christmas Tree – Player has 1 minute to stack 36 cups in a pyramid shape (a Christmas tree) and put them back into a single stack using only one hand.  Points awarded if successfully completed in 1 minute.

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6.  Reindeer Nose – Fill a bowl with a bunch of cotton balls and 1 red pom-pom.  Players put a dab of Vaseline on the end of their nose.  Players have 1 minute to transfer the cotton balls to another bowl using only their nose.  Player with the most cotton balls at the end of 1 minute is the winner.  Red pom-pom is worth double points.

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7.  Face the Gingerbread Man – Place a gingerbread cookie on player’s forehead.  Player must move the cookie down their face to their mouth using only their facial muscles and head movements.  Player is awarded points if successfully completed in 1 minute.

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8.  Holiday Kiss – Players transfer 3 Christmas ornaments from a table to a length of string at least 3 feet long using only their lips.  If an ornament is dropped, players are not awarded any points.

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9.  Christmas in the Balance – Players must hang 10 ornaments on a yardstick that sits atop an upright wrapping paper tube in 1 minute.

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10.  Christmas Cliffhanger – Set 5 Christmas cards up on a table.  Players must blow the Christmas cards across the table and hang them from the edge of the table.  Player who successfully hangs the most cards off the table in 1 minute is the winner.

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11.  Christmas Ball – Wrap a rectangular box with Christmas wrapping paper.  Using the wrapped cardboard box as a fan each player must move a Christmas ball ornament across the floor to a predetermined area.

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12.  Reindeer Antlers – (This game may need longer than 1 minute.)  One player is the reindeer.  Players must blow up and tie balloons, stuff them into a pair of panty hose, and then secure them over the head of the designated reindeer.  Players with the best looking antlers are the winners.

Don’t forget to have plenty of tissues on hand as I am sure y’all will be laughing so hard you will be crying. :-)

Happy Christmas Minute-to-Win-It-ing! :-)

And also…

Go HERE for my FREE Printable Christmas Conversation Starters to keep dinnertime talk lively.

Go HERE for my round-up of Christmas Eve traditions to make it super magical for the whole family.

Go HERE for my FREE Printable Christmas Love Notes for your Happy Hubby (great to throw in his stocking!).

Go HERE for instructions on how to keep your Happy Buddies in bed on Christmas morning (very important).

Go HERE for the Christmas morning Lego Tradition that the boys in our family compete in every year.

Recipe – Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole

breakfast casserole for christmas morning - so easy and soooo delicious. the perfect tradition!

I have shared this recipe before (HERE), but never in its own post.

And it definitely deserves its own post because it is so. SO. GOOD.

This casserole is always on our Christmas morning breakfast table.  It is a non-negotiable (even though I know my mom is tired of making it and is always itching to try out something new she’s found on Pinterest).

But I am a stickler for traditions and the rest of the family agrees that it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

You won’t even believe how easy it is to make.

Plus, you do everything the night before so that the only thing left to be done in the morning is to pop it in the oven!

You can tell me thanks and how much you love me in the comments section below. ;-)

breakfast casserole for christmas morning - so easy and soooo delicious. the perfect traditionChristmas Morning Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:

1 loaf of French or Sourdough bread from the bakery, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

1 lb sausage, browned and drained

6 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper

2 cups Cheddar and Jack cheese, shredded

Directions:

1.  Place the slices of bread in bottom of a 9×13 dish.  Spread some butter on each slice.

2.  Top with cooked sausage.  Pepper.

3.  Cover with cheese.

4.  Lightly whisk eggs in a mixing bowl.  Add milk and seasonings.

4.  Pour egg/milk mixture over sausage/cheese mixture.

5.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

6.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

breakfast casserole for christmas morning - so easy and soooo delicious. the perfect tradition!!Happy Christmas Morning Egg Casserole-ing! :-)

*See more delicious Christmas breakfast ideas HERE and a round-up of creative Christmas-themed pancakes HERE.*

Like Mary

**I wrote this post last year but it has been on my heart so much this last month that I wanted to re-post it along with several updates.  I hope it blesses you again if you remember it from last year, or I hope it blesses you brand new for all my recent subscribers.  Merry Christmas.**

mary 1I hope you don’t mind me being a little real with y’all today.

Sometimes I read other blogs and everything just looks so happy and all-around awesome for that blogger – as if they never have to bribe their kids with M&Ms so that they will smile for a photo or that their marriage never hits a bump or that they never raise their voices at their children.

In fact I was reading a blog the other day and I showed it to the Happy Hubby and said in frustration, “She makes everything look so easy!  So perfect!  And how in the world is it possible that she is an awesome writer/crafter/mom/wife/photographer/AND genius-at-coming-up-with-clever-Elf-on-the-Shelf-poses all-in-one?!”

The Happy Hubby replied, “Well, babe, you kind of do the same thing on your blog…”

I realized in that moment that he was SO right.

Happy Home Fairy is one of my favorite things – other than my faith and my family.

I want it to be this fun, creative, inspiring place for my readers (whom I treasure deeply).  I want it to be a happy place – not filled with lots of posts heavy with trials and tribulation.

But I realize that in my attempt to do that, you only get to see a small snippet of our lives.

This blog does not reveal everything that goes on in my world.

I am going to share with you some ‘real’ things today because I NEVER, EVER want this blog to be a place that stirs envy in my readers.  I NEVER, EVER want my readers to walk away feeling some sort of emptiness because the enemy led you to believe that somehow I’ve got this thing called living all together.

Because I definitely don’t.

mary 2To be perfectly honest, life is hard right now.

I told a girlfriend yesterday that lately it just seems like we have just been rolling from one difficult thing to another.

The Happy Buddy had a febrile seizure on Sunday.  He was acting on the verge of sick, but I was scheduled to sing on the worship team and he didn’t have a fever or any symptoms at the time, so we brought him to church.  After the worship, I sat down with him in the back of the sanctuary to listen to the sermon.  His head was in my lap and I was stroking his hair when all of a sudden his little body began convulsing and then he threw up everywhere.  I knew something was wrong though because it was like my boy wasn’t there any more, his face was completely unresponsive.  I slapped his cheeks a few times and spoke to him quietly, then quickly picked him up and brought him back to the fellowship hall where a few of the deacons called an ambulance.  The Happy Buddy was still not responding as I carried his limp body out to the paramedics.  We drove to the hospital and spent the afternoon in the ER.  It took several hours before he ‘came to’ and then another hour before his speech returned.  There were several moments where I thought perhaps the seizure had stolen the Happy Buddy’s ability to talk.  It was an intense afternoon – full of reminders of the uncertainties we faced with the Happy Baby’s health when we were in the hospital with him.

The Happy Baby is almost 2 and just the other day he started acting it.  And let me just say, it is NOT easy disciplining that kid.  It’s easy to let him get away with stuff because of everything he went through (and not to mention his super cuteness), but I have to be strong and remember that he is still a little sinner (albeit a super cute little sinner) and needs Jesus just like the rest of us.

The Happy Hubby and I are trying to figure out how to train up our boys, get through the busy Christmas season, and still find time for our own marital needs like date nights and intimacy and communicating beyond who changed what diaper and who is picking up who from school.

I am physically exhausted.  Do you ever wonder how to balance it all?  If I feel like a good mom one day, my marriage suffers.  If I feel like a good wife another day, my kids eat chicken nuggets and don’t get their teeth brushed.  If I am a good wife and a good mom one day, then I suffer.  I mean, I have an in-grown toenail on my left foot that is driving me crazy and not letting me wear any of my favorite shoes and who has time (or money) to go see a podiatrist for help when I am trying to keep a million spinning plates in the air??

(I don’t blame you if you want to stop reading this now that I’ve revealed too much about the condition of my feet.  Lol!! :-))

I could list several more things to prove to you how un-perfect I am and how our Happy Home is struggling to make sense of the day-to-day hurdles alongside everybody else, but God gave me a little pocket of truth that I would like to share instead.

mary 4When I was holding the Happy Buddy and his body was all limp and we were rushing to the hospital and I could sense that rising choice in my heart of whether or not to journey toward despair, I was reminded of Jesus’ mother, Mary.

I was reminded how an angel appeared to her – out of the blue – and told her that she would be the one to carry God’s Son.

We can only imagine what that must have been like – did Mary’s brain immediately start making lists of all the ways she she felt she fell short of the calling, how tired she was, or how would she ever survive all of the ridicule of a pre-wedding pregnancy?  Do you think she worried about this child’s future or how His coming might effect her relationship with her fiancé?  Do you think she got upset with the Lord for placing a call on her life that inevitably meant things would suddenly get very, very hard?

Maybe.

But the Bible only records what Mary said in response to the angel’s message.

She bowed her head quietly and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

mary 6This, my friends, is the reason why God chose her to be Jesus’ mother.

She ‘got it.’

She understood this whole living thing.

She knew that choosing to walk by faith is never easy, but always best.

You can hear the trust in her voice – ringing out like Christmas bells – when she spoke that phrase of ultimate surrender, modeling for the rest of us how to follow God.

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”

Yes.

And don’t you love how ready that response was on her lips?

It was like she was well-accustomed to saying, “I am totally and completely God’s.  He knows what is best for my life, so whatever He wants – I want.  Even if that means I might face difficulty, criticism, pain, wrestle with anxiety for my child’s well-being, or even have to walk through a hard season in my marriage.”

I can imagine she repeated that phrase when the innkeeper turned her and Joseph away and they were led to a dirty stable for her to deliver Jesus.

I can imagine she repeated that phrase when people mocked her for being pregnant before being with Joseph.

I can imagine she repeated this phrase when the angry crowds beat her son, whipping Him and forcing Him to wear a crown of thorns.

I can imagine she repeated this phrase as she watched Him hang on the cross under the weight of the world’s sin.

Oh, how my daily trials seem so minuscule in comparison to Mary’s!

But nevertheless, they are trials all the same.

And I want to make the most of them.

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”

mary 5This is how I want to respond whenever my life makes me want to run off to Target for therapy.

This is how I want to respond when the uncertainties of my children’s health begin to weigh my heart down with fear.

This is how I want to respond when I am tempted to compare my life with another’s via the internet (and for the record, I actually just unsubscribed myself from one particular blogger’s Instagram, blog emails, Facebook, etc. because the whole thing was just becoming too much of a distraction.  Sometimes you have to make drastic moves in order to walk forward in freedom!!).

This is how I want to respond instead of picking up the phone to complain to a friend.

This is how I want to respond on the days where I would rather throw in the towel come morning when the whole parenting/wife-ing/living cycle starts all over again.

There is such sweet joy in that kind of surrender, my precious readers.

God hand picks each of us to be Mommies to our Happy Buddies.  Wives to our Happy Hubbies.  And Women who recognize that, as the angel said to Mary just moments before he left her, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).

To live this life under the umbrella of His love is to recognize that our lives belong to Him.

He can do whatever He wants with us – we are His servants.

We must lay it all down and simply rest in the fact that God is good.  Whatever He does do with us, we are promised that He will be with us every step of the way.

Sometimes asking Christ to dwell in us will literally leave stretch marks – you know?

But as He grows in us and we are stretched, we remember that He is shaping us to be more like Him.

Mary, when perfectly surrendered to the Lord, had the blessing of being Christ’s mommy.  She got to nurse the King of Kings.  She got to care for Him and snuggle Him and rock Him to sleep.  She got to make sure the Prince of Peace had clothes that fit, food in his tummy, and a roof over His precious head.  She got to hold the Messiah when He had a bad cough or runny nose.  She got to watch Him grow in favor with God and man.  She got to witness His ministry and miracles.

And He took care of her, didn’t He?  Right up to the end when on the cross, Jesus provided for his widowed mother’s future by placing her in the hands of John.

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me…” Luke 1:49

So, friends, this Happy Home is imperfect and messy.

I struggle like everyone else to make sense of the daily ups and downs of life (and toenails).

But what carries me from one minute to the next is not whether or not I can push forward in my own strength or by reading about someone else’s.

mary 3It’s that I hold it all before my King with open hands, declaring that I am His, and accepting what He gives in the knowledge that He knows what is best for my life.

Difficulty?

Bring it.

Trial?

Let’s do it.

This is what God is giving me right now.

And I choose to be like Mary.

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”

-Julie :-)

12 Days of Christmas Kindness

When I am going through a difficult season, I find it incredibly helpful to focus on others.

I like to prayerfully ask, “How can I be a blessing to someone today?”  It gets my mind off my own troubles and onto being a part of the healing of someone else’s troubles.

Sounds like a good recipe for joy. :-)

Plus, it is reflective of the true spirit of Christmas as seen in Matthew 20:28 – “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Here are 12 easy ways to inspire you to be a part of making someone’s Christmas a little brighter.12 christmas acts of kindness

Happy Christmas RAK-ing! :-)

Advent Paper Chain Countdown – FREE Printable

advent paper chain 1Y’all know I am passionate about Advent Calendars.

And you know that I have a wonderful FREE Printable for you to countdown to Jesus’ birth using Christmas Scripture verses each day (find it HERE).

This year, however, I wanted to try something different.

advent chain1I created a cute FREE Printable of a fun poem to attach to a paper chain.

I found an amazing FREE Printable paper chain over at Spell Outloud that shares 25 names of Jesus – one for each day of December.  I printed it out on red and green paper.

I am especially clinging to His names of Prince of Peace and Good Shepherd this season.  How lovely to spend the days leading up to our Lord’s birthday dwelling on who He is.

On all that God gifted to us through His son’s coming.

We made one for each of my 2-year-olds to take home and do with their families.  I posted about it on Instagram and someone emailed me and asked if I would share the tag I used here on the blog.

advent paper chain**Click HERE for your FREE Printable Christmas Paper Chain Countdown Poem**

It’s not too late to start counting down.

Happy Paper Chain Countdown-ing! :-)

Elf Antics

super easy elf ideasI’m sorry for disappearing these last few weeks (precious thanks to those of you who have reached out wondering what in the world happened to me – you blessed me very much).

Some things are going on in my world that have required my undivided attention.

But I did have a few minutes today to put together a little post about that mischievous elf that comes to visit some of your Happy Homes this month.

We don’t own an actual Elf on the Shelf.  Our elf, Ned, was found at a local Marshall’s several years ago.

I had high hopes of doing clever ideas with him last Christmas all month long, but only ended up doing a total of like 8 days of elf antics.  Mostly because I forgot all the other 17 days and also mostly because the Happy Buddy was more interested in opening his chocolate Advent calendar each morning than he was in looking for Ned, so I figured why waste all that time and mental energy???? ;-)

To top it off, I had this personal conviction to make all of Ned’s poses Christ-centered, which proved to be a bit more creatively challenging than I thought.  Oh the things we do to ourselves. #gluttonforpunishment

I don’t even know if I am going to bring Ned out this year after reading this lady’s post (keeping it real, people), but for those of you who need some elf inspiration, I absolutely love helping make your lives easier and your homes happier. :-)

Here are a few of the antics our elf did last year that I actually remembered to photograph…elf 4

Here is Ned captivating an audience with a story about Jesus’ birth.elf 3

Ned being a little drummer boy for baby Jesus.elf 2

Ned getting into the refrigerator magnets – I had no idea that elves knew how to spell!

elf 5Ned all dressed up for Christmas Eve services. :-)

elf 1And finally, Ned decided that he wanted in with the 3 kings.

I put together a list of 23 Elf ideas in this image for you to refer to throughout the month of December should you find yourself in a creative rut!elf entics

Happy Elf Antics-ing! :-)

*Need even more ideas?  Check out my Elf-capades Pinterest Board HERE!*

10 Tradition Ideas for a Magical Christmas Eve

10 Tradition Ideas for a Magical Christmas Eve at happyhomefairy.com - these ideas are so cute, easy, and fun!I can hardly believe that Christmas Eve is tomorrow!

A night simply filled with magic all by itself, but made even more fun with one of these creative tradition ideas…

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Click Image for Idea

Many of us know about leaving out cookies and milk for Santa.

But what about his reindeer?  I mean, they do some pretty exhausting work hauling that giant sleigh filled with toys all over the world in one night!  Those antlered friends are going to need some fuel to keep their energy up.

So make a batch of Reindeer Food (simple recipe and FREE Printable tag found at Amanda’s Parties To Go!) and sprinkle it on the lawn with your Happy Buddies this Christmas Eve.

*Pssst – I hear that the reindeer sometimes leave behind small piles of their droppings (which look remarkably like Cocoa Puffs cereal) as their way of saying thanks for the chow.* :-)

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Click Image for Idea

When I was a little girl, Santa used to leave handwritten notes for my brothers and me to find after his visit on Christmas Eve.

I hear you can find FREE Printable stationary from the desk of Santa Claus himself over at Design Editor.

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Click Image for Idea

Big D and Me have a fun tradition where a brand new Christmas-themed book gets magically dropped off at their house on Christmas Eve every year by a group of Santa’s elves.

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Click Image for Idea

Speaking of new Christmas books and elves, there is a book called The Pajama Elves (you can read more about it HERE) that goes right along with another great Christmas Eve tradition of receiving a new pair of pajamas each year just before bed.

I’ve got my boys’ pajama presents all ready for when we get home from church!

Photo Source

Photo Source

And speaking of church… :-)

My favorite Christmas Eve tradition is definitely attending our church’s Christmas Eve Candlelit Service.

The church I grew up in had 3 Christmas Eve services – with the last one beginning at 11 pm!  When I was old enough to stay up for it, that midnight service was by far my most treasured time of worship during the Christmas season.  I just loved raising my candle along with my church family in this collective effort to praise Him for the light he brought to our dark world.

Attend a service this year with your family and even pray about inviting someone to come with you!

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Photo Source

Speaking of Christmas Eve Services, when the Happy Hubby and I get home from them and we get the boys in bed, we like to sit down and exchange the gifts we got for each other.

We like it this way because it’s just the two of us.  Sometimes with all the hubbub of kids and family swirling around, the specialness of one another’s gifts can get downplayed because you’re just so distracted by everything else that’s happening (like maybe your 8 month old baby is trying to eat the tree). :-)

Maybe consider exchanging presents with your loved one on Christmas Eve, in the quiet and still part of the holiday.

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Photo Source

This next tradition idea is one that will help in the effort to balance the give/get issue at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, have your Happy Buddies fill a small bag with a few gently used toys that they would like to donate.

Leave the bag by the tree.

Santa will pick up the bag and make sure that the toys are delivered to a local charity or family in need.  Then a few new toys are left in the bag for your Happy Buddies to find Christmas morning.

Not only does this encourage your Happy Buddies to think about others, but as a bonus, there is added space for the new toys.

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Click Image for Idea

Do you have a special dinner on Christmas Eve?

Both of my parents worked as the music directors at our church when I was younger.  Christmas Eve was always a busy one without a lot of time for food prep!  I remember one of my favorite things to eat on Christmas Eve in between the services was a big bowl of cereal.

One year I also remember my mom running us to the local grocery store where we were allowed to quickly pick out a Kid’s Cuisine.  This was a HUGE deal as we weren’t allowed to eat them at any other time during the year.

Maybe you have a bit more time than microwaveable dinners, so how about making it your tradition to cook up a big pot of steamy, delicious soup on Christmas Eve every year?  Here is a yummy recipe for Christmas Eve Soup I found over at Gooseberry Patch.  Or you could make these fun and easy homemade Christmas tree pizzas found HERE.

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Photo Source

And speaking of Christmas Dinner…

I so enjoy taking a plate of food or treats to someone working the night shift on Christmas Eve.

Simply pull up to the drive-thru window of your local 24-hour pharmacy and pass the tired employee a Christmas feast. :-)

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Click Image for Idea

And finally, the best Christmas Eve tradition I can think of is sitting around with your family and reading the Christmas Story passage from Luke 2.

A Pair of Pears made this great FREE Printable Christmas Story Poster of the treasured lines from the Charlie Brown Christmas movie for you to use as you share the true meaning of Christmas with loved ones.

What traditions does your Happy Home enjoy on Christmas Eve?

Merry Christmas Eve Tradition-ing! :-)