Embracing the Simple Joy of Family

Red polka dots cup on wooden table over wallpaper with snowflakes

Embracing the simple Joy of FAMILY

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. Burton Hillis

I tell my kids ever year, “Christmas is about family.  It’s about being together.  It doesn’t matter what is or isn’t underneath the tree.  What matters most is that we, as a family are all together — healthy, happy and loving Jesus.”

Over the last four years, I’ve said that more often than I am sure my children would like to hear. It’s hard to keep a balance between wanting to give your children the desires of their heart at least once a year, and knowing that all of that doesn’t really matter.  My children are older now (adults, teens and preteens) so it does make it easier.  We were never extravagant in our giving with our children, but years of unemployment have set us back so far that sometimes the offerings are smaller than I’d like them to be.  But someone, we always manage to have something under the tree, smiling faces, laughter and happy hearts.

As my family comes together to focus on the simple joys of Christmas, there are many things we enjoy doing that bring us closer to each other as we build lasting memories.

Annual Tree Hunting

And it is a hunt!  We drive about an hour south to the tree farm and go on a hunt for the perfect tree. We all have an opinion as to what we feel is the perfect one, but in the end, we manage to come into agreement as we cut it down and bring it home.


Tree decorating, Christmas Movies & Cookies

Every year we decorate our tree while eating freshly baked cookies and watching such Christmas movie as Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Santa Clause and The Grinch.  Over the last couple of years I’ve gotten to sit back and watch my children take charge of the tree, which I love.  I’ve come a long way from the days where everything had to be perfect on the tree. My children do a wonderful job and you won’t find me rearranging anything!


Christmas Sing-A-Long

On Thanksgiving Day, my daughters and I were driving in the car listening to one of our favorite Christmas CDs by Michalel Buble.  There is something magic that happens with Christmas music.  My heart comes alive, and is filled with joy at not only the lyrics and what they mean, but just the nostalgia surrounding the season.  It’s around this same time that my husband and oldest son sit on the couch side-by-side with their guitars participating in their own, home-made Christmas sing along.

Christmas Shopping

Yes, I did say Christmas shopping.  Oh, it can be stressful at times, but just the joy of going out and purchasing gifts for others (friends, co-workers, my kids for each other) brings me so much joy.  Times are tight and we have had to be creative in our gift giving.  Each year our shopping season starts on Black Friday with a trip to Starbucks and then off to the mall.  Thankfully this year, since the sales started on Thanksgiving eve (which I was not a fan of), there was no one shopping.  No crowds and lots of parking!

Christmas baking

I am not a natural baker, but once a year my youngest daughter, my sister and my mother get together to bake cookies.  We spend an entire day in the kitchen, each taking home 4-5 containers of cookies.  Some of our favorites are:

Hershey’s ROLO Pretzel Delights




Chocolate-Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies (which as a child I affectionately called “candy cookies”)




Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies


Nothing brings me more joy than partaking in the consumption of these edible creations.

These are just a few of the simple things my family enjoys doing together at Christmas that bring us joy.  I do miss the times when my children were little and we all participated in Advent devotionals.  With older children, who run on their own schedules, it’s hard to open the Word together. So I make it a point to drop in a “whatcha been reading lately” to spark conversation.

How about you?  What Christmas activities do you do with your family that bring you joy?  I would love for you to share in the comments below.

Come back next Tuesday as I share more on the simple joys Christmas!


Seeking beauty in the ordinary and embracing life to the fullest. Thank you for stopping by and come again soon!

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25 Responses

  1. Beth says:

    Thanks for sharing with us, Barbie. I love this “Tuesdays Unwrapped.” Those cookies look delicious and your tree is BEAUTIFUL! I need to get mine up!!
    Much love to you.
    Beth recently posted..Three Word Wednesday: Be Like Mary {Guest Post}

  2. Lori Harris says:

    love your traditions, Barbie…
    But do you really decorate your cookies like that bottom picture????? If you do, my friend, you have just landed in a whole other kind of spectacular!
    Lori Harris recently posted..Reining in the Bling {Tuesdays Unwrapped}

  3. Joan says:

    I love your pictures and the recounting of some of your family traditions! Our kids are grown, but we still love to decorate and make the house look festive for Christmas. Yesterday was spent (joyfully) with boxes all over the house as we unpacked decorations! I love the baking tradition, too, and am looking forward to that. There is so much at this time of year that I love…especially the true reason we are celebrating!!

    Blessings, Joan
    Joan recently posted..Sharing His Beauty & Advent!

  4. ~Karrilee~ says:

    LOVE this little glimpse into your holidays Barbie! Ooooh – and Michael Buble… I don’t have that one (yet!) I LOVE Christmas music… but I promise my hubby every year that I will not keep buying more CDs that we only listen to for a month or so… and yet? (Last year it was She and Him and I love that one too!)

    As far as Christmas Activities… well we don’t have a real tree – so the hunt is not part of our tradition anymore but the decorating and Christmas movie and a whole lot LESS baking nowadays – but still a little! We go through a Drive Through Nativity, look at Christmas lights around town… go to the Lighted Parade and walk through a Journey to Bethlehem… mostly – we snuggle on the couch and enjoy the twinkling of lights and holidays movies!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted..Coffee with Jesus, discovering Advent, & Tuesdays Unwrapped

    • Barbie says:

      Oh yes, how could I have forgotten the lights! I’ve never been through a drive through nativity. There is a church near us that sets up a nativity outside, complete with a real baby and real animals!

  5. Becky Daye says:

    Loved this glimpse into your celebrations and I so agree- what a GIFT family is!!! We have so many traditions and I love them all. Planning to hunt for our tree on Thursday- the kids have the day off of school on Friday, so we will decorate with cookies and hot chocolate all day long! I made the the Rolo pretzels for the first time this Thanksgiving and I understand why they are a staple at your house!!! Oh, my word! So easy. So delicious. Our favorite is Buttermilks. Oh, it is a magical time, isn’t it?
    Merriest of Merry Christmases to you!!!
    Becky Daye recently posted..Gifts in the Grieving

  6. Oh my stars!! Love your Christmas festivities, but those pics are making me hungry.
    Positively Alene recently posted..5 steps to bring back peaceful holidays.

  7. Wanda says:

    It’s so neat to get a sneak peak into other families Christmas traditions. One of things I started with my nieces and nephews was baking Christmas cookies and even though they are tweens and teens now they still look forward to it.
    Wanda recently posted..The One Year Book of Amish Peace//Book Review

    • Barbie says:

      I’m usually not much of a baker, but at Christmas time I try to go all out. And do my fair sharing of eating the goods.

  8. Mary says:

    OK, I see you already answered the decorated cookie question! 🙂 I love getting a glimpse into how you celebrate. And for the record, I am not a fan of the stores opening on Thanksgiving evening either. I haven’t set foot in a store yet, but have done some online shopping. I like to go to the mall just to browse and watch people.

    Love you, Barbie!
    Mary recently posted..Super easy cookies that get LOTS of compliments!

    • Barbie says:

      People crack me up at Christmas, and sometimes it can be so sad. I love on line shopping and hope to do most of mine there this year. Amazon and I are great friends!

  9. Barbie,
    What wonderful traditions…your kids are blessed to have so many wonderful memories together…for the past several years, we have bought our tree and decorated it while listening to Christmas music …the day after Thanksgiving…our girl is already talking about baking cookies for friends and neighbors…blessings to you, my friend 🙂
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted..When love makes room…

  10. Thank you, I can’t wait to make the peanut butter balls with my girls. I have to say I think you’re doing your kids a favour by minimizing the gift giving. I’ve done that over the years to where I’m only giving them one gift each this year (it’s a good one). Of course, I can’t control the rest of the extended family…I prayed about encouraging my daughters to give a gift to Jesus, meaning a gesture of love to someone else. Wouldn’t you know, that very evening my 10-year-old shared her plan to give her sister a unique gift. She is asking people who love her big sister to write what they love about her on a cue card and she is putting all the messages in a jar as a special gift.
    Laura Connell recently posted..Are you a voice in the wilderness?

    • Barbie says:

      Wow, your daughter has such a giving heart. That is truly going to be a gift her sister will always treasure. Thanks for stopping by Laura!

  11. Marcy says:

    I stopped over from Tuesdays Unwrapped. I’m looking forward to putting up the tree, phase two, tonight with my peeps.

    Thanks for the beautiful picture of your family holidays!

  12. Rosann says:

    What a fun and very “Griswold” tradition. (Please tell me you’ve seen the Christmas Vacation movie! Lol!) I have always wanted to cut down our own tree, but we never have. Instead we have a fake pre lit tree and to be very honest, I pulled it out of the basement the day after thanksgiving and it stinks. The tree smells awful! Like dust and dirt or something. I’ve been washing the branches in a vinegar solution, vacuuming them, and I even tried baking soda. Nothing seems to be getting rid of the odor. So I’m totally wishing I had that lovely smell of fresh cut pine in my home right now. 🙂 Enjoy your tree and your Christmas!!
    Rosann recently posted..The Secret to Being a More Productive and Confident Woman

    • Barbie says:

      This made me laugh. Not because your tree smells, but because I want to buy an artificial tree so bad. I do love the fresh smell, but it’s so much work. It helps having children who take control and do most of it. But I would love to just pop it up and go!

  13. Julie says:

    I feel like I’m experiencing it all right there with you when you write about it all. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

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