Ever since Precious Girl was little, my husband and I wanted to set our own family traditions at Christmas.
Every Christmas Eve, before the Christmas Eve Service, our family packs into the car and drives to the National Christmas Center in Paradise, PA. (Here's a link to their website!) They have beautiful displays of Christmas celebrations from around the world. We really enjoy looking at the different traditions. The wax figures are amazingly lifelike! This year, we'll be looking for Baboushka from Russia - we just read a Russian folk tale about her from Story of the World.
This museum also hosts an amazing collection of antique Christmas ornaments. It always amuses my kids that some of the ornaments and toys that my hubby and I remember from our childhoods have already made it into the museum...(and, no, I'm not that old...). Does anyone else remember those Christmas Lights that bubbled???
But our favorite part, by far, is the journey to Bethlehem. At the end of our tour, we walk a road to Bethlehem, just like Mary and Joseph walked. We get to hear the edict by Caesar Augustus in Latin, and see what a home and a marketplace would have looked like. We hear an innkeeper tell us, in Aramaic, that his inn is full. And then, just after we pass the tools of a carpenter, we end up in the stable with lifelike wax figures of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.
I am always moved to tears by the beautiful simplicity of that setting.
There were no twinkling lights, no wrapped presents or Christmas Trees, but it is perfect in its simplicity. Jesus came quietly into the world in the humblest of settings, a manger for his first bed, surrounded by his loving parents.
God came to Earth on Christmas.
Every year I am reminded that this first Christmas gift,
a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, is the only gift I need.