Christmas Traditions May Change But With Older Kids the Magic Remains

“Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it — you feel it, you know it, you believe it.”

Kevin Alan Milne

When my boys were younger, the magic of the holidays wasn’t hard to come by. They were all in. Santa, the naughty list, lights, and stockings were the talk of our house for weeks. 

Photo credit Maureen Stiles

I often piled them in the car after dinner and drove around enjoying Christmas lights with the bonus of burning time before bed. I found a new neighborhood each time and crawled along the festive streets with holiday music blaring. Seeing their faces light up in the glow of those displays never got old for me. 

When my kids were young, decorating for Christmas was a chore

In those early days, finding the time to decorate our own house was a chore. We always had a string of lights on the fence and, of course, a tree but I left the large holiday displays to others. 

As the boys grew, so did my ability and desire to devote time to decorating. Each year, I spent time planning exterior lights, wreaths, inflatable characters, spotlights, and cheer. Every now and again, I would get a half-hearted offer of help from one of the kids, but it was largely a solo endeavor. My husband was tasked with keeping said children and the dog at bay and I was good with that. 

The annual unveiling of the yard newly transformed into a winter wonderland was so joyful it outweighed the manual labor. The boys oohed and aahed like watching fireworks and were grateful for the effort and planning. 

As I packed up the decorations I felt their childhood slipping away

Yet when I packed up all the boxes each January, I felt like I was stowing away a little of their innocence. I sighed knowing next December would bring us another year further from that little boy’s wonder and awe.

Time did indeed march on and eventually my eldest left for college. I decorated furiously between Thanksgiving and his return for winter break more for myself than for him. We felt his absence keenly and the busy work was therapeutic. 

That was the year I finally managed to engineer all the cords into one timer.  Even flush with this victory a decade in the making, it paled in comparison to having my boy home. 

I was determined to ensure school paled in comparison to our festive, homey environment and I watched my son relax and embrace the holidays. From that first semester forward, the outdoor decorations were my first gift to my exam-weary son and the landscape got more adventurous each year. 

Now, my oldest is my co-worker in decorating

Now, my oldest is a graduate and it is his brothers returning to the nest each December to recharge and celebrate. This year, his offer of help was sincere, and he ran out mid-decorating to buy more lights, helped with the tree, and was my co-conspirator in the Great Christmas Decorating Caper.

And at dusk when that timer clicks, my young men are transformed for just a minute into those wide-eyed boys I carted around over a decade ago. Their faces, reflected in the glow of the lights, are full of Christmas magic that never really disappeared. 

Rather, that enchantment is a shifting, changing concept focused less on presents and Santa but one that will forever say, “I am home.”

More Great Reading:

All That I Loved About Christmas as a Child is Even Better Now

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles is a Washington DC based freelance journalist, columnist and editor. With over a decade of published work in the parenting and humor sector, Maureen has reached audiences around the globe. In addition to published works, she has been quoted in the Washington Post and The New York Times on topics surrounding parenting and family life. Maureen is the author of The Driving Book for Teens and a contributor to the book Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults as well as regularly featured on Today's Parenting Community and Grown and Flown.

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