99: Blessing of the Box

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Blessing of the Box

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

~W. Somerset Maugham

“We’ve had a Christmas box since Linnea was small,” my friend Marcia said.

I took a sip of coffee and inquired. “What’s a Christmas box?”

“Well, we do a twelve-days-before-Christmas countdown. I choose an activity for each day. I write the activity on decorated index cards. The activities may be something like wrapping gifts, baking cookies, or singing carols for a sick loved one,” she said.

I smiled. I liked the idea.

Marcia proceeded to share. She was a four-star mom and I wanted to listen. “Each day, we pull one activity from the box. My girls learn a lot, and it helps to pass those long days before Christmas.”

I could tell by the joy in my friend’s warm brown eyes that the Christmas box had been a real blessing for her family. I wanted that blessing for my family, too.

The next day, I made a trip to the craft store. I found a beautiful box. Gold. Shiny. Removable lid. Just the right size to sit on our mantel. I also bought a smart pack of dark green index cards. Perfect for the activities. When I got home, I had a personal brainstorm. Read a book about Christmas. Dance to a Christmas CD. Pour hot chocolate in a thermos and take a ride to see Christmas lights. Bake gingerbread men. I printed the activities in bold, clear script and was certain that my five boys would love, love, love the Christmas box. We were all about tradition. This new one would be just right.

“I think it’s a great idea,” my husband said.

“Me, too.” I was fully satisfied and filled with joyful anticipation. I couldn’t wait for the twelfth day before Christmas.

December opened like a racehorse at the starting block. Hard. Fast. There were activities. Parties. Programs. Precious times with family and friends. Before I could blink, it was time to begin the Twelve Days of Christmas activities.

I introduced the box and plunked it on the mantel. My five sons, staggered in age from fifteen to one, smiled.

“Tell me what’s in the box!” said five-year old Samuel. “What will we do? Where will we go? Will we make crafts?”

“Crafts,” three-year-old Gabriel said. “I love crafts. Can we paint?”

“Well, tomorrow will tell, guys,” I said. “We’ll begin tomorrow. I’m excited, too. This will be fun, fun, fun.”

The next day we extracted a crisp, green card from the gold box. “Sing Christmas carols around the Christmas tree.” Simple enough. After dinner, my family assembled around the tree. We had a glorious time.

The next day’s activity wasn’t as serene. The day was already jam-packed full. It was our homeschool co-op gingerbread baking day. Then we had program practice for church. The card we pulled from the box said “Help put stamps on Christmas cards.” I hadn’t even bought the cards. I jabbed it back into the box and rooted around for something simpler. “Read ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” was a better fit. Even still, with the busyness of the day, the activity brought me some stress.

The next day’s activity was to bake cookies. We squeezed the gingerbread boys between a piano recital and dinner with friends. By the fourth day, I was exhausted, and the box was only adding to my holiday fatigue. It had become one more thing to do. One more December pressure.

“I don’t think that it’s supposed to be an anxiety filled thing,” my husband said. “It’s for fun. If you’re not having fun, then stop.”

“But the boys love the Christmas box. It’s special. They look forward to the activities. They count on it.”

“Even still,” Lonny said. “If you’re stressing about having fun, you’re not having fun.”

I knew that he was right. But I kept seeing the happiness in the green eyes of my sweet band of sons. So what if I wanted to take the box and hide it in the fresh fallen snow? The kids were having a blast.

It was two days before Christmas when I’d just had enough. My shopping wasn’t complete. I had to plan the Christmas Eve menu. I needed to bake two-dozen more cookies for a social at church. When little Gabriel tugged on the back of my sweater, I felt my blood pressure rise. One more thing on my list. The blasted blessing of the box.

“Mom,” Gabriel said. “There’s two more days until Christmas.”

“I know sweet boy,” I said.

“Well, I was wondering...”

“Gabriel, I love you. But I can’t take time for the box just now,” I snapped. “I have a long list of things to do. When I’m finished, I’ll think about driving to see lights or making snow angels or cutting gift tags from old Christmas cards.”

Gabe’s round, green eyes filled with tears. “I only wanted,” he said, “to know if you could read to me.” Then I noticed ’Twas the Night Before Christmas cuffed under his little arm.

“Oh, Gabe,” I said. “Please forgive me. I was feeling tired. You only wanted to read.”

I scooped my son into my arms. We snuggled deep into our big brown leather chair. I read to him and stroked his hair and enjoyed the sweet, simple moment of just holding my son.

It was all he really wanted. It was what I wanted, too.

The next morning I found myself brainstorming again. I removed the box from the mantel. Shook the activity cards to the table. Then I placed a small notebook and pencil inside the shiny, gold box.

“It’s a blessing box,” I announced to my five sons. “Instead of trying to create blessings, we’re going to sit back and appreciate them. Whenever we see that we’ve received a Christmas blessing, we’ll write it in this little notebook.”

It didn’t take long for the notebook to fill. Cookies with Mom. Sitting by the fire with Dad. Playing in the snow.

I still loved Marcia’s idea. The activity box has been precious to her family, and I hope it will be for years to come. But we’ve found what works for our family, too. Our tradition. And it’s just as sweet.

~Shawnelle Eliasen

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