A Plan, Not Perfection
Audrey: He worked really hard, Grandma.
Art: So do washing machines.
You gotta hand it to Clark Griswold, he definitely did try to help his family have a good Christmas season. His intentionality and enthusiasm are why Clark was a likable character. For the most part, he seemed to have the enjoyment of his family as his priority. Actually, that’s central to the humor of the story; Clark had a plan that was repeatedly thwarted by nearly everyone and everything around him. From collapsing rain gutters and tricky electrical outlets to a dimwitted brother-in-law and a greedy boss, the deck was stacked against Clark’s full-throttled quest for Christmas perfection.
But, humor aside, maybe that’s one lesson we can learn from Christmas Vacation: have a plan but don’t expect perfection. Towards that end, I wanted to compile some ideas to help plan your Christmas in Orange County.
Personal & Family Christmas Traditions
When it comes to family it is important to understand that traditionally the Christmas season has been called Advent in the church. My friend Justin wrote a really helpful post explaining it over at his blog.
Before jumping into Elf on the Shelf, consider the great opportunity to teach your children the Christmas story and prepare your family to celebrate Christmas together.
Search Amazon for Advent calendars and you'll get a large number of options that seem to be based more on design or candy options rather than content. As I was looking around I found that the Westminster Seminary Bookstore has some great selections for Advent calendars. This year my family and I are using "Christmas Opened Up". The calendars come with a family devotional booklet that has a Bible verse and good discussion guides. We do this at breakfast together.
When it comes to personal devotions, you can't go wrong with John Piper or Paul Tripp's Advent devotionals. I plan to read The Dawn of Indestructible Joy with Kim this year. The hard part for us is finding time to do this with three small kids. Maybe you're in a similar phase of life or maybe you just have a crazy work schedule; of course finding time slot that consistently works for both of you would be ideal but if that's not possible I'd encourage you to be flexible and gracious with one another but to aim for consistency. Maybe you could read one devotional separately but discuss it before bed, over the phone if your work requires you to travel, or text each other with parts that stick out to you and that you'd like to talk about later. Find ways to make it work for both of you and to encourage and point each other to Jesus in this season.
Orange County Christmas Traditions
Here are some other ideas for you, your family, your friends, or your Community Group.
Support local farms and businesses by getting your tree from a place like Peltzer Pines or Tanaka Farms. In our experience Peltzer Pines is the more reasonably priced of the two. We usually take our girls to get our tree a day or two after Thanksgiving. This year on our tight budget we went to Home Depot and got a great little tree for $30.
Walk the numerous Christmas light displays in neighborhoods all over the county. There is one is Lake Forest that is shooting for Griswold-levels. Last year, we found one in Tustin off Red Hill last year that we enjoyed.
Grab some heavy coats, a hot beverage, and watch the boat parades in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, or Dana Point.
Take a date (in my case my 3 year old little ballerina) to see the Nutcracker. There are performances at various theaters around the county.
The tree lighting ceremony and candlelight choir processional in Orange is probably the best tree lighting ceremony in the county.
If your wetsuit isn’t bulky enough, add a Santa costume to the mix and compete in the Surfing Santa competition at Salt Creek to raise money for Autism research.
Cooking classes can be a fun way to grow your skills or have some fun with friends. (Kim loves these, and I love sending her to all the bacon cooking ones available!) Sur la Table has holiday-specific classes.
For more, here is a city-by-city list of options and OC Weekly’s event listing.
Hope these help spur ideas as you plan Christmas traditions! I’m sure I’m missing a lot. What would you add?