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How did Christmas fly by? It seems like we just wrote our Christmas Bucket Lists! It wasn’t the big Crouch Christmas this year, so most of us had individual celebrations or time with in-laws or other loved ones. Since we wrote about 25 of our favorite Christmas traditions throughout December, we thought we’d share some of our best Christmas experiences this year and what we hope to change for next year!

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Christmas Tradition Fun- Mariah
Belle Costume gift

Our beautiful princess Belle dancing with the “Beast”!

Christmas was a wonderful, happy…blur. 

We snuck in many traditions the first two weeks- baked a new recipe, went on a lights drive, Elf Yourself, went to the Bethlehem Marketplace, made gingerbread houses, and tried new cocoa flavors.

I listened to Josh Groban and Michael Buble Christmas albums on repeat, and MoTab and Celtic Woman on one Sunday. I worked out to Pentatonix because their upbeat spin on the carols. (The day after Christmas I realized I hadn’t even listened to any 90’s boy band Christmas albums! I was devastated.)

The third week we were busy making goodies for our neighbors and cleaning like crazy for our home appraisal. We donated some of our things. My husband and I put in sod for our new home.  I also spoke about Strength in Christ at church and attended the ward Christmas party-our last one with those wonderful people before we are zoned for another ward (church congregation).

Do the biggest messes always happen right before the appraiser comes?

We also got to see Coco in the theater! Ok, I saw it with my three-year-old after my husband had to take our screaming toddler out. I’ll make it up to him. Anyway, I LOVED the movie and definitely cried twice.

Because it is the “off” year for Crouch Christmas, we stayed in Tennessee to have Christmas with my husband Jake’s family. We didn’t have to travel far; my in-laws live less than ten minutes away.

My sisters-in-law and brother-in-law came into town last week, and we went to the town center to wrap presents for families that needed help. It was a really great experience!

We had a nice Gibbs Christmas Eve dinner featuring fiesta foods. My father-in-law and brother-in-law were debating on which of them ate the most on a regular basis. I was secretly laughing because I knew my tiny sisters at home could have easily put them both to shame. We sang carols after dinner, read the nativity story, and unwrapped some adorable handmade things from my mother-in-law.

Jake and I did our shopping in November, but procrastinated until Christmas Eve to actually wrap anything for our kids. We had a wrapping party and chugged Santa’s cocoa.

Our girls were delighted to see the presents on Christmas morning. Those smiles are the things I live for. We had a great time playing and snuggling before going back to Jake’s parent’s home to eat, open more gifts, and play games. (You guys ever play Oh, Snap!? It’s a fun one!) I briefly got ahold of my mom on the phone in the middle of their gift-opening, and later in the day we got to Skype with my dad, who is currently deployed. It was so good to hear from him!

More extended family came to visit as well, and we’re just now winding down from the festivities and getting back to real life. And cursing this snow-less cold.

I had a great Christmas remembering our Savior and spending special time with my little family!

Next year, I want to bake more, go caroling, and watch a Christmas movie (because somehow we never did that this year!)

Big Family Christmas Fun- Tara

Big Family Christmases bring lots of wrapping

Christmas has been fantastic. My mom recently got married in March, and we have been spending Christmas with my EIGHT new siblings and their families. It has been WONDERFUL!

My favorite part was Christmas morning. I love watching the Christmas magic through my children’s eyes. I love picking out presents and wrapping them (seriously I LOVE wrapping) and watching them open their gifts. I loved doing our kindness elf again this year and focusing more on the spirit of the season rather than the gifts.

Like I mentioned I love wrapping gifts so that was also a favorite. I wrapped some for my “Bonus Dad,” and I’m pretty sure if I didn’t like surprises so much, my husband would have let me wrap my own.

I was so excited to see the Lights at Temple Square this year, but unfortunately that never panned out. Christmas lights are magical and that will definitely be a priority again next year.

Mostly I have loved being back home with my family. Christmas is such a warm fuzzy season and holiday and being with my family makes it even more so.

Home for the Holidays- Makayla
Nativity

Makayla’s friends organized a life nativity scene in their apartment!

In one week, I’m flying home! That’s what I said two weeks ago as I fell asleep in my apartment in Utah. Finals were done, and Christmas was just around the corner. Now as I fall asleep in my old bedroom in Missouri, that thought comes again. But it has a less excited tone as I think, In one week…I’m flying…back. How does the time we anticipate all. year. long…pass by so fast?

Was it the stress of finishing finals and rushing to pack? Was it the nearly empty house as my siblings went to their in-laws for their own celebrations?

Last year, I enjoyed the Christmas season in the heat of an Argentine December. There were few lights in the poor city of Reconquista, and Christmas carols were few and far between. As the sweat poured down my back, I found myself singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” more and more. But it still felt like Christmas when I saw my family’s dear faces appear on the computer for our precious 40 minutes of Skype.

Even with the snow and the cocoa this year, it felt harder to feel the Christmas spirit. But, I found that joy in a few traditions we did!

Caroling outside of a store to raise money for charity. We sang for about two hours in the cold! My friends got really creative as we ran out of songs to sing!

-Organizing a nativity presentation for our friends. This was sooo easy, but helped everyone who watched remember the Savior in a special way.

-Singing around the piano as a family! We haven’t done this in years, and we even helped my mom downstairs on her crutches so she could join in.

-Shopping at Hobby Lobby with my family, picking out gifts for those we love.

-Christmas ham and funeral potatoes!

-Decorating for the extended family reunion. I got to talk with some cousins I haven’t seen in years.

-Setting up my grandma’s very own Instagram account haha!

Next year, I would like to do:

-More service. There are so many people that need our help, and so many ways to serve. I’d like to be better at the Light the World challenge!

-Eat more chocolate cookies with Peppermint frosting from Sodalicious.

-Go Iceskating.

-Spend Christmas with my dad!

Christmas Train- MaLee

MaLee traveled to so many fun places over the break.

My Christmas season was a little unusual this year. I started a new job this summer, so I did not have really any PTO to use for Christmas and unfortunately could not afford to take a week of unpaid time off either. The tickets to go home to Missouri were extremely expensive by the time we were looking to buy and I did not feel right paying so much money for so little time back home. So until about a week before Christmas, I was planning on spending the holiday alone in Provo.

No one was really thrilled with this arrangement; least of all me. Though I tried to be optimistic and upbeat about the situation for my loved ones, I was incredibly depressed at the thought of spending my favorite holiday all alone in my little apartment. About a week before Christmas, everyone was still scrambling to find a way to make sure I would not spend the day alone.

I was really grateful for the generous offers I received but did not feel right about accepting so much money for travel tickets from anyone. Just when I had given up, I found out that trains run between Salt Lake City and California, where my boyfriend was spending Christmas with his family. The tickets were cheap and still available so I ended up getting train tickets to California for Christmas!

I had a ton of fun spending Christmas with Taylor and his family in California. His family is so inclusive and so much fun to be around. We played a lot of card games, spent time cooking together in the kitchen, went for pretty walks, went to the movies, and even went to see the Nutcracker Ballet! It was my first time ever attending the ballet, and it was such an incredible experience.

Nutcracker Ballet

MaLee got to see a live production of the Nutcracker Ballet!

We also got to share Christmas with Taylor’s aunt’s parents, who are from China and have never celebrated this holiday before. I’m so grateful to his family for always being so willing to welcome me into their loving home, especially around the holiday season.

Next year I’d like to go to the Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point because I really wanted to this year and did not get a chance to do so. I’m also excited for Crouch Christmas next year, when all of us will finally be together again. I watched lots of Hallmark Christmas movies, but since you can never see too many of those I am excited to see more of those next year again. Finally, I hope to see more success with my Christmas recipes next year since I failed at the Yule Log cake and never got to make Christmas cookies.

Light the World Christmas-Madison
Madison and friends at the Temple Square Christmas Lights

Madison went to Temple Square with her friends to see the lights!

Oh Christmas. I cannot believe it has already come and gone! I wish I would have slowed down a little bit this year and enjoyed the smaller things.

December 1st came just a week after I returned from Thanksgiving Break, and I was so excited! December means Christmas. Christmas music. Christmas lights. Snow. Presents. Christ filled messages. And happiness. Everyone seems just a little bit happier when we have Christ as our focus.

My boyfriend and I participated in the Light the World challenge this year. It is a 25-day Service Challenge which includes different service ideas for each day of December until Christmas. He was much more on top of things than I was, but we loved sharing our small services each day.

My favorite was Day 6 – Judge not, that ye be judged not.  December 6th: All day I avoided passing judgment on strangers. There was a girl who rode my bus in the mornings, and I did not particularly like this girl. The way she carried herself made me want to avoid her. I made it an effort to reach out to her and ask her how she was. It turned into a great conversation. I would never deem us “friends” but it is nice to have my spirits lifted after I reached out to her. The Light the World Challenge was a great way to feel the spirit of Christmas everyday up until Christmas.

I live in Utah, and one of the most classic Utah winter activities is to see the Christmas lights at Temple Square. The whole square is lit up in these twinkling lights and it is a perfect place for pictures. There is a section of “around-the-world” nativity scenes that represent different nations of the world. The Chinese Joseph and Russian Mary are pretty cute.

Temple Square fun

Temple Square is one of the most popular locations in Utah to see the most beautiful lights.

After seeing all of the international nativities, I visited the classic nativity that is set on the reflection pool, directly in front of the temple. It is gorgeous! I went twice with my friends, and I cannot wait to go again next year. And the hot chocolate from the Nauvoo Cafe in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is deeeeelicious.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without someone being sick. The stomach flu went around my family and it hit me hard….right in the middle of my finals week. I had to postpone 3 of my finals, and it put me behind a lot. I thought Christmas would never come! Thankfully the week passed and so did the flu. I ended Finals Week and kicked off my Christmas Break by seeing Star Wars: Return of the Jedi with my roommates.

Airports at Christmas time are pure chaos. I was almost late to my flight due to the huge line of security and then my flight was delayed because of ice. I was pretty grumpy, but the woman next to me was so happy to be flying home for the holidays. It made me all warm and fuzzy to think of being with my loved ones soon in my little home in Missouri.

We finished our Christmas shopping and our wrapping right before Christmas. (You know you are getting old when you wrap your own gifts). The days right before flew by and before I knew it, it was Christmas Eve. As a family, we love reading the scriptures from Luke 2 by candlelight. What a beautiful moment to stop and remember our Savior. Christmas is always a busy time with shopping, wrapping, food-prepping, traveling and more. It probably will always be like that. I’m just so grateful for a wonderful family and a wonderful 2017 Christmas.

A Thrill of Hope on Christmas- Maegan

Christmas Morning

The Christmas season started out difficult for me but ended up being one of the most uplifting Christmases of my life. We named our Christmas tree “The Christmas Tree that Fell” this year, and when the sisters started this recap I thought about how many traditions “fell” short this year for my family.

Some of the children had the bad kind of cold that lingers (almost all of December!), and I caught it the week before Christmas. So we didn’t do several of the traditions we had planned like caroling and some service projects.

Buckles the Elf got lost. Again. We experienced a serious theft, and I wasn’t sure how we would afford Christmas gifts. A Christmas Carol is still stuck in Christmas Present, and I didn’t watch a single sappy Christmas movie except for the children’s shows.  

Bah humbug.

I especially was mourning a much anticipated “First Christmas” that didn’t come this year because of a pregnancy loss. It was really hard to feel the Christmas Spirit. 

But then I was asked to speak at our Christmas Eve church service about the people who looked forward to Christ’s birth. It was the perfect assignment to help me focus on Jesus Christ, our Savior. 

“The hopes and fears of all the years were met in [Him]” (O Little Town of Bethlehem, Phillips Brooks). I realized that I had an even greater reason to rejoice this year because of my disappointments and sorrows–Jesus Christ is the one who brought real joy to the world because through Him we can live again, overcome all things, and become more like Him. I felt the “thrill of hope” that the Christmas song O Holy Night talks about in one of the most powerful ways of my life.     

Joy to the World

And we ended up having a wonderful Christmas. Our family used an adorable advent calendar my grandma made. The children ate so many candy canes. We made lots of Christmas treats and read Christmas stories and looked at beautiful lights. We spent time with Joey’s parents enjoying the white Christmas with sledding and making gingerbread houses. Now we’re enjoying time with some of my siblings and our mom. 

Every day we watched the Light the World videos and tried to follow the Savior’s example. Grandparents gave beautiful Christmas gifts; a kind, anonymous giver sent us a gift card that paid for several gifts for our children for Christmas morning!  

Next year I want to be more “present” for all of the wonderful memories. And keep better track of our Elf. Most of all I want to hold on to that hope I felt this year that brought the Light of Christmas. 

 

How was your Christmas? We’d love to hear about your favorite experiences or plans for next year!

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