A Very Christmas Weekend

This past weekend we filled up on the local Christmas events. The weather was warmer than usual, hitting 50, so it was perfect for the whole family to be outside for an extended time. A couple of the events came from my list of Holiday Events in New England, which you can check back to look for more ideas. Friday night we went to Light From Afar at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. Sunday we went over to Oakholm Farm to indulge in festivities and go to Oakholm Brewing Company. Lastly, that evening we did our traditional visit to Old Sturbidge Village for Christmas by Candlelight.

Light from Afar at La Sallette in Attleboro, MA was an amazing sight. This was our first time going so we did not know what to expect, but it blew me away. This display of lights, which deserves a much bigger word because ‘display’ is an understatement, was stunning. Over 400,000 lights to observe and truly brighten your spirit. The experience was beautiful, peaceful, and amazing all at once. Among the lights you can find the nativity scene with a real donkey, the story of the birth of Jesus on large wooden plaques, and the tale of Saint Nicholas and his transformation to Santa Claus. Continuing on we found more amazing lights, a hot chocolate stand, and a merry go round. To each their own, but we didn’t feel comfortable taking part on the merry-go-round given the crowd and current health crisis. Luckily we were able to avoid a meltdown and made our way to some more dazzling lights by the pond.

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The Christmas celebration of lights is FREE, no reservation required, and open every night 5:00-9:00pm. I recommend going during the week if you can. You could spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours there, depending on how fast or slow you’d like to view it all. We were there for two hours and it was just right for our 4 year old and having a baby in tow. For the most part, it is stroller friendly but there is one area only accessible by stairs. I wore Theo in our LilleBaby carrier because its just so much easier to get around.

After a slow Sunday morning, enjoying “snowman pancakes”, we met our family over at Christmas at Oakholm Farm, located in Brookfield, MA. They had all sorts of holiday fun going on, including ‘pick your own’ Christmas tree, horse-drawn wagon rides, Christmas Carolers, various venders, a food truck, and good ol’ Mr. Santa Claus! This rustic farm sits on a quiet back road so it’s perfect for the whole family, with plenty of space to let the kids run around. We sat by the fire, roasted marshmallows, and made our way back and forth to the Oakholm Brewing Company, located just next to all the festivities.

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Let me tell you, this was the perfect way to meet Santa! He was so interactive with the kids, took his time, and made it so fun. Don’t be fooled by the picture with Theo, he just didn’t want me to put him down. I don’t think he even saw Santa. Santa Claus on the other hand, was extremely jolly and enjoyable. He actually came over to the kids by the firepit and talked to them for a while. They practiced their “Ho, Ho, Ho” with him and talked about what his favorite kind of cookie is so we know what to leave for him on Christmas Eve night. It’s Chocolate Chip, if anyone needs that info.

You can occasionally find different vendors at the farm, a great place for other small businesses to gain some ground. This weekend they had Swift River Wood Shop, from Western Massachusetts. This man handcrafts each piece, from coasters to cheese boards, and even butcher blocks. Each piece unique in it’s own grain, from locally sourced wood…so you know its good. You can take a look at their website for past and present projects, and simply contact them for requests! It’s amazing to see the work that comes straight from a craftsman, no funny business there.

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And onto our final event, closing our big weekend filled with Christmas, we went over to Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight. Tickets and Reservations required in advance. We’ve done this for the past few years, so I love that we can carry out this tradition. Understandably, the experience was limited due to the pandemic. A lot of their unique character interactions and building displays were unavailable due to obvious safety concerns. You can still walk around and observe live demonstrations from windows or enjoy a horse-drawn carryall ride. The Christmas Tree Trail and Christmas Wish Bridge were something we missed last year, so it was nice to peacefully stroll through this year. We enjoyed some time by a bonfire and listened to a musician in the shoe shop. We truly love going to the live museum, and wish for next year to be closer to normal!

Hope you are finding ways to fit some Christmas magic in during this weird time. We don’t have much of 2020 left, so make the most of it. Fill the rest of your year with all good things. Stay safe. Merry Christmas.

>> Erin

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Juggling the Holidays with Children

Let the chaos commence! Am I right? Don’t get me wrong, I love this season. I just can’t believe it’s already here. Have you started planning out how you’re going to manage your holidays? Or are you the person who’s already done some Christmas shopping and the tree is up? I am not. I really just put away some Halloween decorations I just found. But my mind is already turning over how to handle the upcoming festivities.

Like I said, I love the holidays. Having kids now makes it so much magical. Seeing everything through their eyes… watching how excited they get when you drive by a house with Christmas lights on… or witnessing their reaction to meeting Santa Claus. It’s all so wonderful. However, the holiday season can certainly be exhausting when you are towing little ones along. Trying to see everyone, making sure we packed everything…And when or where will they nap?! I felt myself becoming anxious over the upcoming holidays about two years ago, with our first born getting a little older. What should be an exciting and enjoyable time of year, was turning into a dreaded hassle.  I even considered traveling so we didn’t have to deal with it!

Sometimes family members have high expectations of you committing all your time to visiting them.  This can be so hard if you have both sides of the family, and even more so with split families. Not to mention if you have family living far away. Our first couple of years with one child we actually squeezed in seeing everyone all in one day. Our families live in the same state, but it was still over 2 hours of driving in one day to see them all.  It was hectic, rushed, and stressful. Trying to please everyone can be so grueling, and then have a negative effect on your family or kids. 

The first two years as parents, we were so caught up in pleasing everyone else that we never spent a Christmas morning in our own house, with our own little family.  Part of me regrets that because we didn’t have a special ‘Christmas morning’ experience with our first baby or pictures to look back on.  So last year, I decided enough was enough. We would not be fitting in both sides of the family on one day.  Our children deserve a slow quiet morning in their own home. Giving them time to enjoy opening presents and playing with them instead of running off to the next house.  It’s also not fair to the little ones to be pulled away from playing with their cousins or enjoying the quality family time. Cutting them short of that special time usually doesn’t go well either…do I need to explain further? I don’t think so.

You can’t satisfy everyone so put your little family first. If you and your partner are unhappy, then it will likely reflect on the children and/or stress them out. So brainstorm and consider your options. For example, we decided to celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband’s family, Christmas morning as our own little family at home, then Christmas afternoon/evening with my side of the family. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Alternate the holiday each year. Thanksgiving with one side, Christmas with the other, and then switch the following year.
  • Split the holiday into two separate days.
  • Have everyone come to your house.
  • Consider starting a new tradition, like baking together or meeting up for a walk.
  • Or my newest plan…go travel! Just kidding, but not a bad idea… just a really bad year for it.  
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Whatever you decide on, be clear about your plans and stand your ground.  You’re doing what is best for your children. And if you have a difficult time with your family, then at least this year you can use the pandemic as an excuse! Depending on what state you live in, the law can really be on your side this time!  Or maybe you really are nervous about larger gatherings because you have a new baby or small children.  I know I am, our youngest is 9 months and I’m very cautious about who we visit. So…leave it at that… it’s the pandemic’s fault you can’t see too many people in one day! Then your extended family will see how nice it is to enjoy you without cutting the visit short, setting a precedence for the years to come.

In the end, do what brings you joy. Have a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season, from my family to yours.

>> Erin

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