We do not enjoy being around crowds in non-air conditioned environments so we will often arrive 15 minutes before they open the doors. During the wait this year, I enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with a young child in line who was horribly cold and anxiously waiting in line. He was so cute and his laugh was adorable. We usually leave after Alyssa has finished all the activities unless of course we are busy visiting with friends we haven't seen in awhile.
Many activities are free with a reasonably priced paid admission. However, several optional activities including a photo with Santa, decorating cookies, and face painting require a small fee at the front door. There is also a Christmas gift shop with neat stocking stuffer and gift ideas. You can easily skip those events to save money.
Free with the $3.00 Admission
She was able to fish for a treat. One year they gave every child an extra large candy bar which served as a tasty family treat throughout the holidays was was especially good in hot cocoa.
The petting barn was a place that Alyssa frequently visited. The animals change every year. This year there were two gigantic, fluffy dogs. One of the dogs craved popcorn so he constantly cried out to the owner hoping for a special treat.
My daughter and her father went on the hay ride this year. When she was younger we were always afraid that it was too cold. This year Jeff took Alyssa since the weather was decent while I shopped in the Christmas gift shop. I didn't find any unique yet inexpensive Christmas stocking stuffers this year.
She created an ornament which was laminated for our tree. They also hole punch it and attach string to the ornament. The children have gel pens, a variety of coloring utensils, gem stickers, and Christmas stamps that can be used to decorate their ornament. This year they decorated a Christmas tree ornament and there was a coloring picture on the other side.
The Christmas Story Performance
We head outside to watch the "Christmas Story" play which is put on by a different church each year. This alone is worth the cost for us. Unfortunately, the night we attended the play was canceled for some reason. The play helps Alyssa and other children focus on why we truly celebrate Christmas - the birth of Jesus.
All children that attend the event have the option of choosing a free book from the Christmas library. The books were donated by community members and collected over a certain time period. Alyssa quickly chose a book about dolphins. She asked me last night if we could study whales again. She adores Orca whales and has been watching the Free Willy series over and over again with me. We discuss the movie as it plays so that any inappropriate matters or behaviors are handled at once. As with many movies, there is always something to discuss.
The children also get to adopt a doll. At first I was always nervous about this activity because I never knew where the dolls came from but they reassured me that it was okay. The dolls collected are in great condition - many look brand new. Alyssa chose to adopt a stuffed horse this year. She signed the paperwork claiming the doll and promising to take care of it with all her heart. The doll at that point is also named by the child. She named her Clydesdale horse Angus after the horse in the movie Brave which is one of her favorite movies now.
Alyssa got to work on her writing skills that night too. She wrote and mailed out a letter to Santa at the post office. I was able to get a heads up as to what she really wanted for Christmas. A cute little girl was watching every move Alyssa made and attempted to copy her letter.
Christmas Caroling or Music
We listened to Christmas music by the stage. A group of kiddos were dancing to the beat and singing. Yes, that of course included my daughter. There is usually a choir but I didn't see one this time.
For the past two years, Alyssa has chosen to give up her face painting activity. She chooses instead to have her father's face painted. Last year she asked the lady to paint a pink and purple elf on his cheek. She got a kick out of watching it! This year she politely asked for a reindeer to be painted on his cheek. However, at the last minute she asked if she would pretty please paint her father's nose red like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. AWESOMENESS!
We usually have a big appetite after all of the holiday activities so we often eat dinner out. This year we were supposed to meet family for an early Christmas dinner at Red Lobster, but they couldn't make it due to work schedule conflicts. We decided to eat at Logan's restaurant instead and when we walked inside everyone was staring and giggling. Jeff asked me when we sat down, "Why are so many people looking at us." Alyssa chimed in, "DADDY ... they probably like your Rudolph nose!" We all started laughing because we had completely forgotten about his face being painted earlier that night.
She was given a Ziploc bag that contained three cookies. Alyssa took her bag to the decorating station. The tray contained all the other supplies needed to decorate her cookies including frosting, sprinkles, paper towel, and a plastic knife. She decorated a cookie for each of us to eat.
Photo With Santa
Surprisingly this year my daughter asked for a photo with Santa; this was the first year she allowed the photographer to take her picture. We don't push Santa in our home but she does know who he is due to literature and commercialism. She is asking more specific Santa questions and I am not sure how to respond yet. Alyssa mentioned a recent book we read titled A Place for Santa after she got her photograph. She said that Santa was not scary anymore, because he does good deeds for God and Jesus. Santa spreads God's love and the spirit of Christmas for Him. I honestly can't remember if I told her that, if it was in the book, if she heard it somewhere else, or if she made it up herself. It sounds good to me.
I didn't get too many pictures this year. Next year I would like to take a few photos of the village for you to see. There are wooden structures (playhouses) inside a large building. These structures are tall enough for adults and can fit several children and adults inside. Each playhouse structure has an activity for the children to complete; the children go from house to house in the village participating in each activity. They get their hand stamped so that they do not repeat activities. This allows all the children the chance to participate.
Yes, all of these activities can be freely done and easily recreated at home but that is not the point for us. For us it is important to support our community, to socialize with others, create treasured traditions and memories, and to have a little fun. I am grateful for my husband's hard work and thankful that God has provided us with the means to participate in this event. This is a wonderful tradition at a reasonable price for our family. It gave me great pleasure to see families of all sizes participating and supporting community events. It was, as always, a night we will remember! Check your local area events next Christmas ... you may find a similar event to participate in if desired.