It’s our 8th annual Christmas Tree video! Enjoy and Merry Christmas from the Thomason family!
Today we celebrated Christmas in Yakima with Bethany’s side of the family.
I’ve been writing for the past few days that there’s been a bit of a delay with Christmas as we’ve been waiting to get the entire family together. Everyone was here this morning bright and early, and we enjoyed breakfast and cinnamon rolls on the floor by the tree. Bethany’s dad read Luke 2 and we enjoyed opening presents and giving gifts to each other. We had a great time together and we were blessed to receive lots of new books, clothes, and toys as a family.
We alway start the present opening time with stockings and work from youngest to oldest. The process takes a few hours, but it goes quickly and is great to watch all the responses. Everyone in the family keeps a wish list active that the rest of the family can pull ideas from, so it’s always fun to open presents and things that you may have added to your list a while back. I’m especially excited about the new books that I got this year. Everything from new Bible commentaries to business books to poetry, all of these will keep me busy for years to come. The kids were also blessed with books, along with a Buzz Lightyear costume for Titus, and a Jessie (from Toy Story) hat for Avery.
After presents we took a break (and naps!) and rested in the afternoon. Besides some snacking, we skipped lunch and planned for a big meal out together at a local restaurant in the late afternoon early evening. We reconvened about 3:30pm to take a family photo together. For all I know, it’ll be a few years before we get to do another photo like this again.
Dinner tonight was incredible. We haven’t had a big, American style dinner out in six months. I was so excited to eat a cheeseburger with real American cheese! We had fun being loud and enjoying the family time out. The restaurant is a new place that’s only been open for a few weeks here in Yakima (shown below). The food was delicious and I ate way too much. On the bright side, I shouldn’t need to eat for a couple of days!
Our time here has been sweet, restful, and fun. For me, I think this has been a recharge and a God-ordained trip to just think and rest. Czech is not the easiest place, but I’m so thankful for what God is doing in that part of the world and how he continues to stretch and grow us in order to use there. Tonight as we were driving home from dinner I actually missed Czech. It’s our new home and even though we have had a lot of fun here, I look forward to being back there and continuing to pursue all God has for us, good or bad.
“Go big or go home.” It’s a phrase I use often, mostly joking, to describe certain situations or even little things like ordering lunch. But I guess when it comes to Christmas it’s “Go big AND go home.” I only say that because today we celebrated Christmas 1 of 2 here in Yakima. That’s how we’re describing it to our kids who by Tuesday will have celebrated Christmas 3 different times. Today’s Christmas was at their great-grandmother’s house where we opened presents and shared a big meal with Bethany’s mom’s side of the family. I remember being at it last year and us saying goodbye to family with no intentions of seeing them for at least two years since we would be moving to Czech. Little did we know that we would be back this Christmas celebrating together once again.
The format is simple: eat and then open presents. Bethany’s grandmother always goes big on the gifts and I think she spend a certain set amount on everyone, though this still remains a mystery to me. I am pretty excited about my new pocket knife, shirt, and three more volumes that will be added to my MacArthur commentary set! Bethany was given a new necklace, salt and pepper shakers, and some clothes. Avery got some kitchen toys, including a working cash register and a stand mixer (think Kitchenaid) which she calls her ice cream maker. And Titus was pretty pumped about his big play ship thing that folds up. We’re definitely thankful for the wonderful gifts and kindness of our family!
Overall our energy levels were better today and we were all up at 5am. I think we’re gaining an hour of sleep every night. It’s such a bummer to have to turnaround and flip back to Czech time in just a few weeks, but that’s just part of the life we live right now. Christmas part 2 will be on Tuesday will complete the triple Christmas celebrations we have had. It brings excitement for gifts, but a little anxiety as to how exactly we’re going to get all of this stuff back to Czech!
Here’s a few more photos from the afternoon.
That’s Titus and Avery with their second cousin Savannah.
Traditions are important. I haven’t done a big study on the topic or read any books, but I think one of the main reasons people like traditions is because they are a constant in the midst of a changing world. No doubt some traditions need to go, but some are ones we look forward to year after year.
Bethany grew up with the tradition of enjoying breakfast, cinnamon rolls, and reading Luke 2 all on the floor around the Christmas tree. This tradition has carried it’s way in to our family and it’s one we now enjoy. Today we celebrated our own Christmas on the floor around the tree. With traveling to the States on Christmas Eve we felt like we should just have an early Christmas of our own here in Czech before we leave. Below is the mini-feast we enjoyed today, complete with cinnamon rolls.
We didn’t tell the kids a single thing about the plans for this morning. Bethany had the big blanket laying out by the tree and Titus, “Hey, what’s this blanket doing here?” We told him to look under the tree and when they saw the all the presents they were giddy with excitement. Once the food was ready, we brought everything out and enjoyed our eggs with cheddar cheese, bacon, coffee, orange juice, and of course the cinnamon rolls. After we finished we cleared the area for present opening. I took the photo below of the kids before we started opening presents.
Below are the photos I got during present opening. Nut much explanation needed, just a lot of happy faces and excited screams.
Here’s Titus playing with his new sword and shield. We bought these at the Christmas market in Poland on Monday. He loved it!
This afternoon we did a ton of work cleaning the car and the house. We want things to be nice and tidy for when we return from the States in mid January. Bethany also worked on making chicken and dumplings which we enjoyed for dinner! While we were outside cleaning the car, our landlord came down and gave our kids a little plate of cookies and gingerbread gifts. This little house (below) she gave to Avery has incredible detail!
Titus and I had to walk to post office this afternoon as well, so I got a few photos of the amazing weather we were enjoying. The sun was shining and even though it was a little windy, it was just a nice walk.
It was a really fun day and I’m excited were able to make it happen. Tonight we reminded the kids just why we celebrate Christmas–the birth of Jesus. I look forward to celebrating it again next week with our family in the States.
It’s a big deal to fly to the States with two little kids and four large suitcases from Central Europe. Today I took the kids with me to try and secure train tickets for the first leg of our trip which will take us four hours to get to Prague on Tuesday morning. There’s not a ton of room on the train so I was hoping to get seats where we can fit all of our luggage. We’re trying to bring empty suitcases so we can bring stuff back with us. I did end up getting tickets and we’ll see just how the luggage is going to fit. After the train ride we’ll grab a bus to a hotel near the airport. On Christmas Eve our flight leaves early, but Lord willing it will all go smoothly.
Tonight Bethany spent time wrapping up some of the gifts we have for the kids so we can do our own little Christmas morning tomorrow. Since we’ll be traveling, we thought it would be fun to do something at our own place here in Czech. As you can see from the photo above, the kids are doing just fine this Christmas. We’ve been picking up little things here and there and we got a few things in Krakow this past week as well. Bethany made cinnamon rolls tonight, so that will be a little treat in the morning as well. They will definitely be surprised and it’ll be a lot of fun.
Back in September, I wrote about about Sovereign Grace Music’s newest Christmas album called Prepare Him Room. Since then I’ve probably only listened to the entire album a few times through, but I have listened to one song at least a dozen times. The song is called “Who Would Have Dreamed” and as I listened to the chorus the other night I was struck by the depth of the words. It says,
And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world
The entire song is worth a listen. Here’s a more unplugged version that they posted to YouTube, but I recommend buying the entire album on their site.
Tonight we had our friend Misa over for dinner. She’s a young Czech girl who’s part of the youth ministry at our church and who we have gotten to know better. Misa has been a blessing to us many times when we needed the help of a translator and evening helping us around our house. Tonight over dinner she was filling us in on a lot of Czech culture as she is learning our American culture. In March it looks like she’ll be going to the States to begin to study in English in Pennsylvania so she was excited to share that news with us.
Misa was also a big help tonight as she talked with our landlord about some paperwork that we have been unable to find. We had to change our rental agreement last week in order to apply for our long term visas and our landlord wanted us to return the original. Bethany and scoured the house last weekend trying to find it to no avail. As Misa was explaining this to our landlord, Bethany went back to the very first place we checked (where we thought we had filed it) and found it! Thankfully we got it all straightened out and were thankful for Misa’s help in communicating for us.
After dinner we made a quick trip to the store with the whole family to get ready for tomorrow. We’re having a few other friends tomorrow and just wanted to get all the shopping done tonight to save Bethany a little time. Above is a photo of Avery pushing our cart all the way out the store and to our car by herself! She was very focused and did a great job. These kids crack us up…what a joy.
“Parenting requires a lot of discernment…and wisdom.” That was what Bethany said over breakfast this morning. No doubt, she’s absolutely right.
We were discussing whether or not to take Titus to school today. He’s not sick or anything, it’s just today in Czech they are celebrating Saint Nicholas Day (Mikuláš). The best description I have found of the holiday is on a Czech tourism site that describes it this way,
The charming tradition of St. Nicholas falls on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th. If you find yourself walking the streets on that evening, you may run into a group of strange characters: St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), the Angel (anděl) who represents the Good, and the Devil (čert) representing the Evil. All wear costumes. Mikuláš looks a bit like Santa Claus whose origin was supposedly inspired by St. Nicholas. All three characters walk the streets, stopping children and asking them if they were good in the past year. Most kids say yes and sing a song or recite a short poem. They are then rewarded with sweets, candy or other treats, which are handed out by the Angel. Bad kids would be put in the Devil’s sack and taken to hell, or would only get a sack of potatoes or coal instead of candy – of course it does not really happen!
Bethany tried speaking with other missionary families and just get their insight to the holiday, especially in regards to letting Titus go to school where they were going to have Mikuláš, the angel, and devil in class today. It’s not easy, to be quite honest. We’re trying to think about your Christian witness. We’re trying to think through Titus’ emotions and age. We’re trying to think through the cultural aspect and things we need to adjust to versus things we need to refrain from. I don’t know if there’s a specific right or wrong answer, but mostly it’s just discernment and what’s best for our family, for Titus, and what we believe honors Christ the most.
In the end we decided not to send Titus to school today. We both felt like Titus’ age was a big factor and he’s already scared of other things. This would be like through him into the fire of fear and that didn’t seem best for him right now. However, we did make it out to a festival this evening in our town which was a helpful intro to our first St. Mikuláš holiday in Czech. I took some photos of the goings-on, so here’s a little taste of what we saw (captions below each).
We walked to the town square where the festival is and we have to cross the road that goes into Poland. They have new lights up across the street and on the lamp posts. It looks great. Basically, as you look down that street you can see Poland.
They had a huge stage and an even bigger Christmas tree setup in the town square. On stage you can see Mikuláš, the devil, and the angel giving out treats to kids. They were calling kids up on the stage, but I don’t know how you get your kid on the list?
Above is a photo of what I’ll translate as the “Jesus Post Office.” Traditionally, in Czech culture, Jesus brings the presents on Christmas even and St. Mikuláš brings presents December 5. At the place above you could write letters to the baby Jesus in the same way you would write letters to Santa Clause in the States. I wonder where they mail them?
Almost like Main St. at Disneyland kids had glowing hats, swords, and even light up devil horns. They were being sold in the town square. I got this photo of one such kid on their parents shoulders as they watched the stage.
We actually got in on the light up toy fun, but only because I thought they looked like light sabers. Here’s Avery and Titus checking out their little light saber things I got for them. They were literally $2 and our kids thought they were great.
Interestingly enough, they did have a pretty large nativity scene to the right of the stage. Our Czech friend Jenny (who is actually a full fledge American citizen now) pointed out that no one is offended her by the origins of Christmas. Even though it’s so atheistic here, they still know the origin but many just believe it to be a fairytale.
Around the outside of the square were vendors selling all kinds of things. Many had trinkets and decorations, especially Christmas decorations. We didn’t buy anything, but it’s always fun to see handmade stuff in another country.
Other shops included the two you see above which were selling various meats. Both vendors had their own vans which open up to sell from and it’s not uncommon to see these guys parked outside of the grocery store.
Afterwards we had a pizza dinner near the town square with our friend Rachael who had accompanied us during the evening. It was a very interesting thing to see and experience. I’m not sure what I think just yet, but it’s good to continue to be a student of the culture here and get more inside the minds of how Czechs think and what they value. As I prayed for our meal tonight, I prayed for the country of Czech. I was reminded by the things we saw tonight that this place needs Jesus. Pray with us that we would continue to learn the language, the culture, and the people and be a witness for Christ!
After yesterday’s 6 hour extravaganza, the thought of the driving back to the JV office was thrown out by the time I got home last night. In fact, we didn’t drive at all today and that’s mainly because the roads are still frozen. Well, the roads and our driveway. I walked outside this afternoon to bring the trashcans in from the street and realized that I didn’t really have to carry them back in, I could just slide them. That’s when inspiration struck! If the trashcans can slide, and I can slide with my shoes on, I bet the kids can slide!
Bethany was hoping for me to bring in the Christmas decorations from the garage. The walk across the driveway was dangerous and the kids really wanted to come outside too. I remembered we had purchased a sled at the store a few months back that has wood with metal on the bottom. It slid wonderfully across the driveway so I loaded the kids on there and we did laps around the yard. The ice was probably a half inch thick and it’s still below freezing outside so it wasn’t breaking at all. After a few minutes I slid the kids into the garage where there’s no ice and dropped them off. Bethany and I loaded Christmas decoration boxes on to the sled and I slid them back to the apartment. We had a lot of laughs and fun and here’s a few photos:
Once we got everything inside, we began to unbox a few things and casually start decorating. We’re hoping to go buy our Christmas tree this week (maybe tomorrow). A few years ago Bethany found a Playmobile nativity scene at Goodwill. We haven’t set it up in year’s past because the kids were smaller and the pieces are too small for really young kids. But this year we got it out and hand fun setting it up with Titus and Avery. Here’s some photos of the scene and the kids playing:
Avery was really excited about the baby Jesus. She was taking care of him throughout the night and making sure he had his “blankie.” Before we put the kids to bed Avery had grabbed Jesus and his blankie and said, “Can baby sleep in my bed?” It was hard to say no to that, but Bethany explained that he was just too little for her big girl bed. So Avery quietly returned him to his place in the manger…with his blankie, of course.
Well that didn’t take long. Last night I wrote that the family had all gotten sick, except for me. But today I was sneezing and sniffling the latter half of the day and I can feel my throat getting a little sore. When I told someone at the Josiah Venture office today that I was worried I may be getting sick, he said, “Well, it’s perfect weather for it.” He’s right. The weather hasn’t been much of a help as it’s been warm and cold, and often rainy. Today it was mostly foggy (photo above) and we saw the sun shine for just a bit around 3pm. It rained on and off throughout the day, but I guess it’s the kind of weather I would expect when we’re not feeling good.
Now don’t judge us, but we had McDonald’s for dinner. The Golden Arches are about twenty minutes from our place and I pass them every day when I go to Josiah Venture. Bethany texted me late in the day and said, “I have no energy…can we have McDonald’s?” She felt worse today than she did yesterday and so of course I said, “Sure.” I brought all the food back and we actually ate outside because I think we all just needed some fresh air and it wasn’t raining so we enjoyed that. Hey, sometimes a little American fast food can make you feel better!
For a week or so I’ve had on my calendar to pre-order a Christmas album that I’m really excited about it. It’s from Sovereign Grace Music (SGM) and it’s called “Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song.” It reales on September 29 and it’s only $5 if you pre-order it today or tomorrow (9/15 – 9/16). SGM puts out wonderful music for the church and I’m sure this Christmas album won’t disappoint. Music has always been something Bethany and I have enjoyed together and our kids love music too. So skip the Starbucks today and get some Christmas music that will exalt the Savior and bless your own soul. You can listen to a preview song below and click here to pre-order the album.
For the past five years now our family has made a little video of us buying and decorating our Christmas tree. It’s been a fun tradition and one that brings lots of fun and new memories. Come join in a little of the fun we had this year by watching our video below or clicking here.
We hope your own Christmas is a joy and blessing to you and your family. Merry Christmas!
P.S. Looking for the other Christmas tree videos? You can view them all by clicking here.