When my children were very young, my husband and I were so enamored with the idea of creating “the perfect holiday” for our boys that we tended to allow Santa to go a bit overboard with all the packages under the tree on Christmas morning. However, we very quickly discovered that the morning’s excitement soon gave way to the clutter along with a mountain of gifts that were never truly appreciated or enjoyed.
We also noticed that the excitement of our boys waned with every passing year that they received so much stuff and unfortunately, so did their level of thankfulness for what they had been given. We realized that what we had created, while well-intentioned, was not producing the joy, gratitude and spirit of love and giving that we actually wanted to teach our boys. And in the process, the true reason for the season, the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus our Savior, had been lost among the materialism and holiday rush.
We decided to limit the presents and instead give gifts of experiences that would get the message across about the importance of relationships and also create special family memories instead. We began getting creative with ways to incorporate fun and festive activities with our guys.
On one especially trying day a few years ago, early in the month of December, my husband called me at lunchtime and said, “I’m mentally exhausted and need to get out of the office for the rest of the day. If you’re free, can you think of something fun for us to do to help us get into the holiday spirit?”
I had the perfect idea! We decided to surprise our boys by picking them up right after school and heading to Dollywood for the Smoky Mountain Christmas festivities that evening!
Despite the fact that it was the coldest evening of the year—maybe the decade—it was such a happy success, and we have repeated this as a tradition every year since. The boys never know which day we’ll pick them up from school and whisk them away to spend the jolliest night of our year together!
We enjoy getting to ride some of our favorite attractions, but during Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, there are so many more things to enjoy at the park. Our favorites to experience together on this special visit include:
🎄The special Christmas music and shows that capture our hearts and imaginations – many of which celebrate the true reason for the season!
🎄 Watching the master craftsmen in Craftsman’s Valley and picking out traditional Appalachian gifts made right there, such as blown glass ornaments, for family and friends.
🎄 Simply walking around enjoying the beautiful decorations and lights while we sip hot chocolate or apple cider and share a loaf of Dollywood’s delicious cinnamon bread or special holiday treats.
🎄 Relaxing and listening to Christmas carols as we ride the Dollywood Express—enjoying the beauty of the lights and overall atmosphere of the park.
🎄 When the boys were younger, visiting with the special characters at the park was always a treat. This year, there is a very special way to visit with Santa!
🎄 We like to end the evening by visiting the Robert F. Thomas Chapel in the park for a few moments of peace and quiet and to offer a prayer of thankfulness for this special time together and to reflect upon what the birth of Jesus Christ means to us. This year, we can include some beautiful candlelight Christmas hymns!
If you feel like the joy of the season is getting away from you and your loved ones, I want to encourage you to plan a special way to recapture the true joy and meaning of the season. Invest in the gift of time with each other and surprise your loved ones with a special trip to Dollywood during Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. It’s a gift you will all remember and treasure for years and years to come!