The Lady of the Snows Shrine
This tradition started when my oldest was 2 and she was obsessed with Baby Jesus. We had to drive around every night looking for nativity sets so she could see Baby Jesus. We also purchased the Fisher Price Nativity Set so she could have her own Baby Jesus to play with. We could set forever after church just so she could sit by the huge manager scene and see Baby Jesus. It was the cutest thing ever and nice because Santa and toys had not become a bigger part of Christmas for her yet.
That year my Mom and I drove to The Way of Lights at The Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL, so she could see the story of Baby Jesus in told by lights. We start out at the petting zoo where they can feed the animals carrots and ride a pony, donkey, or camel (we've never done it, my kids have never asked). After freezing while feeding the animals we hit the kettle corn stand and grab our snack for the hour or so ride back home. They have a building we go to next where we enjoy a buffet of roast beef and fried chicken for dinner with any side you could think of. Every night they have different choirs from all over performing different types of music. After dinner we check out the Christmas trees that are always decorated according to the theme, this year the theme was Christmas songs and each tree was decorated according to a certain song. The kids love the Children's Village which includes Legos for building, nativity sets for playing with, a few different art projects to work on and a puppet show. Before we head back into the car to continue our drive through the lights we always peek in the gift shop, both of my older kids have bought a Baby Jesus the first time going to the Shrine. This year my oldest, L, was interested in the angel Gabriele, so we found her a necklace and she hasn't taken it off since we left. There is also a laser light show, which we went to last year and they have a photo booth where you can get dressed up like an angel. We of course did this with my daughter the first year!
We jump into the car after all that, continue through The Way of Lights to end at a life size manager, that you can go right up to. My kids in the past have made birthday cards for Jesus and written him notes to leave at the crib. I look forward to this tradition every year now, we just went for our fourth year this past week, because I know someday my kiddos aren't going to want to hang out with their Mom and Grandma and look at some white lights. Right now though they think it's pretty amazing and get so excited when it's time to go. L and T were very concerned that my youngest, O, didn't get to go this year but we have a rule, you must be 2 to attend. At the end you can give a donation and get a stuffed animal, which changes every year, and they really wanted to get 3 so O could have one as well. I told them as sweet as that was, she could wait until she gets to go next year to get her first stuffed animal from the Shrine.