Garrett and I have been taking our boys on a “Polar Express” at Christmas time for the past 4 years now. Every time I mention it on my Instagram I get so many questions about the logistics of this tradition, so I thought it would be fun to share all the details on the blog! We just pick one night in December that falls on a day when the boys don’t have to get up super early the next morning. Some years we do it on a Friday, or wait until they are out for Christmas break. For the first few years we started off the night by watching The Polar Express movie, but honestly…I don’t love the movie. It gets pretty long and doesn’t hold their attention the entire time, so for the past few years we have just read The Polar Express book (I love it so much more this way). We have to start bedtime early this night and try to get them into bed with the lights off around 7:30. Then while we wait for them to all fall asleep, I make hot chocolate and pour it in little containers (Eli gets cold chocolate milk). Then I cut little “golden tickets” with gold/yellow craft paper with each of their initials on them. At the foot of the stairs or outside their bedroom door, I lay out their shoes, hot chocolate, jackets, and their golden tickets into 3 little piles. Last year Cash ran out of his room and kicked over his hot chocolate and it was a hot mess…so the base of the stairs where they can see it all in advance worked much better for us this year.
Once they are asleep and I have everything set, Garrett starts the car, pulls it to the front of the house, and leaves it running to warm up. Then he turns on a loud train whistle and plays it on speakers or from his phone (he just googles “train whistle” and plays whatever comes up), and he yells “All aboard!,” and then runs and jumps in the car. I help the boys get their clothes on and they have to present their “Golden Ticket” to conductor dad before they can get into the car. Some years Garrett would hole punch their initials into their tickets as they got in the car. Super over the top and extra, and super adorable. Then we play Christmas music in the car while the boys drink/burn their tongues on their hot chocolate, and we drive around and look at the christmas lights for about 30-45 minutes. We have the same Christmas light route that we do every year. In Pasadena there is a huge pink mansion in one of the neighborhoods that completely decks out their entire place with lights. One side of the mansion is all Santa/reindeer, and the other side is a full life-size nativity scene. We get out and walk around all bundled in jammies and coats for the chilly 65 degree LA winter weather.
Basically it is all a fun way to go see Christmas lights, but the boys have come to love and look forward to it each year. This year they knew right away what night it was going to be when we pulled out The Polar Express book, and there was no way they were going to fall asleep (it will probably get harder and harder each year), but they were still just as excited to hear that train whistle. It’s a super simple tradition, but it might be my very favorite. I would definitely recommend trying it with your kids! And there is still time to start it this year! This would also make such a cute gift for a grandparent to give or for a family gift, with the book, golden tickets, and some packets of hot chocolate and mugs!
STOCKINGS (on sale for $9!)
(all of our garland is real. I bought it in 8ft sections at Trader Joes, and placed a special order at Trader Joes for the eucalyptus. It makes our home smell heavenly! It dries out significantly after a week or so, but it will still look pretty. I’m sure it is going to be a beast to clean up, but I love the look of it, so to me it is worth the messy clean up!)
photography by Jordan Zobrist