Last year, I bought a DVD of The Polar Express movie with the intention of creating a tradition of watching it together as a family every December. This year, I have plans to make this experience even more special (and dare I say it, maybe even magical). Imagine this.
‘Twas the weeks before Christmas, and we are enjoying a relaxing evening at home with the family all snuggled together on the sofa under a warm blanket while munching popcorn and watching The Polar Express. Our pajama-clad children’s eyes are filled with wonder and amazement as they watch the enchanting tale of a magical train taking children on an amazing trip to see Santa at the North Pole. Once the movie ends, we all sigh contentedly and smile at one another. Then, we (the loving parents) gently tuck each small child into bed so that visions of sugarplums may dance in their sweet little heads. When what to our wondering eyes should appear? But a corner of a little red and green envelope peeking out from underneath each child’s pillow.
The children stare with awe as they notice that the envelopes bear their names, and according to the return address, the envelopes came directly from Santa Claus at the North Pole. They cautiously open the holiday-trimmed envelopes to discover their very own tickets to ride the Berry Merry Express Train. The children squeal with delight as they hear the faint whistle of an approaching train.
Away to the window they fly like a flash, tearing open the shutters and throwing up the sash. And now, what to their wondering eyes has appeared? Well, a miniature sleigh and eight tiny…
Oh wait, maybe I’m getting a little carried away with my story-telling! Maybe there won’t be any reindeer or an actual train… but this weekend’s adventure will incorporate several of the delightful aspects from the narrative above. And hopefully, our children will cherish the memory of this particular adventure for many, many years to come.
Like I mentioned in the opening narrative, we will have a family movie night where we all watch The Polar Express movie together. And yes, there will be popcorn and blankets and all sorts of homey coziness going on.
After the movie, we will indeed smile at one another and start the bedtime tuck in process (which is not always the endearing experience described in the opening tale). There will indeed be envelopes under each child’s pillow, and those envelopes will contain tickets to ride the Berry Merry Express Train. Each ticket displays three check/punch boxes – one picturing a Santa hat, one picturing a steaming mug of hot cocoa, and one picturing holiday lights.
At that point, we will hurry off to the family minivan for a fun evening of hot cocoa, Christmas tunes, and holiday lights.
Side Note: If it was completely up to me, I would up the holiday cheer factor by decorating our minivan with a red nose on the hood and antlers hanging from the side windows. However, I’m pretty sure that my husband would refuse to drive around town with such cheesy (and conspicuous) displays of holiday cheer. And so, I will settle for putting a couple holiday window clings on the inside of the van windows and bringing Santa hats for the children to wear.
As each child enters the vehicle, I will provide them with a cuddly warm blanket and a red Santa hat. Before pulling out of the driveway, I will pull out my official Berry Merry ticket puncher (a.k.a. the hole puncher from our kitchen junk drawer) and ask each child to present their tickets for validation. Each ticket will be validated by my punching the Santa hat square.
We will start the vehicle, turn on the Christmas tunes, and pull out of the driveway. Our first stop will be to the local coffee shop drive-thru for hot cocoa drinks. As the kids are about to take their first sips of chocolaty goodness, I will open my Bag of Holiday Magic and pull out sprinkles and mini marshmallows for anyone who wants to add them to their hot chocolate drinks. Once again, I will ask the children to present their tickets for further validation. This time, I will punch the hot cocoa square.
Then, we will drive around town snuggled in blankets, listening to cheery holiday tunes, and sipping hot chocolate while admiring holiday light displays. Upon pulling back into our own driveway, I will pull out my official Berry Merry ticket puncher and ask each child to present their tickets for final validation – the punching of the holiday lights square.
Finally, we will gently tuck each child into bed so that visions of sugarplums may dance in their sweet little heads.
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Want to duplicate this Berry Merry Adventure for your little ones? Here’s everything you need to know:
Print the Berry Merry Express train admission tickets (PDF document) or create your own tickets.
Prepare the envelopes by decorating them, addressing them to your children, and writing “From Santa” in the upper left hand corner. It could be a nice added touch to put a Christmas sticker in the upper right corner (like it’s a stamp) and draw a postmark from the North Pole.
Place the blankets, Santa hats, hole puncher, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, snacks, etc into a sturdy bag. This will be your “Bag of Holiday Magic”. Feel free to decorate the bag if you think that will add to the experience.
Have a Family Movie Night
Have the family get ready for a family movie night. (Put on pajamas, get out blankets, pop the popcorn, order the pizza, whatever.)
Watch The Polar Express movie as a family.
While the children are watching the movie, sneak out of the room to place an envelope under each pillow. Also, you can use this time to decorate your vehicle.
Enjoy a Fun Adventure
After the movie, tuck your children in to bed as you normally would. If the children do not discover the envelopes under their pillows on their own, you can say “what is this?” and point towards the envelope peeking out from under their pillow. Act amazed when they open the envelope, and then, wonder aloud if the other kids have tickets under their pillows as well.
After everyone has discovered their tickets, peek out the window and announce that the Berry Merry Express is outside waiting for them. Remind them to hang on to their tickets and usher the kids out to your family vehicle.
Buckle everyone in, distribute blankets and Santa hats, and then ask each child to present their ticket for validation. Pull out your official Berry Merry ticket puncher (hole puncher or marker), and place a punch in the Santa hat box. If using a marker instead, cross off the Santa hat box.
Turn on the holiday tunes, and drive to the nearest coffee shop drive thru for hot chocolates. Most coffee shops offer a child-size hot chocolate drink option. Upon receiving the drinks, pull into a parking spot to validate their tickets again by punching the hot cocoa box. Also, take this opportunity to offer mini marshmallows and/or sprinkles for each child’s drink.
Drive around town, and admire the holiday light displays.
Helpful Hint: It may help to do a little research ahead of time so that you know where to find the best light displays in your area. (Are you from Grand Rapids, Michigan? GR Kids created this list of holiday light displays around town.)
Upon returning home, ask the children to present their tickets for final validation and punch the holiday light box.
Thank your kids for helping to make this night so much fun, and then, tuck them into bed for real.
- It could be a neat idea to include a visit to see Santa during your drive around town.
- In The Polar Express movie, the main character receives a special jingle bell from Santa. If you wanted to incorporate that into your evening, you could have a gift containing a jingle bell for each child under your tree with a tag labeled “from Santa.”
- If you plan to include a picture of your Berry Merry Adventure on FaceBook, you could consider dressing all of the kids in matching pajamas.
I hope you enjoyed this magical holiday adventure. Merry Christmas, everyone!