“The Polar Express” (the movie) came out in 2004, when my oldest child was a baby. Both the book and movie were popular in our house at Christmas time for years after. When kids at school would make them doubt there was a Santa, this story spoke to them and told them it was ok to believe. They felt bad for the children that couldn’t hear the bell ring.
So it is a wonderful message to celebrate each year. Friends of ours have created a wonderful tradition that they look forward to every year. They host an annual viewing of “The Polar Express” for their children and I have been admiring it for years! Each December they post new pictures of the children enjoying this special tradition that they still look forward to, even now as the children are older.
I first met Amy, Joe and their family when our oldest sons were in elementary school together (they are now high schoolers). Our boys became the best of friends. Unfortunately their family moved, but we have been lucky enough to stay in touch via Facebook and some chance meetings at soccer matches.
This tradition began in their household when their boys were 2 & 3 and their youngest child was yet to be born.
Amy and Joe pick a night close to Christmas for the family event. The night begins with the entire family getting matching pajamas.
Each family member also gets a ticket that they have to give to the conductor (Joe). He thinks of a phrase for each family member that may inspire them and may reflect on something they need to focus on. The conductor writes random letters from the phrase (but not all of it) before the movie can begin.
Then they get their snacks ready and cuddle in for the viewing. Each year they have a hot chocolate bar and popcorn.
At the end of the movie, the kids have to go back to the conductor to see the rest of the message. Past messages include “Stay confident” and “Trust your goals.”
I look forward to seeing the photos every year! And the tickets alone are a great keepsake for the children as they grow up. I can envision kids looking back through pictures and tickets with their messages and remembering this special time.
So a wonderful night inspired by a beautiful movie. Here are some ways you can create your own Polar Express night.
Polar Express Tickets
How fancy do you want to get? There are lots of options!
Of course you can make them on any document program, or on a free design program like Canva (they have paid elements, but plenty of free elements too).
Or you can use an existing template. Kitty Baby Love has a collection of Polar Express Ticket printables. Check them out here and pick your favorite.
If you want to get really fancy, do a search for Polar Express Tickets on Etsy for a wide variety of keepsake options or more elaborate downloadable ticket templates.
And what do they serve on the Polar Express? Well, hot chocolate of course. In the book it says, “We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars”.
So in honor of that, I recommend a thicker hot chocolate. If you look up Italian or French hot chocolates, they will always be thicker. And once you start making them, all other hot chocolates pale in comparison. Here is how we make ours:
French Hot Chocolate
3 cups whole milk (we do sometimes use 2% and it is still pretty great!)
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (you can use chocolate chips of chocolate bars)
- Heat up the milk to a simmer.
- Whisk in the cocoa and then the brown sugar until well mixed.
- Add chocolate and stir until there are no lumps.
- Pour into four cups.
And now on to the Hot Chocolate Bar!!
What do you have at a hot chocolate bar? Anything you want!
Of course you will want whipped cream and marshmallows.
Some other great options include: crushed candy cane, sprinkles, cinnamon, crushed cookie, and nuts.
I suggest putting all messy options on a cookie sheet. The kids can put their cup on the cookie sheet while adding their choices and it will keep the crumbs on the sheet (mostly!).
Finish off the cookie bar with pretzel sticks and cookie sticks (like Pirouette Cookies) to be used as stirrers.
And what is a movie without popcorn? Make it festive with an Old Fashioned Popcorn Recipe from Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen over at the North Pole Times.
Old Fashioned popcorn Recipe
2/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup half and half
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp vanilla
6 drops red food coloring (or any other color you'd like)
- Pop popcorn into a large bowl according to the manufacturer's directions.
- Pour popped popcorn into two very large mixing bowls, set aside.
- In a large saucepan whisk together sugar, half and half, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved.
- Heat mixture to 232 degrees, stirring occasionally. Immediately remove from heat and pour in vanilla and food coloring. Drizzle mixture over popped popcorn.
- Gently stir popcorn until mixture is evenly coated and coating begins to dry (you'll notice the popcorn kernels separating).
- Pour mixture onto waxed paper and allow to dry for about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight container
For proof that Santa is real, pick up one of our magical Santa Proof Kits.