Christmas traditions rage throughout December. Ugly sweaters are worn. Cookies are eaten. Elves hide. Pinterest has only fed the banquet of traditions. It’s all too much for a procrastinating parent, like me. There’s been many an early morning I’ve shot violently from my bed, after hearing my youngest using the hall bathroom. I’ve tripped over my feet, stepped on the dog, and staggered haphazardly to reposition a stuffed animal. All before the toilet flushes. I’ve wrapped and rewrapped presents, assuring that “SANTA” wrapped his presents in a different paper than mom and dad’s presents. Hurry to this breakfast. Coat up for that parade. Bake those specific cookies at this specific time. Make 100 of this ornament for Wednesday Night Class. Sew 25 of those scarves for Sunday Morning Seniors. Don’t forget to shop. And Lord help me if, in all the sugar and sleeplessness, I catch a cold or get the grumpies. HUMPH!!! I’m exhausted at the thought of the frenzy.
I’m a lover of Christmas. The kind of enthusiast that many despise. The playing carols in August kind of Christmas lover. But my passion is not enough to carry me through the season with an attitude of peace and joy.
So, what traditions does my family keep?
We pack at least one shoe box of Operation Christmas Child. A tradition, I started, mostly out of fear. During my paranoia and postpartum depression years, I often bargained with God. I filled a box, so He’d protect my babies. What began out of misunderstanding my Maker, has grown into a work of compassion and thankfulness. My kids love watching a box fill up and always try to fit just one more gift under the lid. It’s a treasure to see them giving with such enthusiasm.
We name our Christmas Tree. Yup. We treat it like a guest and name the tree. Each child gets a year and we rotate. This year our tree’s name is Douglas. (named by my teenager) Other names have been, Slim, Sparkle, Cinnamon, Cabin, and Woody. Since the tree comes out first, this game sets the mood and the magic of Christmas time. When we decorate our tree, we play Christmas music and eat snacks. This year we added a game of Christmas Catan to the evening, after decorating Douglas.
We have a nightly advent devotional. Though we’ve tried several through the years our favorite came from a Focus on the Family Thriving Family magazine. Instead of focusing on the coming of Christ, it reminds us of the person of Christ by going through 24 of the names of Christ. It starts with The Word (from John 1:1) and ends with Jesus. Every night we read a short verse explaining the name, talk about the meaning of the name, and then hang up an ornament decorated with that name and its corresponding verse. After a handful of years, doing the same advent devotions, we all try to guess which name is coming up next and have “accidentally” memorized many of the verses.
There is a Christmas parade in our town. It’s small and random, but a great excuse to get extended family together for an evening. After bundling up on the curb and watching the entries pass, we caravan pack to my sweet mother-in-law’s house and dine on spaghetti and meatballs. The kids love this night. It’s a marker of time and a mini-celebration before the barrage of the before Christmas parties and deadlines.
Other things we do together include:
Polar Express Night, at home in jammies, complete with hot chocolate.
Nativity Hunting: We go out to dinner as a family and then go marvel at Christmas lights, all while tallying up the number of Nativities displaying the true Light of the World.
Family Under the Bridge: Usually we read this little book in an afternoon. It’s first reading inspired us to bake our first Christmas log.
There are so many things that make Christmas time special for our family. Forcing too many of them into an already short and hectic season can cause many a Christmas causality. Yelling, whining, pouting, all of Santa’s no-no’s come pouring out of this well-intended and ill-equipped mama. Now, if ever one of them drains us or becomes a burden, we chuck it. Maybe not forever, but until we start appreciating the One we’re celebrating again. My favorite traditions serve as an advent of rest and reflection for my family and I. Everything else, we cut from the calendar. I encourage you to do the same. Find your favorites and slice out the filler. Saturate your family in moments of quiet and times of togetherness, before the ripping of the wrapping. Enjoy Christmas as a family by enjoying Christ as a family.
I love hearing about the traditions and habits of other families. What do you keep and what do you cut out of your holidays?
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And as always here’s a list of what we’re reading and playing this December
photo credit: Great Beyond Day 240/365 – The Settlers of Catan are menaced by the Catan Killbot 2000 via photopin (license)
photo credit: marcoverch Nahaufnahme von einer Tasse Cappuccino mit Kakao in Weihnachtsbaum-Gestalt via photopin (license)