Monday, December 22, 2014

Meaningful Christmas Traditions for Families

Think about what you remember from your childhood, especially around the holidays.

The night before St. Patrick's Day I remember setting leprechaun traps (you know, colanders propped up with forks, that kind of very sophisticated thing) and finding them all sprung the next morning.

On Christmas Eve we always left cookies and milk for Santa in the semicircle cutout in the bricks next to the fireplace. (It didn't occur to me until I was older that the spot was meant for storing firewood, not cookies.)

The things I remember most vividly about my childhood are the traditions I looked forward to, year after year.

A Traditions Home -- If you asked your kids what their favorite Christmas traditions are, what would they say? Here are some ideas for putting Christ at the center of them.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

When I asked my kids to tell me about their favorite Christmas tradition, I was surprised that not one of them mentioned my annual December 26th freakout where I survey the carnage of the day before (ribbons, wrapping paper, obscene amounts of discarded plastic and cardboard) and threaten to start throwing toys away if this mess isn't cleaned up.

Instead, here's what they said:

1. "The light thing with the Christmas tree." So this tradition obviously has no name. We'll work on that.

Toward the beginning of December we have a Family Home Evening where we talk about how Jesus is the light of the world. And just like you need to put the lights on the Christmas tree first, Jesus is the first and most important part of Christmas. Then we go ahead and decorate our tree.

2. "Making cookies for the NICU." In December we look for a service project that we can all more or less do together  in the past we've shopped secretly for a family in need or saved up together for Heifer International (nothing says "Christmas" like buying a goat.)

This year we're baking for our friend Sarah's project to deliver cookies and hot chocolate to parents in the NICU on Christmas Eve. Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn't attempt baking with the kids, but it's for a good cause.

3. "Watching Joy to the World." The night before Christmas Eve, the kids put on their PJs and we all watch  Joy to the World with sugar cookies and egg nog.

I suspect the kids love this because it's the one time of year they get to (a) watch TV (okay, more than once a year but it's still a treat) and (b) eat unlimited cookies. We usually forget to make them brush their teeth afterward, too.

4. "Doing the Nativity." On Christmas Eve, our friends the Bahes (the most talented people we know who'll still associate with us) invite us over for wassail and Christmas carols. Then their adult children help get the kids get dressed up and ready to act out the Nativity while an adult reads from the scriptures (we use Luke 2: 1-16 and Matthew 2: 1 and 10-11.)

Some of my fondest Christmas memories come from this tradition. One year my son was a wise man but refused any of the fancy-looking props that could pass as myrrh or frankincense, and presented baby Jesus with a Hot Wheels truck instead. Another year, my daughter wanted to be a sheep with all her heart; when she was chosen for the part she couldn't stop talking about it for a week.

If you are trying to celebrate a Christ centered Christmas this year with your family, start by overhauling your holiday traditions. These unique Christian ideas for religious traditions to start with kids at Christmastime will help you and your children remember the reason for the season. #christcentered #christmastraditions #familytraditions #christian #religious

In my favorite Christmas tradition, before the kids dive headfirst into their stockings and start ripping open presents like rabid wolverines, Phillip and I coral them in a bedroom and we all read Luke 2 together.

They're pretty good sports about that. I know they're excited about the rocket launcher from Santa waiting in the next room, but I think that they know deep down that what we're doing right then is celebrating Christmas.

Santa Claus still visits our house ("Of course he does," I tell the kids, "Doesn't thinking about Jesus make you want to give a present to everyone in the whole world?") but truthfully he's just not a focal point for us.

We deliberately create our family's holiday traditions to revolve around Jesus, because we know the traditions are what they'll remember after the holidays are over.

(Side note: not sure what conclusions they'll draw from our New Year's tradition of smashing our gingerbread houses with a hammer. The first year Phillip made up something about symbolism and change and New Year's resolutions, but really he just wanted to smash something with a hammer.)

If you have a great Christ-centered Christmas tradition in your family, leave a comment below telling me what it is! I'm always looking for new ideas.

Mostly because I know there's going to come a year when my daughter no longer gets excited about being the sheep in our Christmas Eve Nativity play.

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B B Snaps said...

We missed you this year

Jenny Evans said...

Next year for sure! The kids were so excited to spend Christmas with grandma and grandpa, but they were also wailing and moaning about missing Christmas Eve at the Bahe's house. (So were we.)

PurpleSlob said...

Jenny, I love, love! the kids acting out the Nativity!!
The only real traditions we have are reading Luke 2, and celebrating Christmas Eve, with my birth family, siblings, out I mean in laws, and kids. Then on Christmas morning, we can go to our in laws.

Unknown said...

We still pretend about santa (even though our kids are 17 & 14) but santa has never left gifts for our kids. He delivers 2 gifts from Jesus.....something our kids want and something they need. Because God is our good father who loves us and wants the best for us! We may not get everything we want or need but He never forgets us.