A Traditional Christmas
Every year when I pull out our personalized Christmas ornament from 2009, I laugh. Instead of reading “Staggers Family—First Year of Homeschooling,” it reads “Straggers Family—First Year of Homeshooling.” Thankfully, I had the presence of mind back then to realize that a botched ornament would be far funnier in future years than a correct one. So instead of making the poor ornament kiosk guy at the mall re-do it, I chose to leave it as is.
Getting a personalized ornament that represents something significant about our year is one of my favorite Christmas traditions, and my husband and I have been doing this since we got engaged. We now have almost 20 ornaments and I love looking through them each Christmas and remembering all that’s happened in our family over the years.
Traditions bring comfort and belonging. They help us feel connected to our families and to the past. But this holiday season, traditions are going to look differently for a lot of families. The activities and events that we normally love and cherish may need to be re-thought and re-worked.
As we think through our normal holiday traditions and figure out which ones to keep and which ones to tweak, here are some simple reminders of what our traditions should be.
God made you unique! Your family is well-served when you’re operating in your strengths. What aspects of the holidays breathe life into you and fill you with joy? If it’s crafting, break out the homemade salt dough ornaments and paint your own wrapping paper! If it’s the outdoors, skip the Christmas tree lot and visit a farm to cut down your own tree.
On the other hand, what drains you, zaps your energy or leaves you tired? For me, this is cut-out Christmas cookies. While I love eating them, I don’t love the process of making the dough, rolling it out, cutting out the cookies, baking them, making the frosting, decorating them and so on. My mother on the other hand loves it! So my daughter joins her for a fun afternoon with Grandma leaving me with a job I love – taste-testing.
There’s no shame in skipping or outsourcing the activities that don’t bring you joy. What traditions work for one family may not work for another.
Some of our best Christmases have been the ones where we sat down as a family before the holiday season and each shared one or two Christmas activities that we most enjoyed and then put them on the calendar. We may not have done everything we wanted, but we each got to do the one or two things that mattered most to us.
The holidays tend to be busy season and simply wanting to do something isn’t always enough to get it done. But by being intentional in planning out your traditions, you’ll have memories you can count on making.
The funny thing about traditions is that although they provide us with stability, they also sometimes need to change, especially as kids grow up (or when dealing with a pandemic!). One of my family’s favorite traditions has been acting out the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve. I did it as a child, and my kids loved it when we did it in our family.
But a few years ago, my kids just weren’t interested any more. It felt too juvenile for them. We retired our acting days, taking the memories with us, and now we serve in Children’s Ministry every Christmas Eve during LifePoint’s services. Our new Christmas Eve tradition still brings us joy and we all look forward to it.
Not every tradition needs a lot of preparation, pomp, or circumstance. Traditions are by definition “a long-established custom that has been passed on from one generation to another.” This can be anything you share with your family that you hope they’ll continue.
Many years ago, when my brother-in-law was in dental school, he and my sister were living on a tight budget. Our family decided to draw names for Christmas presents with an agreed upon budget. For years we stuck to this tradition, loving how it kept Christmas simple and didn’t break the bank.
Point to Jesus
It’s not wrong to have some traditions that we do purely for fun, but as Christians who know the heart of Christmas, and as parents hoping to pass on our faith to our children, what traditions put our focus on Christ? How does Jesus factor into your holiday celebration?
For some families, His message is about sharing the gospel, and to that end, they dedicate themselves to Operation Christmas Child or attending Christmas services on a day other than Christmas to leave congregation room open for non-believers. For others, it’s about celebrating the holiday in its truest form, as Jesus’s birthday. A friend I know bakes a birthday cake for Jesus every year with her young children to keep the focus on why they celebrate.
This holiday season, many things around may feel different than previous Christmases. These are uncertain and restricting times for sure, but taking part of annual activities and traditions serves as a reminder of what never changes: our love for our families and the legacy of celebrations we hope they will carry on.
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