The tradition of making Christmas traditions

We’ve got a lot of Christmas traditions going on in our house, yet somehow, we keep adding to the list. We hit on something new and special one year, and everyone remembers it the next year. So we do it again. Some traditions are less important, like watching Home Alone for the billionth time, yet it seems like my holiday season involves an unsurpassed urge for me to squeeze in every one of my sentimentally-charged family traditions during those 4 quick weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My own memories–which inspire my family traditions now–compel me to stop, especially at Christmas, and intentionally create settings for tradition-making.IMG_1360

Here are our favorites:

  • play Christmas music, almost exclusively, from CD and radio
  • make cookies (sugar, peanut butter kiss, ginger)
  • cut down Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving
  • decorate the tree as a family: I buy a Christmas ornament on every vacation we take, so our tree is a memory tree of family activities and pictures of the kids growing up; it’s so fun to reminisce as we pull out the ornaments
  • make a gingerbread house (kids decorate it and eat a lot of candy in the process)–this one has subsided, but I plan to re-introduce it when I have grandchildren
  • make fudge and eat it until I’m sick of it
  • read the Bible’s Christmas story, from Matthew and Luke, on Christmas Eve (followed by The Night Before Christmas)
  • make and decorate a birthday cake for Jesus and sing “Happy Birthday” to him on Christmas Eve (I’m noticing a lot of food-related traditions here)
  • providing Christmas presents for the needy (don’t forget the tacky light houses!)
  • drive downtown to see the Christmas lights and decorations
  • send out a Christmas card with family pictures and a newsletter about our year (my newsletter takes the form of a newspaper page, poem, or song–you know that nobody really enjoys a long form letter full of your family’s accomplishments!)
  • attend (and/or participate in) Christmas productions and concerts
  • limit gifts for my own kids to 3 gifts each (After all, it was enough for Jesus!)–something they want, something they need, and a surprise. This cut down on long, greedy wish lists during their growing up years. After they wrote a few things on their lists, they were done asking.
  • the kids decorate a second tree in the basement, filled with their home-ade ornaments (theme tree: Look what you made in the first grade!)
  • watch It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas
  • make a Christmas shoe box for someone who needs it (Samaritan’s Purse, soldier, etc.)
  • buy presents that mean something to both of us, that say “you’re special, and I know what you like”
  • Christmas Eve worship at home: everyone participates, either by reading out loud or playing an instrument; take communion together
  • stockings filled with toiletries and things everyone needs, by Dad (he’s always shocked by the expense–hello! that’s why half our money goes to Target)IMG_1357
  • on Christmas Eve, I tape off the top of the stairs with Christmas wrapping paper. On Christmas morning (after we turn on lights downstairs and position ourselves with the cameras), the kids break through the paper and come down to see the presents
  • Christmas brunch: home-ade cinnamon rolls and leftover birthday cake, among other things
  • eat holiday dinner on china, crystal, and silver (collection from my grandmothers, my mother, and me–includes a reminder lesson about how to use the extra knives, forks, and glasses)
  • play board games (Pit, Uno, Dutch Blitz, Monopoly)
  • see extended family, as many as possible
  • revel in the sensual experiences associated with living at Christmas: hugging family, tasting sweets, seeing glitter, smelling pine needles, listening to a crackling fire

No season is so special as Christmas, and no holiday is laden with such importance! Traditions are intrinsic to memories, and memories shape identity, security, and personality. Memories make us who we are. So let’s make good ones.

Merry Christmas! May you institute new traditions and reflect on their meanings. And may it change the way you see your world.