Don’t you just love this time of year?
From Thanksgiving, to MG’s birthday, and then finally to the culmination of Christmas, it is quite busy–but in a lovely way. My to-do list has powered me through many a nap time; but right now it is full of only fun things, like: finish that one book before book club Christmas dinner, address Christmas cards, and embroider tree skirt. The calendar is punctuated by nights out with friends, cookie and ornament exchanges, living nativities, and Christmas parties. Everyone is feeling festive and that means lots of extra time spent with friends and family.
A few weeks ago, we had a MOPS speaker that talked about Christmas traditions.She specifically said that she felt unqualified to speak about it because she didn’t think her family had many traditions. But the neat things was that when she started questioning her kids they listed off many things that she had never realized that they held so important about the way their family celebrated Christmas.
That night N and I sat around the dinner table for a lot longer than usual (it is a good night if we get 20 minutes of eating time before a little someone starts begging to be released :)). I told him about the speaker’s family traditions and also the ones that came out of natural discussion at our table. Some were funny, some were serious, some were dear and common. We both felt like we also didn’t have many traditions, but when we starting thinking about the things we do exactly the same, year after year, we were amazed at how many we already had in place.
Some of our annual traditions include:
–putting up decorations the weekend of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has been declared a very important and not-to-be-overlooked holiday in our house. So we will give it the respect it is due and will wait to pull out the decorations and music until it is over. And then we will go full-out Christmas. No offense if you do it any other way…that’s just how we roll 🙂
–listening to Christmas music non-stop. Pandora is set to *NSYNC Christmas and we also have a meager collection of Christmas CD’s. Not to be overlooked: my BIL has an awesome Christmas album. It is currently on repeat in the car.
–Christmas morning breakfast. The past few years, we’ve traveled on Christmas day for convenience sake. To see my side of the family requires a road trip and there is usually less traffic and problems if you go on Christmas day. Christmas eve is reserved for my in-laws. But afterwards, N and I have exchanged our stockings and gifts and then had a big breakfast on Christmas morning.
–Night at Bethlehem, Living Nativity, Breakfast in Bethlehem. We aren’t always able to do all of these events every year, but we try to do at least one with MG. She loves seeing the live animals and it will mean a lot more to her as she gets older.
–Christmas cookies. My mom has the BEST recipe. We’ve made them most years and given some away to friends and neighbors.
. Every year it has looked different. One year I gave small gifts each day, one year it was only words of affirmation. This year we are following a source I found online and doing verses each night. I am also following the She Reads Truth
(claim to fame: SRT was co-started by my college friend Kacia!) Advent devotional. It is definitely a great way to prepare for Christmas. Along those same lines, we purchased One Wintry Night
by Ruth Bell Graham. It is for children just a little bit older than MG but tells the Christmas story starting in the Old Testament and weaves everything together for His birth at the end. Plus it has amazing illustrations. I look forward to reading a section a night with MG + co. starting next year.
(the bottom half of our Advent calendar)
–Watching It’s a Wonderful Life with N. Would you believe he had never seen it until we were married? We both love it.
N’s mom’s side of the family are Ashkenazi Jews. She grew up going to temple and while they were not extremely Orthodox, she observed some Jewish traditions. She converted to Christianity in college, as did the rest of her living family. It is still a big part of her life, as she has been to Israel several times and has become passionate about sharing her heritage with her children and grandchildren. The past few years we have observed the first night of Hanukkah with a traditional Jewish meal (including latkes and macaroons) and bless the LORD in Hebrew as we light the menorah. Every time it gives me chills. It is true that the LORD kept His promise to the Jews to not destroy them and out of the Jewish line came the Savior of the world. Had it not been for Hanukkah, we would not have Christmas.
After we discuessed our annual traditions, we talked about things that we want to incorporate with our kid(s) in addition to or in place of ones above. Like: looking at lights/Starbucks, making/each picking out an ornament each year, making a felt tree that they can decorate, and having a special Christmas breakfast and reading the Christmas story (Luke 2). As far as Santa goes, he probably won’t be a big deal in our house, but we would definitely like to share with our kids the tradition of where Santa came from–St. Nicholas. Maybe we will incorporate some “St. Nicholas” activities for them to do every year too.
The best part about this conversation was that we were able to talk about what we wanted our future family to look like. What traditions we wanted our kids to focus on and what we hoped they would hold in their hearts when they looked back on Christmases past. It made me a little weepy to think that this time next year, we will have a 3 year old who will understand so much more and truly be able to start getting excited about all things Christmas and also a little, unknown right now, 6-month old who will bring a whole new dimension to our family. For some reason, having two kids (!) makes celebrating Christmas traditions as a family feel so much more important.
So, we hereby declare, that Christmas of 2012 will be the year where we sort through our traditions, add to the growing list, refine the ones that just won’t work anymore, and decide what is important for our family. I can’t wait to see the outcome!