Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Castle card for Aidan
As I consider my parenting article,  I thought about tying strings of fellowship with regards to Christmas.   I read an article about different Christmas traditions people had and thought a few would be worth implementing, but we are all so busy in the Christmas season.  Do we really want to start something else?  I was thinking that really, choosing one or two meaningful or significant traditions is really what will stick in the memories of our families.  Sometimes it is better to just allow traditions to form rather than forcing them.  In my mind, a tradition should take the focus off of self and put it on the true meaning of Christmas......or at least, on a greater meaning than materialism. 

For a few years, we did an Advent Wreath, which I really like the idea of. It just didn’t work for our family.  Honestly, we just couldn’t get consistent about it.  Sometimes my husband was home for dinner, sometimes not, and dragging people back to the table each night for doing the readings and wreath was like pulling teeth.  I don’t think the kids really appreciated the full-picture of the prophecies and the Christmas story, because they were too disjointed.  Each reading is short, which one would think would be good for time management, but it just ended up feeling unfinished each night.  The kids didn’t identify with the colors of the candles either. It seemed like most times we would do the reading, light the candle, and blow it out - done!  We had somewhere to be.

Another on and off tradition in our home is the  Advent Calendar.  On the Advent calendar we own, each day is a little book that is part of the Christmas Story that is then hung on the tree.  Really cute.  I loved it when the kids were little. We were also reading the Christmas account from the Bible, and we noticed that there were some inconsistent aspects of the Advent book stories.  Nothing heretical, just made up parts of the stories and some things that didn’t line up with Scripture - like the Wise Men being at the manger simultaneously with the Shepherds, Mary and Joseph stopping at an oasis, etc.  I know, no big deal.  Anyway, my youngest resurrected the calendar this year and consistently asked to read the book each at least for this year, that is a tradition again.  It became a game, asking her whether what was in the booklet really happened that way in the Bible.

That brings me to another tradition, which is reading the Christmas account from the Bible during the kids devotion time in the weeks before Christmas.  This is a keeper tradition.  There are so many aspects of the Christmas story that I thought I knew and rediscovered reading with my kids.  I love teaching my children some of the more obscure, yet still truly miraculous stories, of Jesus’ birth.   My favorite is Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:25-38.  So interesting that they knew who He was.  Like those fairytales, but it really happened and what they predicted, really did “come true”.

We always go to Christmas Eve Service at our church. 

We have movie and book traditions too, if we have time for them.  For about the last 4 years, we have read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever aloud to our kids. I thought perhaps they had grown out of it, but this year the 18 year old home from college brought the book with her for Steve to read to the family.  We sat around in the kitchen while he read it and no teenager got up with statements of better things to do.  Granted it is a funny story, but also insightful and touching.   Another tradition was to watch It’s a Wonderful Life but we did not get to that one this year.  This year we watched Elf

As I was thinking through these things, I didn’t even think of our biggest and most significant tradition until I was faced with the late-nighters we pull to accomplish the task.   As we worked on them Steve said, “this is really a great tradition, thanks for thinking of this.”  Glad he said that, because he does most of the work! 

The Tardis Christmas Card for our Dr. Who fan.  I think all the older kids would have liked to get this one.

Holiday Dinosaur for Tyler.  Steve was just being goofy.
We make hand-drawn and written cards for our kids each year.  The idea came from a Focus on the Family article about a mother whose teenage daughter and her were at odds.  Amidst the conflict a statement of, “You don’t love me. You never loved me”  came from the teenager.  The mom later came to the daughter with a box of letters.  Letters she wrote when the girl was a baby and later maybe, I can’t remember.  At any rate, the letters were the “evidence” of the mother’s love for the daughter.  It made me think, “do my kids know I love them?  Do they have some evidence?”   I tell them often, but I thought it would be really cool to give them letters each year.  I think we were looking for something significant to give them, beyond just the material toy-thing that they wanted.

The first few years we just wrote them letters in a store-bought card, but at some point, we decided, “hey, we’re artists, we should make cards.”  Steve definitely has the better style for this and the kids have so much as said so.  The one year I drew the cards they said they liked Dad’s better.  That’s okay, I do too and I don’t mind writing the letter part.  The letter is usually an applicable scripture and then an encouragement looking back over the year, it takes quite a bit of thought and time.   
The cards are really focused on the kids, but I think that they help them to see that there is a larger life-picture they should be considering, a spiritual perspective on things that have happened, and also, relationships to cherish beyond presents to open.
We just saw this polar bear baby and thought we HAD to do this one for Elise.

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