God is the inventor of tradition, just as He is the inventor and giver of every good gift (James 1:17). And while the word tradition is not in the Old Testament, the concept and reality are there – in the instructions He provided for each ceremony and celebration He instituted. Consider Passover and the Festival of Booths for a couple of examples.
Traditions are much like heirlooms –something of special value handed down from one generation to another. Most often both our heirlooms and our traditions have come to us through our families. Think on your own heirlooms and traditions. Some, no doubt, you absolutely love, unable to imagine life without them. Others you are stuck with; not knowing exactly what it is you should do with them.
As Christmas approaches, it is a wonderful time to ask ourselves what traditions we are leaving our children and grandchildren. Which of our traditions are we not able to imagine life without? Which are the ones that honestly need to be stashed away in the attic?
The thought and preparation we give to Christmas (and other special days and seasons) and the customs and traditions surrounding it keep it from passing just like any other day. Special times like Christmas anchor us and our children/grandchildren in the harbor of our family, reflecting our true refuge – God. The way we observe these special days has great potential to show our children what we think is most important and to help them value what we hold most dear.
Christmas is a time to look back on Jesus’ birth. At the same time, we look forward as we prepare and anticipate the celebration. During the Christmas season our memory and anticipation weave. We know what to expect because of our memories. Our memories increase our anticipation.
As you think on which Christmas traditions are precious heirlooms and which need to be stored away in the attic, here are a few fun Christmas traditions to consider if you find that you need to institute a new one or two.
1. Christmas Movie or Animated Show
Choose a favorite Christmas movie or animated special (maybe one you have fond memories of from your childhood) and view it annually as a family. Make it a big deal. Pop popcorn, make hot chocolate, serve a special snack chosen just for this occasion.
2. Christmas Baking
I LOVED baking Christmas cookies with my mom – rolling pins, cookie cutters, and flour everywhere. Thankfully, today it doesn’t have to create such a huge mess. Refrigerated roll cookies and cake mix cookie recipes can bring back all of the tradition without the overwhelming mess!!
3. Christmas Eve Box
This is a tradition some of my children have begun with their own families in recent years. Place a variety of items in a large box to be opened on Christmas Eve. Use the items to enjoy the evening together as a family. Items might include: new pajamas, slippers, a new movie, a new family board game, books, or snacks. You might even include a coupon for a family event such as a living room camp-out or a drive to look at Christmas lights or to view a live Nativity.
Go caroling as a family. Visit the homes in your neighborhood then detour to your favorite pizza or ice cream place for a family treat on the way home. Another fun way to enjoy caroling as a family is to pitch a tent in your family room, grab some flashlights, pile in, and sing!
5. Gingerbread House
Work together as a family to build a unique and beautiful creation of gingerbread OR hold a friendly family competition. Winner is awarded the prized annual “trophy.”
6. Family Gift for Jesus
This is a beautiful tradition for showing our children and grandchildren what we think is most important and helping them value what we hold most dear. As a family select a recipient for your family gift. Then work together through the season to gather the money and deliver the gift. (If you need help with choosing the gift recipient, you might consider the World Vision and Compassion gift catalogs).
7. Open Home/Open Table
You don’t have to look long or hard to find people who are alone at Christmas (widows/widowers, international students, college students and others who cannot travel home). No one should be alone on Christmas unless it is their personal choice. Look around and invite others into your Christmas traditions or into your home for Christmas dinner.
8. Luke 2
Help your family keep a proper focus on Christmas Day. Begin the day by reading the account in Luke chapter two.
9. Random Acts of Christmas Kindness
Spread Christmas cheer by engaging in Random Acts of Christmas Kindness throughout the month of December. Such a FUN way to build bonds as a family and to be a blessing to others. Many ideas can be found on Pinterest.
10. PJ Silliness
Purchase identical pajamas for each family member. Open them and wear them on Christmas Eve. Or ramp up the silliness by wearing them out to breakfast or brunch on Christmas morning!!!
What’s the verdict on your family’s Christmas traditions? Do you have some precious heirlooms you just can’t live without? Might there be a tradition or two that honestly needs to be stored away in the attic, never to be seen again? Is there a tradition from the list above that you would like to institute with your family this coming Christmas?
I would love to hear from you. Please share a family tradition or two with us — whether an heirloom or attic-bound. Let’s help each other build meaningful Christmas traditions for our families.
soli deo gloria,