I love all things Christmas – the lights, the songs, the smells, the corny movies and the meaningful traditions. I’m one of those - I could listen to Christmas songs all year long and leave the tree up till March. Something about Christmas makes me want to re-capture my long, lost sense of wonder and mystery – maybe that’s why I want to prolong the season. To a child, Christmas is a magical time filled with excitement and newness. It’s a time when parents establish traditions and create opportunities for their family to immerse themselves in the festivities related to the true meaning of Christmas.
Often as parents we engage in the same seasonal routines without realizing the long-term impact it has on our families. Though my son is now an adult, he is quick to make sure that I wait to include him in all the activities that I did with him while he was growing up. They didn’t start as traditions but over time they have become that. I see in him a deep desire to keep those traditions alive…why?
Studies show that traditions give us a strong sense of belonging and comfort. They remind us that we are part of history – it gives meaning to our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become tomorrow. As a parent traditions give me an opportunity to reinforce the values and beliefs that I hold dear.
What values and beliefs do your Christmas traditions reflect? Here are a few our mine:
Make ‘nativity’ the focus in your home by displaying it where your family can see it everyday.
As our kids got older I would hide one of the figurines and challenge my family to guess who was missing and play sleuth till the figurine was found.
The day that the figurine was found, our mealtime discussion revolved around that character’s part was in the Christmas story. I humanized that character by asking questions like – “how do you think ______ felt?” “If you were _____ how would you feel?” etc.
After dinner we would all look for Jesus a few days leading up to December 25th (My kids would look for Jesus but wouldn’t find Him). Advent, the weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus is really a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I built excitement about the missing ‘Jesus’ and talked about the ‘longing’ the Jews felt while waiting for the Messiah.
On Christmas day, we would wake up and look for Jesus, place him in the manger and talk about how God sent his son to be ‘with us’- Emmanuel! God with us! We took time to reflect on our need of a Savior. As my kids got older, our conversations became deeper.
Invite friends to a Christmas Open House Birthday party for Jesus. Decorate, bake a cake and sing happy birthday. Encourage attendees to bring a ‘Toys for Tots’ or ‘Angel Tree’ gift.
Find a single or sick mom and offer to buy gifts for the kids as well as clean and decorate their home. Years ago I was blessed by friends that surprised me with this when I was fighting cancer. Their gift to me will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Limit the number of gifts your kids receive to 3 things – a need, a want and a dream.
Create opportunities for your kids to earn money. Take them shopping and buy gifts for a charitable organization.
Make goodies and handmade cards for neighbors, shut-ins and community officers.
Visit the children’s hospital and sing carols and/or handout gifts.
Gift opening can be a blur since kids are eager and excited to open gifts on Christmas morning. Every year I read a different Christmas Story book and asked our kids to listen for their assigned ‘keywords’ to unwrap their gifts.
Buy or make an ornament that encapsulates a year - in each of your family member’s life. When my son was into photography, I bought a camera ornament, when my daughter was into Barbie’s I bought a Barbie ornament. Add the year to the back. It’s become a tradition in our home to hang ornaments with my son who loves listening to the stories associated with each ornament.
One of our favorite things to do till this day is to get into our pajamas, pack some hot coco and cookies and drive around neighborhoods to see light displays.
Read the Christmas Story from Luke 2. When the kids were young they would reenact the story as I read it and as they got older, they took turns reading it.
Attend Christmas services as a family.
Invite friends over for Christmas dinner. We’ve always had guests with us at Christmas Eve or day dinner. I’m proud of the fact that my kids have learned to share Christmas with others. Years of deep and meaningful conversations with those at our table have shaped our children’s understanding of diversity and relationships.