How I Learned to Love a Christmas Tradition
I’m really not much on tradition. Doing something over and over again, in the same way, has never been as meaningful to me as it is to some people. I’m one who likes change, innovation, and creativity. If we did something one way in the past, I’m all for trying something new in the future. Let’s shake things up; make things interesting. I’ve also found that getting too attached to one way of doing things can ruin an experience when it doesn’t work out exactly “the way we’ve always done it”.
But we have one family tradition that sort of evolved on its own over the years that I hope will continue for a long time.
Coming home for Christmas.
It started when my boys were in college. They lived on campus during the semester. When finals were over right before Christmas, they came home. The noise in the house (they’re musicians – the drums, the guitar, the piano), the activity (taking the stairs two or three at a time, snapping towels in the kitchen while doing dishes, wrestling in – well – every room in the house) … having my boys at the table again…the conversations, the laughs, the hugs. I’ve never been one who really likes to cook, but it’s kind of fun to cook for hungry young guys who seem to love everything I make.
And then the girls came.
First the oldest brought his serious girlfriend home for Christmas. Then the middle son did, too. The girls shared the guest room while my boys slept on couches or in sleeping bags on youngest brother’s floor.
Photo credit: Lori Anderson
The girlfriends became wives, and still they came home to stay for Christmas.
Now, the granddaughters come, too.
Sweet little bundles of wonder – excited to be at Grammy’s house – wrapped in their fuzzy blanket sleepers and ready for a sleep-over. This will be youngest granddaughter’s first Christmas. We wake up in the morning a lot earlier now because, well, the little girls wake up bright and early. No more sleeping in on Christmas morning.
One night. Christmas Eve. But they still come.
I’ve collected twin mattresses that we lay out for the bigger little girls; a small crib for the baby. I’ve added high chairs and booster seats. The four of us have grown to nine of us – and two dogs. The noise in the house now includes little squeals, the sound of little feet running around in addition to their dads (still) thumping as they take the stairs in multiples; and a yes, a little crying now and then. And, oh, the dogs barking too.
One night. We’re all together. We wake up together on Christmas morning. We eat. We talk and we laugh. We play games. We make gingerbread houses and open gifts. We nap by the fire. We play games. We play with the kids and their new toys. We snuggle with dogs – and each other.
This is a family tradition that happened somewhat on its own, but we nurtured and encouraged it over time.
I’ve had to be more intentional about creating faith traditions with my family at Christmas. Partly for the simple reason that I’m not much of a traditionalist.
Last year, I found some ornaments with names of Jesus on them. One ornament for each name. Jesus. Christ the Lord. Emmanuel. Mighty God. Wonderful Counselor. Prince of Peace. Savior.
You can buy the same ornaments here.
As I decorated our tree, I decided to save these ornaments until Christmas Day. I typed up slips of paper with a bible verse referring to each name.
On Christmas Day, we took turns reading each verse and placing each name on the tree. We sang “Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel” together, and we prayed together. Not difficult. Not complicated. I hope to repeat this activity together again this year. Maybe it will become a tradition – something that reminds us of what we believe and whose we are; something that connects us to something greater than ourselves.
Get a free printable of the verses I used here.
I’ve learned that traditions can be good - if we cling to them but don't let them cling to us. Click To Tweet
It’s OK to let go of traditions that no longer have meaning or don’t work for your family – don’t feel like you have to hang on to them just because that’s what you’ve always done. Embrace the traditions that connect you to something greater than yourselves. Hang on to the ones that celebrate who you are and what you love. Pass on the ones that teach you about faith and family and love. Experiment with developing your own traditions, or maybe adapt something that you’ve seen other families use. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated.
-Read the Christmas story together before Christmas dinner.
-Repeat the names of Jesus around the table before Christmas dinner.
-Hide the baby Jesus for the kids to find on Christmas morning before opening gifts. Talk about the gift God sent us in Jesus.
-Sing Christmas carols together after dinner or on Christmas morning.
-Have a family Christmas pageant to retell the story of Jesus’ birth.
-Save the star to hang on the tree on Christmas Eve when you tell the story of the star that guided the magi.
-Allow the children to use a small Nativity set to retell the Christmas story.
-Eat together. Play together. Nap together. Laugh together.
We’d love to have you share your Christmas traditions in the comments: the ones that celebrate faith and love and joy. The ones that bring your family together. The ones that help you recall the hope that was born to us in a manger.