Every family has their traditions and I never really thought about whether the traditions I was raised with were considered "the normal" or not, they were just normal to me. When I got married, new traditions were added to the family and I realized, every family has their traditions. And that is normal. So, as is the case with most families, our Christmas traditions are a mix of what I and my husband grew up with plus some things we started together. At this point, it has all blended together so much that I don't really know where each tradition came from (his family or mine) and at just ten years into our marriage and this being only our 7th Christmas with kids, we are still creating our unique family traditions. I find it interesting what others do to celebrate Christmas, so I thought I'd share what we do for Christmas with you.
First of all, neither my husband or myself were taught to "believe" in Santa. Christmas has always been about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ to us. So, though our children know where the story of Santa comes from (the story of Saint Nicholas) we do not include Santa in our traditions. Neither do we include reindeer, elves, or other things typically included in the made-up version of Santa.
As Christmas approaches, we tell our children that Jesus' birthday is coming up. Usually we talk about why we give gifts at Christmas, which is to celebrate the greatest gift of all time: Jesus! We tell the story of the first Christmas when Jesus was born. We talk about how it is more important to give, rather than to receive, since that is what Jesus taught us many times through example in the Bible. All of this usually takes place in casual conversation, at random times. I always wish we could do more in the way of planned projects (making homemade ornaments & decor, etc.) with more intentional discussions about Jesus and all that He means to us... but I have a hard time sticking to a schedule or fitting it "all" in each day. This year, we did finally do something I had always meant to do in years past... put together shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child! It was great fun and our kids really enjoyed it! Since money is tight, we talked to our kids before doing it, and asked them if they wanted to bless some other children with gifts and get less themselves... and they agreed! So, this year they are each getting 1 gift and no stocking stuffers (or we may put the gift in their stockings, since Josiah requested that). I just read an article on the Crew Spotlight Blog by Amy Blevins about celebrating the advent of Christ's birth with Advent activities throughout December and that is something that looks awesome, but in reality I probably wouldn't be able to do it all. She has some great ideas, though, so go ahead and check it out!
|The kids getting ready to deliver the OCC boxes.|
We have a Christmas tree every year, but keep it pretty simple. We bought a 4ft. artificial tree early in our marriage and then a few years ago were given a 6ft. one. We have since put up the big one with homemade ornaments (usually just a paper chain) and have kept the small one in storage, but this year we may do the 4ft. one since we won't be putting any gifts under it anyway. Adding to the theme of using our piano as a place to display our stockings, I have a cute little "Christmas Town" (which I just received as a surprise gift from one of my sisters) set up on top of our piano and plan to put our small $5 Walmart nativity scene (also bought when we were first married) and our 4ft. tree with lights & homemade decorations on top of the piano as well. It's not very "traditional" but our piano may become our centerpiece for Christmas this year... and years to come!
The last few years, I started making a Christmas paper chain with my kids, sometimes to count down the days until Christmas and sometimes just for decoration (for the tree or to drape above the window). This Christmas season (hopefully next week) I plan to make a picture on construction paper with my kids of Jesus' birth (in the stable, in a manger, etc) and hang the paper chain from it, counting down the days until His birthday!
Another tradition we have that kind of started on accident, is that we watch "It's A Wonderful Life" every year around Christmastime. When I was young, I would watch bits and pieces of it on TV when it aired, but I never watched the entire thing. Our first Christmas after getting married, I saw it for sale at the store and asked Joey if we should buy it, just because I wanted to see what it was all about. We ended up really enjoying the story and the message that unfolds, so have watched it every year since! This is the only Christmas movie we ever watch.
We read the Christmas Story from the Bible whenever we have our own Christmas celebration (whether it's on Christmas day or another time). My Dad has read it every year that I can remember and still does at my family's gathering. In recent years, he reads it from a picture book that takes the story from the Gospel of Luke... the kids enjoy the photos. The book belongs to one of my sisters and now that I think of it, I should find out where she got it since I think it's a neat way to share the birth story with children!
We usually have a Christmas dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and all of the trimmings every year with each of our families. Some years I make a special dinner at home for our little Christmas and other times we just do special snacks and drinks (sparkling juice is a favorite here for holidays). Since our kids are getting older, we try to play some fun games with them as part of our Christmas family time. Phase Ten, Memory, Crazy Eights, and Slap Jack are just a few of the games we might play. I would love to find some Christmas themed (Biblical-based) games to play and include in our traditions! If you have any ideas or links to something like this, please share!
I think that about sums up our Christmas traditions... I'm sure as our family grows and changes, some things may change, but one thing will always remain the same... JESUS is the reason for the Christmas season! Merry Christmas and God bless!