Ah, Christmas! It is almost here! Christmas break began last Friday when school let out. For the children (and probably their teachers, too), it could not come fast enough!! Already, my children have been busy trying to guess which presents are theirs (No, they’re not labeled – more on that later!) and talking about our Christmas morning breakfast! The excitement in the air is almost tangible! As we prepare for this special holiday, I have been reflecting on some special traditions from my childhood, as well as the new ones we have started with our children.
When I was growing up, we looked forward to decorating our Christmas tree each year because we each got to pick out a new ornament to place on the tree. Often, we kept them all in the same theme. One year, we all chose Looney Toons characters; another year, we found small musical instruments. Then another year, we all picked ornaments with cute little mice participating in winter activities like sledding, ice skating, hanging stockings, etc. A couple of years ago, when my parents were downsizing in preparation for a move, my mom decided to pull out all those ornaments and let each of us take our ornaments to our homes. Since we have all been out of my parents’ house for over thirteen years now and are separated by hundreds of miles, the ornaments hanging on my tree remind me of those special family Christmases and give me the chance to share those memories with my children.
Another favorite Christmas tradition that we had growing up was exchanging presents with our siblings on Christmas Eve. Before we all had jobs, my parents gave us each some money to buy a gift for the other two. We kept the gifts reasonably priced ($5 or $10) and enjoyed shopping for each other. As we got older and began using the money we were earning, we exchanged names so that we would only be buying one present. One of my brothers bought me jewelry one year. Another year, the other brother gave me a warm, red nightgown with an adorable white baby seal on the front. (I still have both of those gifts!) We eagerly anticipated getting to open those gifts on Christmas Eve as we all sat around the tree, listening to Christmas music, drinking hot chocolate, and eating some of the many sweet treats that my MawMaw made and brought with her (or sent in the mail, if they were unable to make the trip to our house). Her candies (turtles, pecan pralines, cookies, etc.) were another highlight of our holiday celebrations, and the love that she poured into them has left us with more stories to pass down to her great grandchildren, some of whom she never met.
When my husband and I started our family, we began to establish some traditions of our own. One of our favorite traditions is our Christmas morning breakfast: homemade cinnamon rolls. (Okay, I’ll admit that one year, not too long ago, I cheated and bought the canned ones!) I have experimented with different recipes over the last few years. Last year, I looked online and found Pioneer Woman’s recipe. They were amazing!! I added maple flavoring to the already yummy powdered sugar glaze, and watched them disappear even faster than usual!! The whole family is eagerly awaiting the chance to have them again this year! (We had barely made it through Thanksgiving dinner last month when my son began talking about how he couldn’t wait to eat cinnamon rolls on Christmas!) On Christmas morning, while we open presents, the sweet aroma of fresh baked rolls will fill our kitchen and family room, teasing us with hints of the ooey, gooey, stickiness that is to come!
It seems that I have fought a battle with Christmas labels for as long as I can remember. For some reason, my pens just will not write on them consistently. When my oldest three kids were young, I decided to forget about traditional labels and find different ways to mark each person’s gifts. For several years, we bought a different themed wrapping paper for each child and wrapped all their gifts in that theme. Now that we have added two more little ones to our family and the older three have honed their guessing skills, we have modified our tactics somewhat. Now, we wrap all the presents in the same paper(s). In one corner on the underside of the gift, we use a “code” to designate the intended recipient of the gift. We use shapes, letters, numbers, or a combination of both. The code does not have to be over-complicated (After all, I have to be able to remember it on Christmas morning!); it just needs to be hard for the kids to decipher! On top of not having to wrestle with your ink pens on those pesky labels, this option is guaranteed to give you a little bit of comic relief as you watch the kids try to figure out what gifts will be theirs on Christmas morning!
Probably the greatest tradition that I remember and that we have continued to use in our family is that of reading the Christmas story together before opening gifts! Sometimes, we read it on Christmas Eve; sometimes, we wait until Christmas morning. Some years, we listen as Daddy reads it to us; some years, we let each child who can read take turns reading portions out loud. No matter when the story is read or who reads it, I encourage you to take time this Christmas to talk about the “greatest story ever told.” What a shame it would be to get so wrapped up in the commercialization of Christmas that we ignore the greatest gift of all! Indeed, salvation for us, a people unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness, became possible through the miraculous gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly exchanged His heavenly throne and “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…” (Philippians 2:7) That God Himself would come to earth as man and give His life as payment for my sin is truly unfathomable! It is hard to put into words just how amazing his grace is to us, His creation! It truly is an “unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
This year, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the season, savor the moments that you get to spend with family as you continue old traditions or establish new ones. Take time, both as an individual and as a group, to reflect upon God’s goodness in your life and to thank Him for it!
Merry Christmas, my friends!