Last year I read a book about traditions. It challenged me to evaluate the traditions we uphold in our family and what we are instilling on our children. Traditions are the perfect means to instilling life-long, meaningful values into the hearts and minds of our children. When I think back to my childhood, though many memories are fuzzy and not many specific conversations stand out, I remember our traditions loud and clear. Christmas time is probably filled with more tradition in our home than any other time of the year. But are the traditions we plan to create for are family meaningful? Some are just for fun and will provide memories and warm cozy feelings as our children grow up, and some I hope, will instill in them a solid knowledge of the meaning of Christmas and the truth of who God is.
My kids are so little that our list of traditions is still growing and changing, but here are a few that we practice right now:
1. Each child gets 3 gifts from Mom and Dad, just as Jesus received 3 gifts from the Wise Men at his birth.
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh" - Matthew 2:11
(I like this idea because it keeps me from going overboard when shopping for the kids and it is is such a great way to tie the gifts the girls receive back to Christ. This afternoon I was reading them the Nativity Story and when we got to page about Jesus receiving 3 gifts we were able to have a conversation about that. Obviously it will be a few years before they have a full understanding of the wise men and gifts...today when Madison asked what Jesus received I told her and she was a bit concerned that she too would be receiving gold, frankincense and myrrh. )
2. Pajamas and a game for the family on Christmas Eve
(I grew up getting new pajamas on Christmas Eve so I started that tradition without even thinking about it once I had Maddie. But this year I was bothered by how much pajamas cost as well as the fact that I really don't like them to wear "winter" themed clothing once winter passes. So, because I had already purchased them they will be receiving new pajamas this year, but from now on I will make them myself for a fraction of the cost. The game idea is new to our family this year and game from my friend Megan. I love this idea because it presents the idea of family, fun and unity on Christmas Eve. What better way to enjoy time together than by playing a game?)
3. Operation Christmas Child
Every year since Madison was born she has put together a box for Operation Christmas Child. She helps pick out the gifts and we discuss in length how blessed we are and how some children don't have very much but we get to help them. As the kids get older, they will be using some of their own money that they have saved and put in their "giving" piggy bank to contribute to buying gifts for the shoe boxes.
4. Christmas Books
We have a special basket of books that only come out at Christmas time. Many are books about Jesus and some are classic Christmas stories. I like that these only come out for a short time each year because they are new and exciting to the girls and gives us an extra incentive to spend more time together reading during the month of December so that we can get through the each of the books as many times as possible.
5. Advent Calendar
We have always done an advent calendar. What little kids doesn't like the idea of opening a little box and finding candy in it every day for an entire month? Each girl has her own calendar so they each get a piece of candy every day in December. This year I found a great Advent Calendar that has a different figurine from the story of Christ's Birth for each day of December. So, once it arrives in the mail, we will first do the Advent Calendar of Jesus' Birth and then they will get to do their candy calendar.
(It was a steal of a deal, if any one is intersted let me know and I will send a link...)
6. A Birthday Party for Jesus
We haven't actually done this yet, but we are starting this year. I think it is such a tangible way for children to understand that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior. We talk about it being Jesus' birthday, but in the mind of a child, a birthday isn't really a birthday without a cake, so from this year forward, we will bake a cake for Jesus.
7. A new ornament each year
I grew up with this tradition too, and when I got married my mom gave me my box of ornaments to take to my own home. I LOVE looking back at the beautiful, fragile little memories of my childhood as we decorate the tree. We started this when the girls were born and will continue until they get married and start a home of their own. We just decorated the tree today and though Madison has only has three Christmas' she already has 9 ornaments to her name, and Kenzie 7 for her two Christmas'.