Favorite Christmas Traditions
I absolutely adore Christmas time. Some may even see me as one of those crazy people. Yes, my house would be covered in lights, and computer run programs timed to music if possible. I sing carols throughout the year, but try to keep my public performances to December. I love the Christian celebration of Christ’s birth, and I love the secular celebrations, like Santa, and Rudolph. Mostly, I think I enjoy the times that bring us together; neighborhood parties, church gatherings, school plays, caroling, and anything else that can bring two or more strangers, friends, or enemies together. So, here are my favorite traditions; both Christian and secular. I’d love for you to comment at the end and let me know what yours are!
Remembering Christ! Remembering that God loved us SO much, He came to earth as a measly human being, just to be closer to us, and to bring us closer to Him!
The decorations! Bright cheerful colors everywhere! In my family, we decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving, and keep everything lit up through the weekend after New Years. We keep a Christmas tree, topped with an Angel, and talk to the kids about what the different decorations and the stories behind them mean.
The Christmas tree from an ever-green, and round wreathes representing the Everlasting Love of God. How His love goes around and around, never ending, never stopping!
Angels are God’s messengers to us. They were sent to Mary, and Joseph, so they would follow God’s will and not be afraid. They were sent to the shepherds to bring the news of Jesus’ birth!
Lights, candles, and stars, these represent the Star that shined for about 30 days to bring the wise men to Jesus! And also represent the bright light of Jesus that out-shines all darkness!
The music and the stories! It never feels like Christmas without the music. Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Away In A Manger, Deck the Halls, Up on the Housetop, oh the list goes on and on! I have books of music, albums, even one titled ‘A Toolbox Christmas’! There are very few Christmas songs I do not know, and any there are, I want to learn! Often the stories at Christmas time represent helping others and the joys of giving.
Nativity scenes, to remember the Reason for Christmas.
St Nicolas, aka Santa Clause; he helps us remember to help those in need. Whether donating food, toys, clothes, or time, there is always a way for you to help someone. We have the kids (we help) go through their toys every year in November, and find the ones they do not play with. Those that are in good condition get passed on to others. Through-out the year, we pass on clothing, and foodstuffs whenever possible.
Rudolph, often included with St Nick, but I think it’s necessary to have him separate here. Rudolph shows us that God gives each of us our own gifts for a reason. Just because we are different, or maybe that other kid (or adult) is different, doesn’t mean bad, or that it is ok to hurt them. God has a reason for the gifts they are given. With Rudolph, St Nick would have been stranded on foggy nights. Often the things we wish the most to change about ourselves make us who we are, and are needed to someone in some way. That shy-introverted neighbor or classmate may turn out to be the author of a book that changes many lives, including your own. That child or adult with Down’s Syndrome, who many want to pity, is able to see beauty and light and fun in places we would never expect.
Candy Canes are a great way to remember that although Jesus lived as a human, he was without sin. White; pure as fresh fallen snow on a mountain top, Red; yet he died an awful painful bloody death to take away our sins. He is our Shepherd, and just as the shepherd in the field uses his crook to bring a stray sheep home, or to create a puddle of still water among the rapids so the sheep will drink and thrive, Jesus brings us the way home to God and the ‘Living Word’ of God to ‘drink in’ and thrive!
The food! Cut-Shape cookies, pie, honey glazed ham, candy canes! OH MY!
My kids and I love to make cookies. This is the first year I actually made Cut-Out cookies, and decorator icing. The first batch was wonderful! Got a great gluten-free recipe from Land O Lakes this year. http://www.landolakes.com/recipe/1527/star-cut-out-cookies-gluten-free-recipe
and Royal Icing; http://www.joyofbaking.com/RoyalIcing.html
Don’t forget to leave some cookies and milk for Santa, and some Carrots or Celery for the reindeer!
The parties and gatherings! Schools, churches, friends, neighbors, even many work-places, this is the time of year when we all get together more. We look closer around at those near us, and remember better those far away. Go for a walk, and you are more likely this time of year to get smiles and waves from your neighbors then at other times. Try saying hi to a few neighbors tomorrow; you never know just who needs a smile.
Presents! We give gifts for many reasons. To help us remember the gift of Jesus Christ, to show our love and care for each other, or sometimes, simply because we feel like we’re supposed to. When we feel obligated to do something we don’t want to do, or simply don’t care much about, maybe we should try putting some extra heart into it. If nothing else, it will make you feel better. If you don’t have extra money for fancy Christmas presents, remember that gifts from the heart mean much more than the expensive ones. Make a card, or take extra time out for a phone call. Take a day and spend it with someone who is alone, or go help out at a nursing home or soup kitchen. Take time to remember those who have true needs, and less time worrying about those pesky ‘want’ lists! If you have some extra money, or can find a few dollars, ‘adopt’ a family in need, help with an Angel Tree program, or donate a few things to Toys for Tots. http://www.toysfortots.org/ For some of these kids, these programs provide not only the only Christmas presents they will receive, but often the only toys they may get all year. Don’t forget books!
Also don’t forget your friendly furry pals! If you have kids, they’ll get a great delight out of ‘helping’ the pet open the gift. Plus a new toy or chewy may help prevent Christmas pet disasters! http://www.petsafe.net/blog/2012/11/30/the-12-disasters-of-christmas/
The clothing. Many of us do not get many chances to dress up special. A new dress for Christmas was always one of my favorite delights. And if you can sew, or crochet, homemade Christmas dresses and vests are a wonderful idea! I learned how to sew about 4 years ago, to save some money by making a Christmas dress for my daughter and vest for my son, and sewing has become my new favorite hobby. This year, my daughter wanted a tutu-dress, so my mother crocheted the top and I looped the rest. You can try this yourself, follow the directions here; http://www.alwaysunderpay.com/blog/tutorial-how-to-make-a-tutu/
Growing up, I remember a few traditions that always added an extra cheer to the season. There are also some I’ve learned of as an adult that I enjoy bringing to my kids. In the past, we waited until the last minute to get presents wrapped, not on purpose, just time. This year we decided not to do that. So slowly (every few days or so) over the last few weeks, the kids wake up to a new present under the tree. My son loves to ‘sneak’ a peek at the name tags. If he thinks that’s sneaking a peek, I’m not going to correct him! We do a couple of small gifts from Santa, wrapped in different paper then the regular presents, and either put them in stockings or by the fireplace hearth if it’s too heavy for the stockings. On Christmas Eve, we usually allow the kids to open one present, of our choice. Often this is pajamas or slippers. I have found this helps the kids to sleep better, since it releases some of the night before excitements.
Growing up Roman Catholic, we always went to the Midnight Mass. I remember falling asleep through most of them. We now attend a Lutheran church, which offers 3 services on Christmas Eve. A Children oriented service, with flashlights instead of candles, and the Christmas story told in a way that small children can understand and follow along, as well as some fun songs to sing along with. Then we have an earlier contemporary service, with Nursery provided, and the later traditional service. Since I usually sing in the choir, I have attended all three services. This year, we will be going to the childrens service and the contemporary service.
We always read the story ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ before bed on Christmas Eve. My kids love the story, and it’s a lot of fun. There are some great readings of it you can find set to music if you do not want to read yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p46XbyC_5ao
I hope you enjoyed this, and please feel free to remark on your favorite Christmas traditions in the comments section!