Christmas Traditions

So, after my last blog post, I have half of my readers in agreement and half thinking I'm crazy.  Despite my mixed feelings about the celebrating of this basically pagan holiday, I do not see quitting Christmas anytime soon.  We have two extended families to consider; and I have a husband who, while he may agree in theory, really likes parts of Christmas- like giving presents.

So, here is where we are right now in our Christmas traditions:

1. A tree- Several years ago, I rebelled against this one and did not put up a tree.  The kids thought I was crazy.  Jason and the kids missed the tree.  The kids especially missed putting up all the special ornaments they get each year from family and all the ornaments they make each year in Sunday school, choir, AWANA, etc.  So, we put up a tree.  It is a fake tree.  It stays put together in Jason's shop year round with a blanket over it and the lights still on it.  I do NOT put on Christmas lights!  (There's a story behind this I may share later.)  We get it out a week or so before Christmas and let the kids hang all the special ornaments on it.  We really don't have any other decorations except the nativity scene.

2.  The nativity scene- This one has sentimental value.  Jason and I were married on December 10 sixteen years ago.  Our first Christmas was then very soon after we were married.  Jason got me our first nativity scene that year, and I have used it ever since.  It is small and breakable, but we have protected it through four small children.  Every year we hide baby Jesus from the scene and find him on Christmas morning.  I'm really not sure why.  I think it's something I read in a magazine.  It certainly doesn't have any Biblical significance.

3.  The Advent Wreath- We started this when we had kids because our church does an Advent Wreath; and I wanted to follow through at home, so the kids would know what it meant when the candles were lit at church.  I actually kind of like this because sometimes we light the candles at night and eat with the candles lit.

4.  Cookie Day- We've done this with my extended family for many years before I even had children.  We started with my sister and mom and I and respective children getting together to do cookie and candy making.  It has changed over the years as my sister's and brother's kids are much older than mine and have slowly dropped out of Cookie Day.  I still continue with my kids and any grown up cousins who can come.

5.  Gingerbread houses- It is an edible handicraft with lots of candy.  Enough said.

6.  The Jesse Tree- We've done this for about 5 years now.  This has actually become one of my favorite things that we do around Christmas.  I am a history buff, and I love timelines.  The Jesse Tree is a visual representation of God's work in the lives of people throughout history leading up to the time of Christ.  There is nothing particularly "Christmassy" about the Jesse Tree, but I assume people do it through the month of December because it leads up to Christ's birth.  If you've never heard of a Jesse Tree, you can read more about it here.

7.  Gifts- Yes, we do gifts.  And no, they aren't homemade (usually) or regifted.  I have a husband whose love language is gifts.  He loves to give gifts- to me, to our kids, to our family members.  So, yes, we go out in the craziness and buy gifts.  I try to limit who we buy for, and I try to choose less costly but more thoughtful gifts.  For our own immediate family, Jason and I do not get gifts for each other (except somehow he often has squirreled away money to get me something).  For the kids, we usually choose a family gift- something we've wanted but wouldn't just go out and buy.  Then the kids get new pajamas, a small mommy gift, a small daddy gift, and a stocking with some candy, toothbrushes, pencils, and other little odds and end they may need.

We've never done Santa, but sometimes the kids sit on his lap at the mall just to get candy.  I occasionally mail cards because I like to have a new picture of my friends kids each year, and I figure they might like to have a picture of mine.

As I said in the last post, this changes and evolves each year.  When we first married, I really stressed over it all.  I wanted to decorate.  I wanted to do every tradition in the book.  I wanted to get it all right because that was what was culturally acceptable.  Every magazine I read and newspaper I looked at suggested something else I needed to add.  Online, I could find every kind of holiday organizer imaginable.  (And let me say, there is something wrong with having a holiday that I need a 50 page planner for!)  Thankfully the whole affair has become less stressful to me.

I hope that what we are passing on to our kids as we move through the decisions to celebrate or not and how is that our focus ALL year should be Christ and what He wants us to do.  That's not something we just need to think about in December.  What we do all year long should reflect His presence in our lives.  Whether it is giving presents in December or how we treat our friends in July, it should all be done with a focus on God and for the ultimate purpose of always bringing glory to Him.

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