I have noticed a trend this year among Facebook friends and some of the Mommy Bloggers I follow. There has been lots of discussion this year about Christmas traditions – Elf on the Shelf being the most horrendous, in my humble opinion. It got me thinking, because traditions aren’t something we value too highly in our little family. We like trying new things, whether they be foods or experiences or weird do-it-yourself egg and mayonnaise hair treatments. We get rid of clothing and furniture pretty regularly, we don’t have attachment to material things.
This Christmas is significant for us, because 1) We are in a new home (movin’ on up, as they say) 2) My daughter is away at school and this is the first Christmas that she won’t be home with us, and 3) my son is 5 and able to enjoy the stories, help wrap presents, and grasp the idea of Christmas and the holiday more than he did in years past. For these reasons I have been thinking about Christmas traditions – do we need them? Do we want them? Are they silly? Are they a sweet way to stay close as a family?
We don’t have traditions. We do things differently every year. The tree, the decorations, the food, the music, the routine of whose house we go to first or last or not at all. Maybe that’s our tradition. Some years we didn’t have a tree (due to finances and, well, cats). Other years we had only construction paper snowflake ornaments. We don’t watch the same movies or eat the same foods every year, and while I do have fond memories of my grandmothers “broke-neck” gingerbread men and the laughter they inspired among my cousins and me, I guess don’t see traditions as necessary. I realize, though, that for my son there is comfort in the familiar, and my husband and I want to begin to put him on a road towards a relationship with Christ – one that begins with reverence and respect for Christmas, Jesus’ birth.
So, this year we decided to start our first Christmas tradition. It may be the only thing we do EVERY year consistently, but it’s a good one. We found an advent calendar – the kind with the little numbered doors and chocolates behind each one – and a website that explains the Christmas story in a way kids can understand. Every morning in the month of December, we read and talk a little about Jesus – who he is, why he is important, what he did, and his Earthly family. Then, my son gets a chocolate.
The chocolate may be his favorite part of our talks, but I know that some of the things he learns are sticking. For instance, he knows “advent” means “coming”. He knows “Immanuel” means “God with us”. If I say “Jesus is the ____” he responds with “Light of the World” (and a big smile). He knows Jesus’ mommy’s name was Mary and he knows Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. I feel like, for one so small, that is a lot of information.
The cookies won’t last and one day the presents will be forgotten, and maybe my son won’t grow up watching a parade on tv eating the same treats I make every holiday season, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Setting up a place for him in our son’s heart and life is one tradition I feel worthy, and one I know I can keep.