I absolutely love traditions, especially Christmas traditions. This time of year feels full of wonder and hope. Something we could all use more than ever this year. It is a time of celebration and remembrance. A reminder God keeps His promises, even if they come in unexpected packages, like the year he sent a swaddled babe.
This time of year can easily become chaotic and stressful. Adding extra holiday activities and chores to our already full plates. Choose traditions that encourage the wonder, that fill you and your loved ones with the hope we have as believers.
When my husband and I first got married and had kids, I became eager to start our own traditions. There was nothing wrong with this per se, but I tried to implement too many, or I became frustrated when they didn’t go as planned and others didn’t enjoy them as much as me.
Choose traditions that complement the season, not complicate it. One tradition I kept because it was a favorite of mine growing up, is allowing our kids to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and spoiler alert, it is always pajamas.
Don’t feel as if you must try everything or have to do it all. When I think of old-fashioned, I think of a simpler time, a slower-pace. Create a space within the Christmas Season to breathe, slow down, and be intentional with the ones you love.
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1. Find and Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree
Putting up a Christmas tree is a common tradition. Some years we’ve used an artificial tree and other years we’ve gone to a Tree Lot, and both are fun. However, if you live somewhere you can go and cut down your own tree I highly recommend it. A couple of years ago our family was stationed in northern Virginia where we found the cutest little tree farm. One of our favorite traditions when we lived there was packing a lunch, visiting the Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm, finding our favorite tree, and cutting it down. Do you have a tree farm near you?
2. String Popcorn and Cranberries
I remember doing this as a kid but have never actually done it with my kids. This year I plan on making it happen. My mom always popped a big bowl of popcorn, set another bowl of cranberries out, and we strung our own garland while watching a Christmas movie. Not only do kids love watching a movie, but this keeps their hands busy, and they can even snack on popcorn while making it. Does this sound like something your family would like?
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3. Mail Christmas Cards
This is one of my favorite traditions. I remember my mom sending out Christmas cards every single year. I especially remember the torture it felt as a kid having to take family pictures for the card. Every year since getting married I look forward to sending out my own Christmas Cards. It seems to be the one time of year people resort to snail mail. Checking the mail this time of year is especially exciting, I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail. One way to build on this tradition is to save the cards sent to you and make a book of them. Then throughout the year during family devotionals or your prayer time you can choose a card and pray over that family.
4. Go Caroling
No one really seems to do this anymore. I get it, it can be awkward going door to door. However, caroling can be done in other ways too. One year, a couple of nights before Christmas, my Aunt and Uncle hooked up a trailer to the back of their truck, filled it with hay bales, and we all piled in. My uncle connected a speaker and we drove slowly through the neighborhood singing out Christmas songs. Not only did this take away any weirdness, it created memories for our family. This tradition is fun for the singers and the ones who are being sung to.
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5. Roast Chestnuts
I have never actually done this one. With so many Christmas songs mentioning this tradition I thought this may be the year to give it a try. I always assumed this had to be done over an open fire, but you can roast chestnuts in your oven as well. Is this something your family may enjoy?
6. Put a Train around Your Christmas Tree
This tradition has been around for awhile. I’m not entirely sure where it originated, but I think it can be fun for kids of all ages. Did you grow up with a train that went around your Christmas tree?
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7. Make Wassail
This comes from the ancient tradition of wassailing, which is rarely done today. Wassail is a hot mulled cider drink, you can even make it in a crockpot and it makes your home smell wonderful. I can’t wait to try this one this year!
8. Bake From Scratch
There is nothing like homemade baking, especially when it comes to food. My dad always makes my Grandma’s peanut butter fudge this time of year. My sisters and I always forget the recipe and have to call him every year asking for it again. None of us make it quite like him. I like to make extra batches, fill up Christmas tins with it, and give as gifts to neighbors and co-workers. It’s a simple way to let someone know you are thinking about them this time of year.
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9. Display a Bird’s Nest in Your Christmas Tree
My mom always did this. She saw it as a little girl in a movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, and has done it ever since. Bird nests are supposed to symbolize love, commitment, and the effort it takes to make a home. Isn’t this a cute tradition?
10. Carry on Traditions from Older Generations
Each of us comes from a different background and has our own story. What story is close to your heart that you would like to carry on? In my family I had a grandma who always gave us grandkids a knitted pair of slippers. One year, after she passed away, I decided to teach myself to knit, found a pattern like the one she used, and made some for the family. They were all touched deeply as they opened them Christmas morning. Carrying on traditions from older generations is a way to honor and remember them even after they are gone.
Remember, traditions are to be looked back on fondly, they shouldn’t feel forced. When making your schedule this season, what is important to you? What is important to those around you? What activities do you want to be carried on? May our Christmas season be full of hope and wonder, and God with us.
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Originally published Friday, 13 November 2020.