Inspired by a conversation with Kate yesterday (the Chicago mom's group talked about traditions and what they will do with their own families), I wanted to write out what mine were/are.
Growing up, Christmas held so much awe and wonder, like it does for most children. My parents always did so much to make the holiday season meaningful. A few of our traditions were decorating together as a family, even through high school. It was always delightful to unwrap our boxes of ornaments (Shannon and I had our own boxes), reminiscing about particular ones (the glass blown angel purchased on a Colorado trip) and questioning others ("WHY have we kept the Hamburglar ornament we got in a McDonald's Happy Meal in the 1980s!?"). With Christmas music blasting, we set up our fake tree (I have terrible mold allergies, so I have never had a real tree in the house; fun fact about me), put up other home decor, and helped dad untangle all the lights (possibly the most dreaded yearly job) to go on both the tree and the outside of the house. We often drove around looking at holiday displays (back in the day when most people put up lights) while singing carols. When we were old enough, we started drawing names for stockings and would fill that person's with all sorts of goodies. Unfortunately it was always clear who's name dad had drawn, for that stocking would hang lifeless and empty up until, oh, Christmas Eve. :) This tradition continued past high school, until we all moved away. Also, every Christmas my mom would give us each a new ornament and a new Christmas book (only one of these, just to share as a family). Oh, how we loved to chose our new ornament and sit next to the basket of books by the fireplace and read our favorites throughout the month of Christmas! We especially loved A Cup of Christmas Tea, The Berenstain Bears' Christmas, The Innkeeper's Daughter, and all the ones with flaps we had broken over the years, or scratch 'n sniffs we had long worn out. Also, after Thanksgiving, our "Christmas Jar" would be placed in a common place, where we would daily dump our excess change and at the end of the month, we would count the money and give it to someone in need or a charity. We always did some research as to who we wanted to give our money to. One of my particular favorites was through Samaritan's Purse, where you can look through their "Gift Catalog" and buy a goat for a family, or supply a family with a bicycle or grain for a month (there are dozens and dozens of choices!). This was a powerful and tangible way for us to see where our money was going. Click here for more info.
Yearly, we had an Advent calendar, and Shan and I opened one every other day (one of us had "odd" days and one had "even" days of the week...we fought alot, so this was mom's compromise :), following the story of Christmas until the 25th. We also celebrated Advent every Sunday of the month, using an Advent book I made in preschool (mom still has it!). It was wonderful to sit around the wreath as a family, share Scripture, quietly refelct, sing a carol, and light a candle. And of course, we would attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, and read the Christmas story.
I have kept many of my family traditions going, but also have added to the list annual candy making and in the coming years, I want to help pack shoe boxes with Samaritan's Purse. Aron and I were able to do this for several years with our youth group kiddos in CA and it was a meaningful experience.
Isn't this season delightful? I hope you all are able to rest as much as possible and enjoy God's goodness. It's so easy to get caught up in the busyness. May this season be spent in enjoyment and reflection of all He has done for us.