Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Traditions Old and New

We are currently in a stage of life where we are "in between" traditions. We don't still celebrate the Christmases of our childhoods, but we don't yet have our own kids and traditions. It's kind of a cool time because Christmas can be anything we want it to be. I am excited about making our own traditions while building off traditions we already have.
Every Christmas as I get a little older, I think a little more about how we can really honor Christ at Christmas and reject the world's notion of Christmas. I went on a small rant about that last year here. This year, one of our couple friends from church have two small children - a baby and toddler. They posted on Facebook about two somewhat radical decisions they are making for their family's Christmases.

The first decision is that they were not going to do "Santa" with their kids. All Christmas gifts will be from "Mom and Dad". There will be no pictures with Santa or leaving cookies out on Christmas Eve. At first, I bristled at this idea - No Santa?! But then Brent and I started talking about it, and it began to make more sense - even GOOD sense. Think about it - our culture has focused a HUGE amount of attention at Christmas on a made up, fake, magical being who represents materialism. On the other hand, Jesus is a real, miraculous SAVIOR of the world. It begs the question: Why is Santa more appealing than Jesus and how have we let this happen? Santa, as harmless and jolly as he may seem, has succeeded in almost completely distracting America from JESUS - the whole point of Christmas and life, for that matter. Of course their kids are going to hear about Santa from friends, TV, the mall, books, songs, even Christian radio! So I guess they will have to explain the Santa phenomenon to the kids at some point, but just de-emphasize it.

The second decision they made is to only give their kids three gifts each Christmas. Their rationale is that the wise men only gave Jesus three gifts. This is also intriguing to me. Let's just say giving gifts is NOT my love language. I've never really understood the whole gift thing, which I know is heresy to some people... so sorry. I think the last present Brent & I gave each other was at our wedding. But I do like the idea of giving gifts with restraint. I know there's a fine line of legalism here, and I'm not sure that three gifts is the magic number, but I kind of like it. I'm sure that will be an uphill battle with their kids as they get older and realize that other kids get 30+ presents for Christmas. But I have to say that I applaud them for it. It's things like this that distinguish Christians from the rest of our culture. Because if we just go along with the cultural Christmas like everyone else... how are we different? How are we in this world but not of it? Food for thought. I'm eager to hear your opinions. Discuss amongst yourselves and in the comment section :-)

Anyway... their story has made me pause and think about what traditions I want for my family this year and in the years to come. Here are some we currently enjoy and some we'd like to start in the future.

Decorating the tree the day after Thanksgiving
It's hard enough for me to wait until then! I love coming home from Thanksgiving, getting down all the decorations, and going to town. I want to enjoy my tree and decorations as long as I possibly can! I take down the tree on January 2nd. I also love to have at least one night where I just sit in silence, drink something warm, and stare at the tree. Here is our tree this year and some of our favorite ornaments! The glitter and yarn creation is an ornament I made in preschool.

Serving Together
I grew up serving at nursing homes every Christmas. Middle school through college, you could find my friends and I singing at nursing homes in December. Now, I bring my seventh graders to the nursing home at Christmas to sing. Warms my heart! (You can read more here.) I hope that we raise our children connecting Christmas and service and that we can find a service project that our family loves and make that our tradition.
Watching Christmas Vacation
This has absolutely no connection to Christ except that I think God wants us to laugh sometimes. Every year, Brent and I MUST watch Christmas Vacation at least once. It NEVER gets old. Favorite lines:
"Surprised, Eddie? If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised."
"Grace? oooh... she passed away thirty years ago." "No. They want you to say GRACE. The BLE-SS-ING." "Oh. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."
Reading "Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus"
This is one of my quirky personal traditions. My mom always had this Norman Rockwell Christmas book out on the coffee table at Christmas. The book has an excerpt from one of the "Little House on the Prairie" books I loved as a kid: Farmer Boy. The chapter is called "Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus" and it is just the sweetest, simplest, most wonderful Christmas story ever.

Here's the recap: The prairie was flooded, so the children were worried that Santa would not come to their house. Their bachelor friend, Mr. Edwards, saved the day by fording the river and bringing the family presents. The children each receive a tin cup, a stick of peppermint candy, a bite-sized white-flour cake, and a shiny penny, and it is the BEST CHRISTMAS THEY HAVE EVER HAD. It makes me tear up every time. If only we were so grateful and life was so simple. I read it every single year and now make Brent listen to it too :-)

Christmas Eve Dinner and Church
This is a tradition that I want to continue but make my own. Both of our families always eat the same dinner each Christmas Eve before heading out to church. My mom's dinner is a homemade beef stew. Brent's family has beef tenderloin. I love the idea of having a tradition of what you eat on Christmas Eve. I'm still trying to figure out what I want my tradition to be, but I've heard a lot on Food Network lately about big Italian seafood dinners on Christmas Eve. Maybe something that includes this:
Pajamas on Christmas Eve
Brent and I both like to open presents on Christmas morning. However, I love the tradition of giving one gift on Christmas Eve, and I always want it to be a new pair of pajamas. So that way you have something new and cozy to sleep in and you'll look cute the next morning while opening presents. This will be so fun with kids.

Spice Crackers
My mom always makes her famous "spice crackers" at Christmas. We only get them at Christmas, so that makes them special. They are spiced, baked oyster crackers. I'm going to make them this weekend, so I'll post the recipe!
What are your traditions? I'm in the market for some, so I may steal them :-) What do you think about cultural v. counter-cultural Christmas traditions?



Kristi said...

Would you be open to talking on the phone regarding this one?! You'll be surprised by what I have to say!

kristin fulghum said...

i love your ideas! we're trying to figure out traditions too. it's really kind of hard! thanks for sharing yours.

The Portland Patterson said...

so we didn't have santa the real one at all while growing up. we had Happy Birthday Jesus parties growing up and my mom even used it as an evangelism time with our neighbor friends. very special memories. Santa in our family was my grandfather Pat. Dad reads the Christmas Story from the Bible every year and cries while reading it! so precious:)

Shayla said...

I really enjoyed this blog post, Katie! I can also identify with that "in between" traditions stage. One tradition Jason and I started is that each year we go shopping together to pick out a Christmas-scented candle to burn throughout December.

Growing up, my mom would have an Advent Calendar with special treats for us leading up to Christmas. One of the treats was always a Christmas-themed book that we would read for our bedtime story. Another tradition was that we got to open 1 gift on Christmas Eve and Mom always makes Pasta e Fagioli soup before church services.

I look forward to creating new traditions once we have kids!

Kristi said...

Katie, Thank you so much for the great conversation yesterday! I am SO sorry for rambling! That was most definitely the product of a really long and near horrible week combined with me trying to multi-task with a fried brain and well, the result was no bueno! I forgot to mention to you that we too, open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve! I like your idea of making it jammies and may even start doing that! After this year, of course! Thank you so much for giving us such a wonderful blog to read! Merry Christmas, Katie!

Kate + Zach said...

Love this! I may or may not steal some of your ideas!

GraceAnna said...

I've been meaning to comment forever and tell you thank you for your sweet comment our our blog not too long ago! I shared it with Grant to which he replied, "she's pretty awesome herself"
Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Theresa said...

I literally stumbled on your blog- it's adorable. I love the Christmas post here even though it is oldish- Have a blessed Christmas this year too !

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