What a great time of year to talk about Traditions. I'm a firm believe that Traditions only happen if you create them and keep doing them. I would gather that most of us have great memories from our childhood based on traditions - no matter how silly they seemed!
First, I thought I would share our current traditions for Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, we normally go to my parents and attend the Christmas Eve Service at my brother's church. After that, we gather at my parents for snacks and laughs. Growing up both Darryl and I opened one gift on Christmas Eve and we are starting that with the boys this year - they have one gift to open :-) . Christmas morning starts with some special food. From my family tradition, we have Eggs, bacon, and toast than, from Darryl's side, we have cinnamon rolls and Orange Julius. It is a very yummy breakfast!! We also open stockings Christmas morning - usually just before breakfast. We aren't allowed to do anything else until all the dishes are done from breakfast - granted, now my mom has a dishwasher so their isn't near the wait that there was when we were growing up!. Finally, we get to open presents and we follow my family tradition - we open one at a time - it is not a free for all. It makes the morning last so much longer and you get to watch everyone else receive those special things too!
Second, I wanted to share some traditions we are starting this year. I already mentioned the Christmas Eve gift. We are also going to start reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the boys before bed on Christmas Eve. What a perfect story for that night!! Than, we will also add reading the Christmas Story on Christmas morning. I should clarify that my dad read the story often on our Christmas mornings too but as adults, we don't always take time to read it. We want to make this an important part of the morning for the boys, though.
Third, we've been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas and how we can instill into our boys the true meaning of Christmas; teach them about giving back; and yet still have the excitement of receiving gifts too. I did a little research on where the "gift - giving" idea came into Christmas and was surprised to learn that it really came into play during the Victorian Era but the idea was being done as far back as before Christ's birth. During the Victorian Era, people where filled with friendliness and Charity and gift giving goes hand and hand with that so gifts were given to show kindness. They didn't just hand out a pile of gifts though - they did things like a Cobweb party where each person was assigned a color and than shown a room with different colored yarn strung through the room. They had to follow their color to find their gift. This is just one example. It wasn't until the 19th century that Christmas met with commercialism and merchants took full advantage of pushing the idea of gifts. Don't get me wrong, I'm not doing away with gifts :-) I think it is fun to shop for my family but I just wanted some back ground on this! So, here are some of the ideas we are planning on incorporating over the next few years (many of these ideas I shared in a post here):
To Teach The Real Meaning of the Season: Taking an idea from here, we will be doing a the Jesus tree next Christmas. I plan on picking up a small tree for the dining room to use for this and we will use the lessons on the names of Jesus for our family devotion time. I look forward to making this more in depth each year as the boys grow and eventually having each of them do research to talk about the different names. There are also some teaching units I want to use in the coming years that focus on Christ birth so that the many of our lessons will revolve around the Christmas story.
To Teach the importance of giving: We will be doing two shoe boxes next year for Samaritan's Purse. I plan on doing one for each of my boys. We will do a box for a boy that is their same age group so that they can pick out the items for the box. Who knows, in years to come, we may have the means to do more than just those two. We will be doing goodie boxes for our neighbors. We'll back some goodies and maybe include a small gift but I think it is good for the boys to walk to the neighbors (with us of course!) and say "Merry Christmas" and give something away. Another thing we will do that is also fun - is go light hunting. Once we find the best of the best, we'll come home and write Thank-yous.
To Count Down to the Big Day: What better way to build excitement than to count the days? This is where the "just for fun" stuff comes into play. Again, I've stated some of this before. I want to incorporate the "Elf on the Shelf" game. I'm also working on a better book list based on the two blogs I follow to do a book a day for December along with an activity for each book. We love to read so I think it would be fun for the boys to have a book to unwrap each day as a surprise for the day. I also am planning on making some advent bags - if I plan well enough, I'll make them big enough to put the books in too - so we can open the bag and take out a small gift each day and maybe have an activity we can do each day.
Gift Giving: We will still do gifts without a doubt. What is more fun that letting a kid look through the Toys-R-Us Christmas book and picking out things they like? Or seeing their faces (or my face for that matter - I love gifts too!) What I do want to do though, is encourage my kids to also be creative in the gifts that they give - to pick out things for family because it is something they know they will love. I guess, to teach them that it REALLY is just as much fun to give as it is to recieve, especially when you take time to think about what you are giving.
Yes, those are lots of ideas but, a lot of the items double up or take just a few moments each day and yet build so many memories! AND I plan on having everything made for all projects for December by the end of July so that we can just have fun in December.
So, what are your tradtions? Do you have one tradition that you love? Enjoy your Christmas and make lots of fun memories to look back on for years to come!