Family traditions create precious memories that can help shape the next generation of your family.
When our children were still at home, we developed a number of traditions around Christmas. Some were for teaching purposes, some for practical reasons and still others for just plain fun. Here are a few of them:
Daily Teaching Moment
Judy made a felt calendar with pockets in it for each day of the month of December. She would put some kind of trinket – an object lesson in miniature form – in each pocket. Every day one of the children would take the surprise out of the pocket, giving Mom or Dad a chance to share what the object represented.
Pick Out a Christmas Tree
Getting the tree was a family adventure, and we usually tried to get our tree up right after Thanksgiving (but not during Thanksgiving). After her brothers left for college, Kelly (our youngest) and I would go out into the country to a Christmas tree farm that would let you cut down your own tree. We would measure the trees and look at them from every angle. Then we would pick one as big as would fit in our house and I would cut it down. Then Kelly and I would haul it to the house, prep it and take it in.
Act Out the Christmas Story
When the children were young we would give them the opportunity to dress up and reenact the Christmas story as Judy or I read it. As they got older we would just read the story and have a time to pray together and give thanks.
Give Gifts Intentionally and Open Them Slowly
We had a policy after our children turned 5 that we would no longer buy them toys, except on their birthdays and at Christmastime, so we felt like we could do a little more at Christmas. The problem was there were so many presents for each child that they never really got to appreciate each gift or express appreciation to the gift giver. There were a couple Christmases that they ripped through the presents and were done in 20-30 minutes. So Judy and I started something many years ago that we still do to this day. Only one present at a time is given and opened, and the giver gives the gift to the one they got it for and says, “I give this to you because I love you.” It has taken four hours to open all the presents around the tree some Christmases because we took the time to appreciate everything.
Start Christmas a Little Early
Along those same lines, we started letting the children open one present each evening starting 7 days before Christmas. It helped build the anticipation for Christmas, helped them appreciate each gift more and it made Christmas morning a bit less hectic.
Keep an Element of Surprise, Wonder and Celebration
One last tradition we started many years ago was the element of surprise, wonder and celebration. The last present each child opened would not be under the tree. It would be hidden very securely somewhere in or around the outside of the house. Judy and I would hand each of the children a card, and on the card was a riddle that would lead them to their next clue. They had to figure out the riddle and then try to locate the next card with its etched riddled clue. When we lived in Indiana and Oregon, there might be snow on the ground and a wind chill of 10 degrees. They would have to get dressed, get bundled up and go running around in the snow looking for their next clue, which might bring them back inside, and then back out again. It usually took about half an hour for them all to follow their clues to the final resting place of their present. Then we would all laugh, even to the point of crying, as each one told tales of their adventurous trek to find their present.