Celebrating Holiday Traditions - Blog Post
As we enter into the holiday season, I think about traditions.
So many people have so many different holiday traditions
What to eat
What to wear
When to put up the tree
When to take it down
When to start listening to Christmas Music
When to stop
Putting out Cookies for Santa
The list could go on and on.
Traditions make me think of Monopoly and house rules. Have you ever play Monopoly with people with house rules? Like the Free Parking Rule, that you pay all your taxes to Free Parking and if you land there you get the money. Or the Land on Go Rule, if you land on Go you get $400 instead of $200.
Now if you have never played these rules you might think they are crazy. However, if you are playing with someone who has never played your house rules you might be sorely disappointed. Did you know they even came out with a House Rules Monopoly Game that combines all those rules into Monopoly.
These things may not make sense to you but to someone else they make complete sense. That could be considered a tradition. We have friends whose Monopoly tradition is everyone cheats in their house. Meaning ever person has hidden money over the years somewhere in the house. Every person brings extra cards to the game and the goal is to not get caught cheating. For them this is fun, for me that just sounds stressful.
When Ted and I got married we combined two families into one. Meaning he brought traditions from his family into the marriage and I brought traditions from my family into marriage. Some of those traditions stuck, others did not. Early in our marriage we started to discuss what we wanted to do for our traditions.
Why is this important? Traditions help us remember. Traditions help us remember the good times together, they help us remember our family's personalities and reactions, and hopefully they help us to remember who God is and how He is at the center of what we are doing. The thing I believe is that traditions should bring us closer together as a family and remind us of the real reason for this Holiday Season.
Exodus 12: 14-20 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do. “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
God gave the People of Israel a Festival, a Tradition if you will, to help them remember what God had done for them. Now I am not saying that all traditions are Holy or that they have to be all spiritual, but I am saying that they help us remember things. God wanted the Israelites to remember when He delivered them from slavery. Traditions can be fun, they can be silly, but they started from place of worship and remembrance of what God did for His people. Thanksgiving is a for us to sit back and reflect on the good things in our lives, to find things to be thankful for. Christmas is a time for us to reflect on the birth of our Savior and to celebrate His life that lead up to His sacrifice.
Let me ask this question, are our traditions directing us to the true reason for these holidays? Or are they just things to fill the time and make us happy? Filling the time and being happy isn’t wrong, but I do believe there is supposed to be more to our life than just that.
I remember so many moments growing up, however to be honest my favorite memories are not the gifts I received, or the games we played, though those things were fun and a blessing in my life. When I was about 11 or so my family started a tradition of going to the hospitals or nursing homes on Christmas day. We would get up early in the morning on Christmas day, receive our one gift from “Santa,” read the Christmas Story together, eat Breakfast and then head to the hospitals. We would then spend a couple of hours caroling from room to room to those who could not leave, and then we would do a musical performance for the kids’ common room. At first, I hated this. I wanted to open all of my presents, not just the one that came from “Santa.” I wanted to be at home in my pajamas, drinking hot cocoa and watching a movie. I didn’t want to do for others. However, as I got older and I began to understand that these kids, and families could not go home for Christmas. Some of them might never get to go home and for many of them this was the only time they would spend celebrating Christmas. This greatly changed my perspective. After those few hours were done, we would go home, have our Christmas dinner and spend the rest of the day opening presents and having family game time.
I know that it sounds like the Cliche Christian answer, but the truth is that those are my favorite Christmas memories from my youth. That tradition brought me outside of myself and began to make me think about others, their needs and how blessed I truly was. Also, this tradition helped me see the real purpose of Christmas and who God was.
My kids are still young, but my husband and I are already making traditions and planning things so that we can enjoy our time together while still instilling the value others and God.
Here are a few of the traditions we enjoy now, and a couple we want to add later on as our kids grow.
- Thanksgiving Day: After our meal we put up our Christmas Decorations and then watch The Elf.
- We donate toys to our church’s Christmas Toy Drive, to give to kids who will spend Christmas in the Hospital
- We plan an outing for the family to do together instead of buying lots of toys for our kids. We take lots of pictures to help us remember our fun moments together
- Purchasing toys for another family in need, allowing our kids to pick out what they want to give, instead of for ourselves.
- Read the Christmas Story, eat a meal, open presents, then play games together in our pajamas.
Future Plans for New Traditions
- Serve a meal at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day
- Supply a Christmas tree, meal and gifts for another family who cannot afford Christmas
I hope that the traditions we do now and, in the future, will help us and our kids remember not only the fun times, but also who God is and how He has blessed our lives.
So maybe it is time to examine whether or not your traditions are solely about happiness and filling the time, or celebrating the true reason for the season.
What are some of your favorite memories of family traditions? What are some of your current traditions? What Traditions do you hope to put in place later?