Saturday, December 24, 2011


There are some missing hands on our nativity people, but they still tell the Story.

Does your family have a lot of Christmas traditions?  I thought ours didn't until I found myself a little frantic to keep them all.  It's irresistible for me to add on new traditions.  They feel like snuggly warm socks to me.  I love them because they hold me accountable to get things done, but in a memorable way I don't need to reinvent.  I started wondering why we're so eager to pile on traditions surrounding Christmas, and I think it's because we're really observing the biggest tradition of all: celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.

Maybe we feel like we need to make the day extra special because of its deep importance.  Maybe it's just part of human nature to distract ourselves.  Even though we all know Jesus wasn't actually born on Christmas, it's a time we've set for ourselves as a society to remember how very important that quiet birth was.  Over the years, our family dropped the traditions that bring stress and distraction from the day.  Instead, we keep a few that help make Christmas special for us and the people who are important to us.  They are ways for us to be purposeful about seeing people we love, and ways of remembering the biggest gift of all, Jesus.
I thought I'd write down our traditions so I could see how they change over the years.  I'd love to hear a few of yours too!

Our Christmas celebrations start right after our Isaac's birthday, which is November 30th.  We meet up with my brother and his family, and my childhood friend Jeanette and her husband Morgan.  We always go to the same tree farm after too many years of random tree farms with sketchy and unpredictable trees.  We may try a different farm this year because this farm's tree grooming has gotten a little lazy: there were lots of trees that had the bottom 3 feet of branches cut off so that the tree you'd cut was really the leftover parts.  It's fun to let the kids chop down the tree and try to keep from freezing.  Then we get to go home and visit with our friends over tea and snacks before digging into decorating.

There is a nativity calendar that hangs every year on our dining room wall.  It's  made of fabric with 25 felt squares sewn on and is filled with little tiny German rubber creatures that I've collected in Germany and other places.  We don't do well at actually taking them out daily and setting them up because the kids love to put them right back in, but they are all well appreciated many times over the month.   The last pocket holds and Angel, proclaiming Jesus' birth.

We have 4 different nativity sets and all of them are at kid level.  I like the kids to feel totally at ease with the Christmas story, placing Jesus wherever they feel he's most needed, and not worrying whether something's going to crack.  Many hands and parts are missing, but these special scenes are very loved.  There's even a set of window decals  the kids put up every year with all the main characters of the nativity.  My favorite part was when someone stuck a horse lounging up in the heavens with the angels with Mary, Joseph and Jesus peacefully hanging out below.

It's so important to me that the kids understand that Jesus is real, and that Saint Nicholas was a special person whose story reminds us of the ways Jesus always provides us with what we need.  I remember when our oldest kids were small, they began to think Jesus was just as real as Santa, and that's when we decided to play "Santa Dad and Santa Mom."  We keep all the Santa traditions, but the kids know it's us.  We always eat goodies and leave the remnants for them.  We fill the stockings and then leave giant "snowy" santa footprints with some baking soda sprinkled on the sole of Brandon's shoe, then stamped on the ground.

Snow from Santa's boots

There are also of course the food traditions.  We MUST have my mom's peanut butter balls each year.  I've made a designated goodie creating night with my friend Josie, and we get together with a few other friends and make Christmas treats and trade them among ourselves.  On Christmas morning, in honor of my childhood family traditions, we eat cinnamon rolls, (which I now make from scratch, crazy me), those cheesy Little Smokies sausages that are so bad for you, scrambled eggs and orange juice.  Mmm.  It fills us up for all day!  We always manage to somehow make some sort of roll out cookies.  This year, my friend Carol took the little girls and spent an afternoon making sugar cookies and Jesus birthday cakes.  The next day we made some yummy ginger bread cutout cookies.

Cinnamon rolls rising for Christmas Morning

Saraiah decided she needed to make some wrapping paper elf shoes while helping me wrap.

The completed shoes...made 100% by Saraiah.

Maia had to join the fun.
The sharing traditions are also important.  I write a Christmas letter every year as a way of remembering what God has brought us through that year, and of keeping a small family history.  I need to compile all the letters into a binder for this purpose.  Recently, with my increased interest in photography, I also make a photo collage, going through the year's photos and finding the favorites, then generating it using Picasa software.  We select the very best of those for a calendar for all the grandparents.  I also do my own portraits of the kids.  The tradition used to be that I'd take their pictures on their birthday, but this year we squeaked in with photos of everyone taken in December.  We also now have an annual cousin picture that I take of the kids with their nephew.   Oh dear!  I love all of these traditions but they do overwhelm me sometimes.  There are ways to make it easier though:  Brandon usually hangs out with the kids while I write my letter and do the collage and photo editing.  My friend Wendy and I usually get together to stuff Christmas letter envelopes.  These traditions are special because they keep our family, stretching from Indiana to Hawaii updated and close to us through our words and pictures.
Happy birthday Jesus!  Jesus can be one, right, since he's number one ?  :)
On Christmas Eve, we always intend to go to the church candlelight service, and instead stay home and have our Jesus birthday party.  We stick a candle in something yummy (this year Eva made a cake), read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible, then open one present from someone who doesn't live in our state.
Eva reads the Christmas Story

She's got a halo!

That random set of flames is a reminder of growing up in Hawaii.  It's an exact copy of the cardboard flames my parents would put up in a nook of a cabinet where we hung our stockings, so we'd have a "fireplace" at Christmas.
There are the family gathering traditions.  I'm sure these warm Jesus' heart because we're all a part of His family.  My husband's side of the family gets together  a week before Christmas with as many great aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins as can make it. We  We spend hours chatting, eating and watching the kids open presents and be generally adorable.  On Christmas morning, my brother's wife and his daughter stop by along with Brandon's parents to watch the kids open their stockings.  Then we have our delicious breakfast with Emma.  She and my niece go home to wait for Danny (my brother) to get off of work and we go over to my in-laws to celebrate with my husband's family.  In the afternoon, we head over to see Danny and Emma at their home.  

I'm eager for Christmas day and am reminding myself that in the midst of our sometimes dizzying traditions, there is always Jesus, the Heart and Hope of Christmas.  Merry Christmas to you!

I think she loves her present.

Maia dances for joy in her new outfit

snug in bed

Star to remind us of the Bethlehem star,

1 comment:

  1. I love your Christmas Eve pics!!! well, all of them really, but I think those were my favorites!


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