Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Traditions

A while back, I posted about our gift giving plan for this year – Want, Need, Wear, Read. I’m almost done with my gift purchasing, and it’s been really fun.

Now that we’re into the advent, I’m starting to think more about ways to celebrate the season. In fact, our family will be lighting the advent calendar at church on Sunday, and part of that responsibility is to share with the congregation about or family’s holiday traditions…hmmm. Better figure that out.

When I was growing up, we had one Christmas Eve tradition that was unique to our family. Since we weren’t a churchy family, we would go over to my aunt and uncle’s for their open house/dinner and then come home for… Elves Party! I’m not quite sure how it all started, but I remember that one year my mom made us all little elves shoes (slippers) and hats with bells to wear. Each year, we would pull them out, dance around to Christmas music, drink hot chocolate, etc. We also would open one “family gift” that was always a board game to play that evening and finish the night by reading The Polar Express and setting out cookies, carrots, and milk for Santa. It was totally silly and corny (and embarrassing to admit as a teenager), but also incredibly creative, lots of fun, and a tradition that belonged to only our family. Anyone else grow up with an Elves Party?

Since Owen is so little, we haven’t really established many rock-solid family traditions, but I’m reading with interest what other families are doing and starting to plan for the future. Here are some of my recent favorites:

My friend Phyllis
always does month-long activities with her toddlers. Each night, they get a small gift that relates to a story about Jesus. They also read the advent story each night and add a new figure to their nativity scene. For example: (DEC. 2 - In the stable there was a MANGER, filled with hay . . . and DEC. 3 - . . . for the animals to eat. There were animals like a CALF . . . ) I love that!

I also read about a family that always put a big emphasis on Saint Nicolas Day (December 6). They always let had the kids open stockings on that day and talked about who Saint Nicolas (the Turkish Bishop) was and what he did to help people. Annie
wrote that they always grew up knowing that Santa was a story, but Saint Nicolas was a real person that they could be inspired by.

is using December to teach her 4 boys about serving others. They're making a paper chain all month long with one loop for each "service" thing they do. Wouldn’t it be cool to meld those last two traditions? Open stockings on December 6 and kick off a month of service by talking about Saint Nicolas?

I also read about a family that is giving their kids 3 gifts each. Jesus got three gifts, we get three gifts. I could get inspired by that.

I guess we have a few years before Owen will be ready for these things, but it’s fun to ponder. I know our traditions will always evolve and it’s not something you can really plan for. They just develop over time until you (hopefully) look back fondly at the things that your family does to celebrate the season.

P.S. Thanks to Phyllis for the great tip on how to add the falling snow. We don't have any falling in Bend yet, so I'm loving having it on my screen (easier to drive in this way, too).


Peg said...

Love the falling snow - so subtle! This is not from my family, but I like this: When the tree is taken down, the limbs are cut off and the trunk saved. At Easter it is turned into a cross. I don't know all the details of this tradition, but it's a kind of neat integration I think.
Christmas Eve with my family meant a light dinner before church - usually clam chowder as I remember. Then home after church to open one gift from an aunt (since Santa had not come yet) -- and enjoy Tom & Jerry's.

Colleen said...

Because Zach is in the French Immersion program at school he was learning about St. Nicholas and wanted to put his "boots" out on the 6th! Maybe we will have to meld the two ideas!