Our family is still young, and I haven’t really been too focused on creating traditions for our us to follow. But this year, as our oldest approaches 7, I am beginning to realize that it is important for us to start personalizing our times together.

My friend Rachel at Finding Joy inspired me with her guest post on Sharing the Journey about their family traditions – very simple, yet meaningful, solid traditions that their family do together.

I want to keep track of what we do over the years as I know things may change as our kids get older – but there are definitely things I would like us to continue doing. Some traditions we have made up on our own, others we have adopted from my family or “borrowed” ideas from others :D But definitely, the most important thing, is creating a time together with our family – things we can rely on, count on doing each year with each other, and provide memories that we can look back on.

Christmas bokeh

So here is a little bit of what our little family does to celebrate the birth of Christ!

Advent

Christmas tree 2011

Last year I made an advent calendar for us to open with a verse and symbol each day. This year I can’t find it. So we’ve been using Truth in the Tinsel – which has been absolutely AMAZING. It gets us into the prophecies and stories of Christ’s coming and birth that are just fantastic! I wish we had kept up with it more, but doing school and crafts every day was a bit tough. I think next year we may take the week before Christmas off in order to slow down and prepare our hearts (IE I need to take the week off, otherwise I am not such a happy mommy!). While we may not do this every year, it is my goal to have something (advent readings, crafts, jesse tree) that will get us focused on God’s word and Christ’s birth each day.

Giving

Each year we receive a catalogue from Gospel For Asia and as a family purchase things for other families in need. This year, our boys absolutely blessed our socks off. They had been saving their chore money to purchase a toy each. They each had about $30 saved up and were planning on making the purchase. Tim and I had it laid on our hearts to talk to them about what we should give. We had been going through our family devotions and the message of meeting the needs of those “around” us when we are able had really been a big one. Wouldn’t you know, when we were talking to them about how we could purchase these gifts for those who needed them to survive – BOTH BOYS wanted to give their hard earned chore money to buy fish nets, rabbits, bibles, VBS materials, and chickens to help families in need!

We were floored. It was hard to keep back the tears as we saw our boys so willing to give generously out of what they had worked so hard to earn. Now, there have been a few tears since as they recall that they have had to start over to earn their money back. BUT, their hearts were right and open and they listened to the calling to be generous. I am so proud of them. What they don’t know is that, tonight, they will receive the gift back that they worked so hard to earn. The Man and I talked in advance about how we would respond to their response and decided that, if they decided to give up their money, WE would buy them the items they had been saving for.

The Boy Christmas tree

So tonight, as we prepare the celebrate the birth of the One who gave all for us, we, through God’s hand, are pouring out blessing into the lives of our little ones who gave so generously and eagerly. For God does promise blessing to those who heed his voice and give generously.

Food

Oh my. Food is HUGE at Christmas time! Often it can seem gluttonous, but I so enjoy sharing it that the risk is decreased for us as anything we make has a hard time staying in our house! :0) So, instead of keeping what we make, we give it away. The kids love to help, especially when they can get dirty :D We are not well connected with our neighbours, but our next door and across the street we bake for and give them something each year. This year we’re taking it a step further and giving them a candy cane with the poem on it about “J is for Jesus”.

Christmas fudge

We don’t host any Christmas parties, but we do have some moms over for brunch and share more goodies. In the future, I’d love to have a cookie decorating party, but we’ll see how that goes. We’ve also started making Bethlehem Bread – it’s a bit like a baked pretzel or bagel, very good! We couldn’t find much information on it, but we know Bethlehem means “house of bread” and the shape of the bread is in a figure-8, or infinity, and God is infinite. It was a great discussion time while we made it.

Christmas Eve is lasagna before our church service, hot chocolate and a cookie after. Because Christmas Day is on Sunday this year, we’ll also be doing a birthday party for Jesus this night – celebrating and singing for Him! In the morning our big tradition is cinnamon rolls, fruit, coffee (of course!), yogurt and sausages. My mouth is watering already! The dinner is hosted either at my parents or The Man’s parents (so glad I don’t have to tackle turkey!) and I usually bring cupcakes. Here’s a sneak peak of one we’re bringing this year.

Christmas morning tradition breakfast

Decor

Each year I try to add a little something to our decor – there really isn’t anything like Christmas decorating! But our house isn’t huge, so I keep it on the smaller and simpler side (and lots of handmade!), with mainly my “mantle” decorated and some shelves and Christmas photos up. The kids help set up the nativity, and this year we got one for them to play with. Our tree right now is real, but I’m lobbying for a fake one :D Decorations on the tree are simple, this year we decided to go with mostly just the Truth in the Tinsel ones. And I think it looks great!

Christmas mantle

Gifts

gifts by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere¬†This has got to be my biggest struggle with Christmas. The gift giving! I have thrown up my hands in frustration many a time this season with the focus on get, get, get. Even with the kids! But, I have come to realize that until they are older and mature, it is difficult to NOT focus on gifts. So rather than try to get them not to think or talk about them, I have been trying to talk MORE about Christ and his gift. They’ll never forget presents, but I want them to always remember the REAL reason – the presence of Christ and his gift of salvation.

We keep it small for gifts. Our immediate family (the adults) do a gift exchange (drawing names – it IS a lot of fun!), but only grandparents give gifts to the kids. For our kids, we do four gifts – one toy, something to encourage creativity (markers, pencils, coloring books, learn to draw, etc.) something to share, and something to wear (plus whatever we small things we put into their stockings). The last 2 years we have bought (used) ski gear and passes to teach the boys to ski, so that has been our main gift to them to share. It has been such fun seeing The Boy excel at skiing (just like his daddy :D) and JJ beginning to learn. Mostly, it is spending the time together as a family.

Family

The big one! Spending time with family! From going with my parents and siblings to help them cut down their tree and share a brunch together the first weekend in December (then going to the Ikea parking lot to “cut” our own :D) to spending Christmas Day feasting with one or the other side of the family, to the blessing of the time off my hubby gets each year – this is my favourite part. I pretty well look forward to it each and every year. And I am so thankful for it!

Earlier this year I got my hands on some of The Legend books at a homeschool book sale, and from there, our Christmas book collection has EXPLODED! We love reading, and I love having so many great books on hand for us to tell the story of Christmas and the meaning behind so many traditions we’ve never really thought about.

We also have What’s in the Bible Why Do We Call It Christmas? While I was a bit skeptical about it at first, it is an amazing resource (not to mention funny!) that breaks down the traditions and meanings behind Christmas, everything from the tree to Saint Nick, and winds up with a fantastic gospel message. I highly recommend adding this one to your library!

 

How about you? What family traditions have you developed over the years?

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!