One of my favorite traditions as a kid was getting to go to my grandparents’ house for dinner and gifts every Christmas Eve. Of course, that stopped when I was in junior high — all because of a silly little rift in the family. (Yes, we counselors have those too. . . probably more than we’d like to admit.)
Traditions are things that provide a sense of bonding and belonging. They can take on a life all their own, if you’re not careful. . . so I advise people to practice their traditions with a high degree of flexibility, as long as they do not compromise their values.
Last night, we participated in one of our traditions. We went out to dinner and then drove around various neighborhoods in the city enjoying the festive light displays. Some people really get into it. It gets downright competitive in some areas. I hope that it all stays friendly!
Our kids enjoyed seeing many Santas, reindeer, and nativity scenes. My almost two-year-old daughter was so cute. . . seemed every other breath she was saying, “Hey, baby Jesus”. . . “Hey, Santa.”
We had planned to observe another of our holiday traditions tonight — baking and decorating the Christmas cookies. However, we forgot that the dough has to chill for several hours before it is suitable for cutting. . . not to mention the fact that the ingredients had not all yet been bought. Oops! So the cookies are scheduled to bake tomorrow afternoon. (That’s what I mean by flexibility.)
Tomorrow evening will be a great time of celebration as well. No matter where we have lived, we have made Christmas Eve worship a centerpiece of our experience. I can think of no better way to keep Christ front and center. There’s something special about gathering with fellow believers to sing familiar carols, light candles, and share in the reading of the Christmas story.
Following the service, we plan to enjoy a light dinner of minestrone soup (it cleans up so quickly!) and opening of family gifts. Then we’ll sing some carols together around the piano and get the kiddos in their Christmas pajamas.
The kids will, of course, set out some special-made cookies for the jolly elf. This year, I understand he’ll be getting chocolate milk. . . apparently by request! We’ll read The Christmas Star and The Night Before Christmas together as a family before tucking the little ones in for the night. (Santa won’t come if you’re awake, you know.)
On Christmas Day, we traditionally have a noontime meal fit for a king, followed by a homemade birthday cake for Jesus. This year it’s red velvet.
Every family is different. Some are rich in tradition. . . some not so much. I encourage you to think through what you want your traditions to accomplish. Keep those that work, and always look for new ones that make your family rich in fun, love, and reverence.
However you celebrate Christmas this year, may the Christ child truly be the One you seek to honor.
From our house to yours. . . peace, love, Jesus, and a very Merry Christmas.