It’s nearly half way through December. I’ve made my list and I have gone over it at least 36 times. My lists have sub-lists. After planning things out and scheduling enough down time to enjoy the holiday, I hear about some great new holiday tradition I want to add. Enough! If I am not careful I will overcommit our family for the entire month of December. What kind of holiday would this be if it’s all bustling around and no peace?
When I was growing up, our celebration centered around Gramma’s house on Christmas Eve. I always looked forward to the big punch bowl of bright green Kool-Aid and Sprite with lime sherbet floating on the top. Another highlight of the evening was the envelope with a crisp one dollar bill from Great Grandma hidden in the tree. Times change and so do our celebrations. Even within our own home, there has been a change as our family has grown. None of our traditions have been bad, but periodic evaluation of what is actually do-able and refinement of all those lists is necessary.
As I contemplate the holiday, I wonder “Am I doing enough?” Am I creating all the memories? It is big enough, cozy enough, satisfying enough? Because two of my grown children are living out of state I also wonder, “will it still feel like Christmas”? So I have asked my children both young and now adults, “what makes Christmas special for you?” We won’t get everything done from each person’s list. But, I do want to make sure that no one’s vision of Christmas gets completely left out.
A few non-negotiable traditions in our home:
The Waiting Tree– Each evening we gather to read a passage of scripture from the Bible. The readings walk us from creation to the birth of Christ. After we read the passage for the day, we place a symbol on a felt Christmas tree. You can read more about it here.
Luke 2- A generations old Fields family tradition is memorizing and reciting Luke 2:1-20. Our 3 year old granddaughter almost has it down! What really helped my own children learn it was reciting the passage every night of December after our Waiting Tree reading.
St. Nicholas Day– Instead of Santa all month long, we have shared with our children the truth about St.Nicholas. He was a real man whose love for Jesus overflowed to those in need around him. I share about how we observe this day here.
Gifts– We draw names for “secret siblings” and see who can keep the secret of who they are buying something for until our exchange. This year some of our gifting was early due to travel but most will be saved for Christmas morning.
Dad and Mom sleeping in on Christmas morning– No break of day, first light, crack of dawn Christmas here at our house! Early in our parenting years, we decided to relax into our Christmas Day. To facilitate that, we prepare our children’s stockings the night before and set them out to be found. Strategically we include tiny boxes of sugared cereal (an annual treat!), snacks and lots of candy. The little ones are completely content with their stocking breakfast. The older children and adults have time for a shower, French Toast and coffee before we start the gifting hours.
Traditions that likely will happen but we make no promises:
Baking – Sometimes with so much to get done it would be easier if I did all the cooking on my own. HOWEVER, I want my children to enjoy the making of Christmas memories as well. So, each child chooses one cookie or candy to make. (My youngest ones always enjoy the recipes that involve melting and mixing.) I help them until they are old enough to make it on their own. By the time nine children each make their favorites, I call it a year!
Driving through the Christmas lights– Though there are lights everywhere, some years we try to make a point to drive through a planned lighting neighborhood. When we make it out, it’s with hot chocolate or candy canes for the drive.
Caroling– We love to sing and it is part of our evening Waiting Tree time. When we are able, we join into group caroling at nursing homes or retirement centers.
Reading an Advent adventure book by Arnold Ytreeide.– If you haven’t discovered the Jotham’s Journey series you need to put that on your list for next year! The few years we have been too busy to add this to our reading, our children protested!
Christmas cards– In our early married years sending out an annual letter and photo was easy to do. Through the years with rising expenses and time constraints (add in social media as a way to stay connected) Christmas cards have become less important to us. We don’t fret about not getting one done now (or about sending out a New Year’s/Valentine’s Day letter instead). Every few years though, it happens!
It’s time to make your plan:
I am guilty of “pinning” more than is possible to actually accomplish. There are countless awesome ideas I hear from friends or find online. When I try to add these things to my list, I feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Keeping commitments (church, recitals, community, family) outside of the home can make my head spin. Maintaining simplicity and not being too rigid with what happens in my own home is my key to sanity.
Maybe you need permission to not do it all. Can I convince you to let some things go? To be released from the guilt of not getting everything done? You don’t have to do everything on every year. Choose a few non-negotiable items that center the holiday on Christ, the reason for the season. Add in the extras as you can, keeping in mind that they are extras. Your family is unique! You may not do the things that we do. We may not do that which is on your list. But we can appreciate each other and the ways that each family celebrates. Guilt free.
If we hold onto all the traditions of our own childhood, we may miss out in bringing on new ones that we discover. There won’t be time to do them all. I skip the Kool-Aid punch and some other memories of my own childhood in favor of new traditions that reflect our own family culture. Give yourself some grace and enjoy the holiday with those that you love.
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.”