Traditions: Thriving in the Holidays Mini Series

The list is long when it comes to potential traditions you can have for the holiday season. The question really comes down to what can you just not give up and what is just “extra” or something you do because you feel “obligated.”

Again I find myself wanting to define my holiday season before it begins and decide what our family goals are for this special and festive time. We want to enjoy, spend time with those we love, and remember the reason for the season – Jesus and remembering his birth and ultimate sacrifice.

With those things in mind I find myself running through a long list of things I want to do each Holiday Season, but also find it easier to say “no” to some things for “this year” or maybe “for good.”

Some things I considered and debated:

1. Advent: a season of preparation.

2. Christmas Morning

3. Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas

4. Activities: family, group, and community

5. Elf on the Shelf: to do or not to do?

6. Books, ornaments, stuffed animals… what gifts to give as a tradition?

7. Christmas card and annual update.

I’m going to share some random, bulleted thoughts I had about each thing. On both sides of the spectrum and then do a wrap up at the end. I’m not going to tell you what we finally settled on, or what you should or should not do when it comes to family Holiday traditions. I genuinely believe it has to be up to you. Just want to share a few thoughts.

Initial thoughts on “tradition.”

  • Some people love and treasure “tradition” more then others.
  • Some children will appreciate it more then others – I am a traditional kid and would rather stick with tradition over a new theme, new activity almost in every experience. That is not true of my sister.
  • Traditions are meant to build a sense of community, belonging, and togetherness.
  • The definition for “tradition” according to dictionary.com is “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs,information, etc., from generation to generation, especially byword of mouth or by practice:”
  • We often loose sight of the idea that traditions are used to perpetuate beliefs.
Now for some random thoughts on each of the traditions I listed above. 
1. Advent: a season of preparation.

      

  • If I want tradition to perpetuate our beliefs this might be the most powerful tradition we could continue each year.
  • Advent can be light hearted (a chocolate calendar or other sweet treat, a fun felt Christmas tree with ornaments you add each day etc.).
  • Advent can take place each Sunday as you remember Christ’s entrance into the world in a more traditional and religious sense of the tradition.
  • You can create your own combination of faith-based, community-oriented, and fun activities to do.
  • Advent should NOT be stressful. It should help prepare your heart.

2. Christmas Morning

      

  • This is one of the times I genuinely believe you should do what you want to do.
  • It might be more important for you to decide what you do Christmas Eve night or Christmas night.
  • Your children should remember this as a peaceful time.
  • A chance to be with each other and to learn valuable lessons in giving, receiving, and about Jesus.
  • I think it should be drawn out through the day, take time, and teach children to enjoy.

3. Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas

       

  • Christmas is magical. Christmas is miraculous. It can be both.
  • I don’t feel that pretending is lying to your children. I did not feel lied to by my parents, and so enjoyed the magic that Christmas was as a small child, a child who discovered it might not be everything I thought it was as a small child, and then later as a teacher and Mom who wanted it to be magical and miraculous for children.
  • The jolly man in the suit can be a part of Christmas. He just doesn’t need to be all of Christmas. 
  • I don’t yet know how we will handle asking Santa for things for Christmas. I think getting to ask him for one thing may be in our future…
  • A santa picture was part of my family tradition growing up and I plan to carry it on, but we visit our local santa. Give a donation to our local food bank and I print the 4×6 and put it in a special kind of tag board frame I bought as a set of 25. Low cost, local, and memorable. I don’t see this as torturous but fun! Again it’s the mindset for me. Low key and enjoyable. Low pressure.

4. Activities: family, group, and community

      

  • So many activities are out there during the holidays.
  • I want to pick and choose.
  • I’m not into doing everything. I want to have quiet evenings at home during this season too.
  • It’s important to share the season with others, especially those who share your values, those you can bless, and those who bring peace to your season too.

5. Elf on the Shelf: to do or not to do?

  • When a new trend like Elf on the Shelf comes up do you jump on the band wagon or not? I own an Elf on the Shelf and intend to introduce him sometime to our family.
  • I won’t let “trendy traditions” overwhelm or take over.
  • I do think that the magic of this kind of activity can be super fun and festive.
  • I really like the Elf Magic – maybe more then Elf on the Shelf. Hope you will check it out!

6. Books, ornaments, stuffed animals… what gifts to give as a tradition?

  • This one might stump me the most. I love having ornaments and books we got each year as kids. Special things I got to take with me when I got married.
  • How do you handle this with more then one child, and 18 years of being a home.
  • I love getting an ornament each year. So far I plan to do a photo ornament and the photo might be of them doing something that was very significant for that special year.
  • Should I do one every year from ages 0-18? I’m still stumped on this one…
  • I know for some kids this will be more important, but as the wife of a man who received a book for advent each year they were very special to me too. I want to keep that in mind.
  • Again I think I have to keep in mind the goal of the tradition. To pass on values. 

7. Christmas card and annual update.

  

  • This does not bring me stress.  I enjoy it a great deal.
  • I do it early enough to get a deal on printing or find a way to do it low cost no matter what.
  • I hand deliver as many as I can – even though I love mailing them because everyone likes to get special mail.
  • I can’t give one to everyone so once it is delivered to those on my list I share a digital version.
  • I love getting updates from others so I share ours too.
  • I love how they memorialize our years – for us. I save a copy of the annual card and display them each year.
Overall thoughts: Writing this post made me really think about the definition and goals of tradition. I want to use tradition to preserve and continue our beliefs in the hearts of our children. I think that makes it even more important that I am flexible, gracious, generous, mindful and intentional about our traditions.
One missed year does not nullify a tradition. Stress can make a tradition not worth it. I want my children and husband to enjoy the traditions too. I can let go of ones that aren’t worthwhile for my family. 
Carrying on traditions from our childhood is important to me, but not the “be all, end all” deciding factor. 
I want my children to wake up in their own home on Christmas, but I also want my sister to get to enjoy my parents and nieces or nephews, and for my parents to enjoy other grandchildren. Sometimes it is okay to just have us, sometimes we will have larger groups. I don’t want to rush. I want to enjoy.
This post may not answer many questions, in fact I think in may cause me and others to have more questions then we started with. But, I think that is a good thing. We need to question ourselves and our motivations. What motivates the tradition? That is key.
I love tradition but I love joy, laughter, peace, friends, and family more. Those values should lead us in the holiday season.

Surviving… No… Thriving in the Holidays
A mini series…
Read more about how I’m handling our kid’s Christmas wish lists and gift giving. Or to read my thoughts on prioritizing in the holidays visit this post.
There is also more to come in the “Surviving… No… Thriving in the Holidays” series so stay tuned.
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