Don’t Get Stuck in Tradition

Today is the last day of November. Once the calendar page flips to December, it’s an all-out sprint to Christmas. Our December calendar has all the normal stuff on it plus all the Christmas stuff. It’s filling up fast.

One thing I’ve yet to get on the calendar is the annual visit to “The Penguin House.” There’s a house in our town that has more than 100 Christmas-themed penguin blow-ups in the yard. My youngest daughter loves going to this house every year. It is at the top of her list of favorite Christmas traditions.

Yet, there are Christmas traditions that not everyone in my house likes. Nobody but me likes date cookies — a long time family recipe. A couple of years ago, I quit making them. They’re hard to make and they’re extra calories I don’t need. When I want some, I go see my mom who still makes them. If I have extra time, I might make a batch for me, but I no longer stress about getting the date cookies made.

Christmas traditions are great, but they’re not good if they become a chore or a source of contention within your family. Make it a point this year to destress your Christmas season by planning which traditions to take part in.

Tonight is a rare quiet night in our house. No practices so we’ll all sit down to dinner together, and the girls will get to bed on time. It will be a great night to do our Christmas

In years past, I’ve decided what Christmas traditions to put on the calendar, but this
year, I’m enlisting the help of the family. The days leading up to Christmas get jam-packed with all the things we try to do because we’ve always done them. Yet, no one ever stops to ask if we really like doing them.

Letting your family help you plan for the holiday can take a lot of the stress and all of the feelings of not being appreciated out of the mix. You don’t necessarily have to have a detailed plan but get a general idea of the things that your family wants to do this season. Then get rid of the things that no one likes but that you always do. Just  because you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it. If no
one likes great-grandma’s fruitcake recipe, quit making it. If your kids don’t like to go to the annual Christmas tree lighting in your city, don’t go.

Sorting out what your family wants to do during the Christmas season not only eliminates some of the grumpiness in your family, it frees up your time. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead to profit  as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
In this case, the profit is time and happiness. With a plan for the holidays, you might find you even have enough time to try something new and different.

Set aside some time with your entire family to make a plan for the holidays. Start
with these questions:

  • What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?
  • What Christmas tradition do you like the least?
  • Is there anything that we haven’t done at Christmas that you would like to do?
  • If you had to pick one thing to do this Christmas, what would it be?

Try to pick at least one thing that each family member thinks is important to celebrating Christmas. Then, get out your calendar and schedule those things in.

When you have a plan and are doing the things your family really wants to do during the busy Christmas season, you have more time to focus on what’s important — the birth of Christ. So, break out your calendars, settle your families at the kitchen table and start planning. You’ll be glad you did.

Gift-giving traditions

Christmas break is almost here for my kids, so today I’m finishing the Christmas shopping and wrapping the presents. I talk to a lot of people who are conflicted about how many gifts their kids get. I’ll tell you that we spoil our kids for Christmas. If they need something and it’s anywhere near Christmas, I wrap it up and put it under the tree. We also always try to replenish our game closet at Christmas along with some of the things that the girls ask for.

I love giving gifts, and every year I say that this year we’re going to cut back and give the kids less. However, by the time Christmas rolls around, I find they have a bunch of stuff. I’ve made peace with that. We don’t buy our kids much in the way of extravagant toys or gifts during the year. Birthdays are a big deal around our house, but most of that effort goes into a party, not a gift. So, I’ve decided not to fight my love of gift-giving, and we spoil our kids at Christmas.

That doesn’t work for all families. I talk to a lot of people about their Christmas traditions and gift-giving traditions run the gamut from lots of gifts to one gift to three gifts. I know people who give their kids “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.” Whatever works for your family is the way you should do it.

However, when you are giving gifts, no matter the number, make sure your kids understand the joy of giving as well as of receiving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says “God loves a cheerful giver.” But, that’s sometimes hard for kids to get their heads around. Our greedy nature makes us want to receive more than give. Involve your kids in the gift-giving process. Have them make or pick out the gifts for their friends and family. It may be more work for you, but it gives them a chance to get excited about giving to others.

One tradition that some of my friends have that I love is the right/left Christmas game. It’s one more way to sneak in a reading of the story of Jesus’ birth while having a lot of fun. You can find the text of the game here. Buy a gift for the whole family. Read the right/left version of the Christmas story. Every time you hear the word “right”, pass the package one person to the right. Every time you hear the word “left,” pass the package one person to the left. The person left with the package at the end of the story gets to open it. The kids love it and it makes them really listen to the story.

No matter what type of gift-giving traditions you have in your family, be sure to remind your kids that the reason that we give gifts is because Jesus came to earth as a gift to us. The wise men brought Him gifts as an act of worship. We acknowledge those things by giving gifts to each other.

Go, this season, and be cheerful givers.