There is a line of demarcation in our house separating Thanksgiving from Christmas. I love Thanksgiving (and the autumn season in general) so much that I want to eke out every last bit before my thoughts turn to wintry things, so other than the small stash of gifts in a corner of my bedroom, there is no acknowledgement of Christmas until the Day After Thanksgiving. But scarcely has the dining room table been returned to the dining room, and the love seat and antique school desk been returned to the kitchen, than Christmas celebrating begins in full force!
Thus begins our month long celebration. And traditions galore!
Traditions. Now there's a word with mixed connotations. I want to steer clear of "traditions" like those that Jesus condemned, those of the religious folks of His day. Their man-made traditions had made the word of God "of no effect" (Mark 7:13). But I have pondered the idea of "tradition" in celebrating, and have decided that carefully chosen traditions can be a wonderful life-giving thing.
Why should we make an effort to create traditions that will be repeated from year to year? Here are some of the reasons that I have considered.
- Traditions help us to make connections with our families.
When we observe special family traditions, our children feel a part of something bigger than themselves. They feel a part of something special, unique to their family—a family “identity.” Hopefully, those connections will last when they are grown. When they hear “Away in a Manger” or view The Christmas Carol they will be reminded of their roots and the special family memories we made. Of course, when they begin their own families, they will create their own memories and traditions, but the ones that were meaningful to them as children will probably influence their own choices.
- Routines offer children security.
Things that remain the same from year to year provide children with stability. Even when there are periods of difficulty, we try to maintain as much of the “normal” activity as possible. The year that I had a difficult pregnancy and had to stay off my feet, some of our Christmas traditions had to be altered, but we tried to observe those that meant the most to our family.
Years ago, my friend lost her husband in an automobile accident. When the 4th of July approached the year after he died, her sons wanted to have the big barbeque that her family had always hosted. Although it was difficult for her, she continued with the tradition because her sons needed the security that that family tradition offered them.
- We can use tradition to teach the things that are valuable to our family.
Simply the things that we choose to make traditional speak volumes about what is important to us. By emphasizing the eternal, the holy, the righteous in our traditions, we are communicating to our children that those things are worth celebrating.
Do you observe Christmas traditions in your family?