On Traditions

Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could” — Richard Rogers (“Something Good”)

"Not the Baby Jesus Play Set!"

“Not the Baby Jesus Play Set!”

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking about the importance of traditions.  Having a set of practices tied to the Christmas season has generated lots of benefits for me and my household.  I credit our traditions with the following:
  • Making memories and sharing experiences that strengthen bonds — Recalling good times brings kind and affectionate feelings to the fore, making family dynamics more peaceful.
  • Establishing and reinforcing family identity — We know and embrace our own by the practices and beliefs we share.  It’s called the family circle for a reason.
  • Creating a sense of home — The songs we sing, the foods we eat together, the smells of the season are powerful reminders that there is a place in the world where you’re loved, accepted and always welcome.
  • Reinforcing our values — It’s very hard to separate who we are from what we do. The things we hold in high regard become obvious according to the ways we allocate our time and resources.
  • Generating stories and family lore — This is the birthplace of great tales of running jokes that go on for decades.  I suspect my sons will someday say to their children regarding the manger scenes in their homes: “It’s not the Baby Jesus Play Set!”  As you can see, not all traditions are created on purpose — that’s where those great stories come from.
We have a number of Christmas Eve traditions that have been part of our observance for years.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • As I mentioned above, we have a crèche that we set out at the start of Advent.  It was pretty much just Jesus, Mary and Joseph at first, but over the past several years, we’ve added a new figure each year.  The Three Wise Men came as a set, though.
  • We always attend our church’s Christmas Eve service.  At the service there’s a special offering for a worthwhile ministry effort and we always plan beforehand how much to give.
  • For the past several years, we’ve gone out to dinner following the Christmas Eve service to enjoy a feast of Peking Duck.  Perhaps the movie “A Christmas Story” (another tradition) may have influenced this choice, but it gives our kitchen the night off before a day of heavy use.  The crisp skin of Peking Duck — and even the thought of it — makes me think of Christmas.
  • When we return home following the meal, we all bring the presents we’re giving and place them under the tree.  None appear there before — it’s a tradition we’ve kept since even before we implemented The Advent Conspiracy.
  • This is followed by the hanging of Christmas stockings, some photographs and — in spite of all good sense — a late bedtime.
We have other Christmas traditions, too — like keeping the tree up until Twelfth Night/Epiphany/Three Kings Day, listening to Andrew Peterson’s “Behold The Lamb of God” and eating beef for Christmas dinner.  None of these things is required in itself.  This is simply what we’ve established over time.
Part of the joy of married life is the establishment of your own traditions.  Some will be a continuation of the ones you grew up with, while others all be from your wife’s upbringing.  Still others will be the ones you create together.  In every case, consistency is the key.  Merry Christmas!
So how about you?  What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?  Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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2 thoughts on “On Traditions

  1. Merry Christmas!
    Enjoyed reading about your traditions, thank you for sharing! I love traditions!! I have so many great childhood memories surrounding family and traditions!

    One that Lucas and I have started is opening the very first gift as a family (just the two of us for now). Spoiler Alert: …. “Our first gift” is always baby Jesus wrapped up in pretty paper. Once opened, we place him into the nativity, which is displayed at the base of our tree. 🙂 Leading up to Christmas when folks stop by and see our tree they often as “where is baby Jesus?” Then we get to share our fun family tradition story! The answer to the “where” question, by the way, is “on the side table next to the tree.” 🙂

    Included in the baby Jesus box, is a wooden medallion which has been cut from the trunk of our Christmas tree (a fresh cut Sand Pine, another favorite tradition!) On the tree medallion, is written the year and our “top memories” from the past 365 days (agreed upon over the course of dinner conversations). The medallions from past years are displayed on the same glorious side table, where our King makes his bed!

    We use the time surrounding “our first gift” to read the story of Christmas from the Bible and light our final Advent candle.

    So another healthy year in the books! We couldn’t have done it without Him! Looking forward to becoming a family of 3 and starting these traditions with the next generations!

    Merry Christmas!
    Love & Respect,
    Lucas & Danielle