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