Christmas Traditions New and Old

It’s two weeks away from Christmas. Are you feeling anticipation and excitement or is there a sense of panic, anxiety and dread?

Usually about this time I want to run away or let the kids run around the house to find the presents so we can enjoy them as their winter break starts and so I don’t have to waste wrapping paper. We live in America, and this is not Christmas. This is the holiday season, and the holidays make people crazy. I just saw a lady get out of her car to scream at another driver in the parking lot. Crazy scream with arms flailing. Happy holidays, lady.

I love Christmas, and the older I get the more I cling to traditions, new and old. I have faint memories of decorating the tree. My hope is that my kids will have much more vivid memories of decorating the house and the tree. Decorating the tree together is a must. Each child has a set of “their” ornaments – their baby ornaments, the homemade ornaments, the school photo in a frame ornaments. Bethany has an ornament that looks like a pair of pointe shoes. Corban has a few Star Wars ornaments. Elias has a few Star Wars ornaments. Peter has a few Star Wars ornaments. I have one of a cup of coffee, and Elias just bought me one with my name on it.

I’ve told the kids that when they grow up and move out they will get to take their ornaments to their new home to decorate their first Christmas tree with while I cry buckets. There is a pang in my heart even as I write this.

A few years ago when I was serving as the worship director at a church I introduced the church to Advent. Congregation, meet Advent. It helped us as a contemporary worship service kind of church and me as a selfish, working out my personal issues through my parenting person remember that waiting for Christmas and our Christ invites us to do just that – to wait, to hope, to anticipate, to see.

Last year we asked the kids to wait to open their presents until we had a short family devotion and then lit the center candle – the Christ candle. There was some grumbling, but it was worth the wait. This year we will do the same, except this year I will remember to blow out the four tapers before we open gifts because purple and pink wax all over the artificial wreath is messy.

I’d love to hear from all of you…what are some of the traditions you keep during this blessed season?


  1. Lisa December 11, 2009

    LOL…”Peter has some star wars ornaments.” I love you guys and miss your company.

    My dad always read us the Christmas story out of the King James Bible before we opened presents. I appreciated it. Instead of doing that, I think we will finish our advent wreath and light the Christ candle. We’ve been singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” but on Christmas, I think we’ll sing “Joy to the World.” Also, it may be hokey, but I’m going to take Emma out to pick out Jesus’ birthday cake. This is our first Christmas at home since she was born and she’s at a great age for getting it.

    I also let her set up the manger. I purposefully got a non-breakable one so she can play with it. I figure that the things we play with and imagine with as kids make a big impact on us, so she should spend a lot of time with the manger. She rearranges is almost every day. For Emma’s age it’s all about the visual aides! Jesse just loves when we sing and we haven’t even taught them the second verse, “O Come Thou Rod of Jesse free…”

    • SueAtGraceCorner December 15, 2009


      Emma’s rearranging of the manger scene reminds me of an article I once read about a young child who kept putting a naked Barbie doll in the family nativity set. After an initial scuffle (“No, honey, Barbie doesn’t belong in the stable”), the mom recognized a certain beauty and wisdom in her daughter’s desire to interact with the Christmas story. The Barbie became a fixture.

      So you never know where kids will go with a family tradition…. 🙂

  2. Peggy E December 11, 2009

    We cut down our own tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. There are a bunch of Christmas tree farms where you choose and cut your own tree about an hour away. We picked a random one that had the type of tree we were looking for. It turned out to be somebody’s house, and they grew Christmas trees in their backyard (probably 2-3 acres). It’s been really fun going there year after year and watching their kids get older.

  3. David December 11, 2009

    I grew up sleeping under (in the general vicinity) the Christmas tree with the rest of the family on Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition my wife and I have adopted; dragging out blanket and sleeping bags on the 24th and waking up together on the living room floor on Christmas day.

    • Kathy Khang December 12, 2009

      Oooh. My kids would love this tradition! When you were kids did you believe in Santa? My youngest isn’t sure about Santa, but can’t imagine his parents running around shopping for his gifts so at least for another year or two sleeping under the tree could be tricky. But I may have to adopt this one in a few years.

      • David December 12, 2009

        If my parents ever talked about Santa it was always with a wink and a nod. We adopted our son this year, so now we’ll have to figure out when to start this tradition with him.

  4. SueAtGraceCorner December 15, 2009

    I take my kids on a modest trip every year instead of buying them gifts. They always get sooooo much stuff from extended family, and I became determined to spend my money on something that provided lasting memories in ways that possessions can’t. It has been so much more fun for me to plan a trip than to fight the crowds at the mall and fret over gift choices. This will be our 10th year, and our first time with a fiance in tow.

    When they were all younger, I used to keep the trip a secret and devised a game or puzzle to reveal our destination on Christmas morning. (They never did guess Kansas City, failing to recognize any of the Chiefs, Royals, BBQ, or jazz clues I created. That poor town is so invisible!) Now that they’re all moving into young adulthood, we do have to plan together to coordinate schedules. This year we’re going to Chicago to bring one of them home from college for the holidays, but we’ll spend a couple days there seeing some sights and eating some good food. Can’t wait!

  5. Kathy Khang December 16, 2009

    Did anyone grow up with an Advent box/calendar? I loved filling in each slot for Bethany, but now with three I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Maybe a note for each child on a rotating basis? Ideas anyone?

    @SueAtGraceCorner – the trip is a wonderful idea. Enjoy our city while you’re here for a visit! The image of a naked Barbie being placed in the manger scene makes me laugh and sigh. I do think there is something about Christmas that gives us adults permission, maybe even begs us, to be child-like.

    @Lisa – We miss you guys as well. Our LOST party in February will not be the same. Not getting a nativity scene when the kids were really young is one of my regrets. I know it’s never too late, and an unbreakable set would still be appropriate in this house where it’s not unusual to see someone eyeing the Advent candles as potential weapons.

    • SueAtGraceCorner December 16, 2009

      Kathy, if you could take visitors to only one restaurant in Chicago, where would you go? I’ve been there often enough to have some favorites (I’m a North Park seminary grad via distance learning and I visit my daughter at Columbia downtown fairly often), but I’m up for something new.

      • Kathy Khang December 16, 2009

        Hmmm. It depends on what you are in the mood to eat! 🙂

        When my sister-in-law and her family were in town this summer we took them to Great Seas for spicy chicken wings and black bean sauce noodles. When friends want Chicago-style deep dish we go to Gino’s East downtown (though I personally prefer Lou Malnati’s butter crust supreme). Peter and I love pho (Vietnamese noodle & soup), and we hear Tank is the best place to go. Reza’s is another good place to eat (Middle Eastern), and I remember chowing down at a great Greek restaurant when I was hugely pregnant but the name escapes me…

        I’m hungry…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *