I love Christmas. I love the Reason, all the trimmings, the different foods, the parties, the traditions the lot – I love it.
As I get bogged down in this entire creative flurry I cant help but notice one other thing I am a mum with four kids who also want to love Christmas. So I re-evaluate all my fancy thoughts and schemes. I come up with a way to teach them the Reason for the Season, I come up with ways for them to look outward, there are ways to include them in the kitchen, with the decorations, even in the parties.
After I have that all sorted out I then start to feel the heat not the heat of pressure, of having an extremely long TO DO list but I am feeling the heat of a Summer in North Australia; days over 40 degrees closer to 45 every day, humidity, afternoon storms, lightening. There goes the steam pud, the turkey, and all those trimmings. Certainly no cosy evenings around a fire singing Christmas carols. More creative thinking is required how can we have Christmas and all its traditions to suit our family.
Regardless of where we live, what makes up our family, or any other circumstance we all have Christmas and want to celebrate it in some way. The challenge I have faced as a mother is to find activities etc and make them traditions for my family. Some of these traditions are carried down from my husbands family, some from my family, some are just because we live in the Kimberley, some are because we are just US.
Traditions are wonderful things for our children. As adulthood approaches these traditions are the foundations of memories; memories of holidays, birthdays, and special times together. Traditions are family habits.
Do you have some habits that you can start in your family that will be the basis of your childrens memories, as they grow older? Do you have some traditions that they will take into their families and hang the next generations memories on? If you dont have any yet this is a good year to start. If you do have some add to the list. The childish heart will always welcome a little surprise.
Heres what we do in our house . Maybe this will start your creative juices going
· I love Christmas decorations. I have made a lot of wall hangings, garlands, framed pictures, knickknacks and tree decorations. I have also bought a lot over the years. I redecorate my whole house regular stuff comes down and Christmas stuff goes up. I try to reduce the amount of Santa, reindeer and stockings as my decorations and focus on Angels, bells, stars, trumpets and nativity. I have studied over the time the beginnings of our so-called Christmas celebrations and a lot of the stuff we do, as a society, could be called into question. This is not an article on the rights and wrongs of the commercialism of Christmas. The way we look at it is that it is a time where we as a family can celebrate Jesus birth, that we can come together and celebrate family. It is also a time that society gives to us (albeit, slowly being taken away!!) that we can focus on Jesus. Everyone who comes into my home during December/January knows that Jesus is the Reason.
· Starting, as of this year, gifts between siblings are going to be made by the giver or paid by their labour. In the past we have given our young children money to give gifts to their siblings. In a sense this was a part of our budget for gifts but the time has come for them to take ownership in their giving.
· Christmas newsletter and family portrait. We try and have our yearly family photo taken with some family relevant or local background. (Years past weve done photos in the various crops on our farm which makes a good history record since cropping has changed over the years, weve done at our farm gate, in our garden, local sunrise.)
· The Family Christmas Photo Album goes on display as we recall Christmases past. I like a Christmas Photo Album as it really exposes the traditions you hold dear to. It also gives a good indication of your children growing and their talents and interests as you record gifts received. If you record stories of what happens during this time it also can show your childrens character growing stories of how they worked hard to make this particular gift for their sister, or how they handled disappointment when someone in their family broke their gift-toy.
· Join in with Christmas Caroling / Carols by candlelight around the community.
· We have a Christmas party for friends and family early in December. This is a Thanksgiving come Tree Decking party. My house is fully decorated on this day except for my tree. When guests arrive there is the tree with only lights and garland beads on it and a basket of decorations under. As we eat a meal together everyone has to hang at least one decoration and the kids deal with the rest. The rule is that I am not allowed to change things around the next day! Just before dessert we sit around and share what we are thankful for with each other.
· Instead of hanging Christmas cards up we cut out the personal greeting, any special verses and make a collage on a pin up board as the cards come in. This way we see the names (and any photos) of our friends instead of the commercial images on cards. This collage is in our dining room and we often pray for our friends over our meal table. Another idea is to put cards in a basket, on the table, as they come in and someone chooses one card per meal and the family prays for that family at that meal.
· I make a little tree decoration for each child each year. This will be building their own collection of Christmas Decorations for them to keep forever. (This has not happened for a few years but a habit I would like to pick up again!)
· I make or buy one new Christmas decoration for my collection each year. If I am going to buy I often wait till after Christmas and buy next years treat during the sales. I did this last year, and the purchase is still wrapped in the tissue paper from the shop so it will be a lovely surprise when I open it up early December.
· We have a Nativity scene, which sits on one of the flat surfaces in our house. I like this to be very obvious as you walk into the house.
· I let the children decorate the family room and their bedrooms with Christmas cheer. Because my Tree is important to me (the Country way it looks etc in the Lounge) I have a small second tree that is for the kids own decorating pleasure. They choose how to decorate it and they make the decorations. It is their tree. The girls have started their own Christmas decoration collection (wall hangings etc) which they decorate their own rooms with for the month of December.
· We always read the real Christmas story in before anything else happens as a family on Christmas morning. (When I was young this used to happen on my parents bed but we do it in the lounge room. I was wondering why we, Peter and I, dont do it on our bed and I came up with the reason being, our first Christmas with Josh our bed was in the lounge room! I guess it has continued from there! This is the way of traditions having each family units personal stamp on it)
· We do the cookies and milk thing for Santa and the kids hang their stockings at the end of their beds. This is purely silly family fun! We all know that this is just ridiculous but we participate anyways. The stockings help keep the early risers occupied till the whole family is ready for the Christmas story. We have a standard gift list for stocking fillers (a book, colouring/drawing materials, a small lolly deposit, and a very small toy. Sometimes I make a point by adding piece of fruit as well!)
· We exchange immediate family gifts before church (if there is time). Parents gift to kids, kids gifts to parents.
· We open one present at a time, with everyone enjoying the receivers joy before we open another.
· We go to church
· After church we continue with other presents. We make sure we have extended family photos nearby so the children can associate a face with who has given them presents (because we live so far away from our families.) During this time we make long distant phone calls to family. All gift opening is stopped if someone is on the phone. We have been known to say, that is that go and play and well do more later. Opening one present after another doesnt foster thankfulness, or even respect for the gift itself. We try and slow it right down throughout the day.
· The food is generally the same we try and have food where I am not in the kitchen all the time preparing.
o Breakfast is croissants and ham/cheese/tomatoes as well as sweet pastries and fruit salad. This is because Pete likes savoury and I like sweet!
o Lunch is prawns / cold chicken / French bread, sometimes a green salad
o Dinner is cold meats and salads, Christmas pudding for dessert.
· We have an open house potluck for our evening meal. We have a widely spread invitation to locals who dont have anything to do, some of our friends choose to drop in, we have also invited people who have turned up at Church that morning as visitors to the town. Those who can, bring whatever food they have in their fridge. I make sure I have plenty meat, and salad to fill the table. Christmas Pudding for everyone (if we run out of pudding we use the Christmas cake!)
Here are some other ideas that I have come across:
· Visit someone house bound and bring them some Christmas joy be it home baking, a small, decorated tree, a present, some music. I would like our homeschool group, or the Christian kids from various churches to get together and perform a short concert at the local old peoples home and hospital.
· Plan a cookie swap with friends so you have a variety of cookies for your family.
· Bake Christmas goodies together as a family, for gifts for friends.
· See the latest Christmas video release (family video or Christian)
· Buy Christmas-y pajamas for the family
· Have a birthday cake for Jesus
· One year we were having a family reunion in holiday accommodation instead of a tree we put together a nativity scene as the center of our Christmas celebrations. We found a box for the manger, borrowed a baby doll, I brought along some raffia for the straw. We read the Christmas story as we built this nativity with the children.
· Many families like to perform a nativity play during this time. It is always extra fun when there is a newborn to play Jesus. Our children wrote the play one year it was just as well we all knew the story because the actors giggled more than they remembered their lines!
· Create a Christmas memory corner this can either be a collage of photos of years past or a Memory Scrapbook, a collection of frames where you add one or two new ones each year.
· If you have a real tree make this a family outing go and choose it together every year. Real trees are amazing. My Grandfather always went out and got a HUGE tree for their family Christmas Eve party.
· Which reminds me of our Christmases when I was a child. My mum grew up one of four girls and when these girls started their own families my Grandmother decided that Christmas was not to be a time of families being pulled in different directions and so moved her Christmas celebrations to Christmas Eve to give her grown up daughters the freedom to Celebrate Christmas Day with their husbands families (this worked because they were local families!). So began a tradition that I grew up with Christmas Eve Family Party. My own family lived away from the home town but we would often phone Grandma and Grandad on Christmas Eve and us kids, would beg our parents to let us open at least Grandma and Grandads present on Christmas Eve. Often we did. The point in sharing this is that it doesnt matter when you have your celebration times the point is to share with family and to remember family and most of all to remember Jesus.
· Family Devotions can build up over the month of December to the birth of Christ. December/January are good months to focus on character traits such as generosity, hospitality, gratefulness or creativity.
· For the home-schoolers who want to dedicate more time to studies do a unit study focusing on the Reason for the Season, or based on your values for this Season, or Traditions around the world. There are good studies under the name of Jesse Tree which follows the seed / promise of Jesus from Adam.
If you have traditions that you would like to share I would love to hear from you. That way, next year we can, together, share a longer list of ideas so other families can begin to build Christmas Traditions for their families.