When I was child,
It was just the 4 of us, and we were an ocean away from extended family. There was a nativity that played music, an advent wreath, and chocolate advent calendars. There was a birthday on the 19th (Daniel Charles!) which started Christmas vacation, and there were movies and movies and more movies. There was a real, live Christmas tree with fat, colored lights and silver tinsel, and there was midnight mass and white tights. There was ONE present… but only one… allowed on Christmas Eve. There were presents from Santa left out in the open and stockings full to be enjoyed immediately upon waking. There were wrapped presents from family, but those were not to be touched until the the video camera was ready. There was grace and ham with scalloped potatoes for dinner. My birthday came 3 days later, when we were usually on a ski slope. The tree stayed up until January 6th, and there was never any question about who we were celebrating or why… We had waited. He had come. And He was welcome.
Now that I am older,
It’s the 5 of us. Abby starts our season with a birthday on the 15th. There are extended-family gatherings throughout the month… because we are blessed to live near extended family! We still have a real, live tree but with little, white lights. We had a small, ceramic nativity but not anymore (Gideon James). My small family still opens gifts together on Christmas day. We still eat ham and potatoes in the early afternoon, and my birthday still comes 3 days after His.
It has been such a struggle for me to get into family traditions now that I have my own family. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me, given I feel like tradition should be mandated in the constitution. Long live costumes and stories of yore. Love yore. But, you get married and you have a kid and all the sudden it’s 8 Christmas-es later and you realize you have never once made it through an advent season with marked educational or devotional success. Y’all, I don’t think we even had stockings the first year. We were given an amazing box of tree decorations as a wedding gift so we wouldn’t start with a bare tree, but I have done little to compliment that over the years. Nothing to encourage us to anticipate, nothing to remind us to await.
Perhaps I thought tradition would find me… that it was one of those things that came naturally, built in-between the lines of marriage vows and hospital nurseries. Turns out, you must pick and choose and make it happen. Stunner really, that I am almost 36 and still learning life takes effort beyond participation.
A whole week between Thanksgiving and December 1st this year gave me enough time to do complete an internet Tradition Research & Purchase mission. We have music to listen to: tradition. We have stories to read: tradition. We have calendars to open: tradition. We have ornaments to hang: tradition. I know it takes time for tradition to grab ‘hold with roots, but at least we’re sowing some seeds now. We are ready to remember to await. We will attempt to prepare a space. To teach, as parents, our children why this time is so special. To remember, as Believers, why this time is so special. It’s on.
Ok, so real-tree or fake-tree, People?
I am firmly in the real-tree camp.
Some resources for you as you plant your own traditions:
books and music and such
- Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God (a collection of songs about Jesus)
- Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Journey (free download)
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
- Jesus Storybook Bible (21 OT stories + the first 3 NT stories = 24 advent readings)
- The Advent Jesse Tree
- The Jesse Tree Project blog
- Adventures in Mommydom’s ultimate advent list
- Jesse Tree topics and scripture spreadsheet
- History.com’s page on Christmas