Each family strives to pick holiday traditions that will bring our families closer to each other and closer to Christ- traditions that will make the season memorable. Some walk miles in the snow, dragging little ones afoot to find and cut down the perfect tree, while others scramble up rickety stairs and drop them from attics, hoping no one gets squashed in the process. Some children wait December 6 for Santa to fill their shined boots with oranges, nuts, candy, and small gifts, while other children wake inordinately early Christmas morning to see what Santa left, and still others wake up expecting just presents from Mom and Dad. There’s Advent, caroling, baking, Elf on a Shelf, A Star from Afar, Truth in the Tinsel, and so much more. Opportunities to laugh, to connect, to remember, to love.
It’s easy to look around at what everyone else is doing and at all the great opportunities out there and be so overwhelmed we just want to curl up in a chair with a blanket over our heads. Sometimes we are inadvertently carrying on traditions of others that simply don’t work for our families.
A mentor mom that leads a mom’s group I’m part of recently shared that she spent the early years of her family trying to carry on all kinds of traditions to meet her expectation of what a “perfect” Christmas was. She realized, though, that she was just doing everything her mother had established as traditions during her own childhood rather than figuring out what worked for her family (and she was often walking right over her family in the process). By letting go of things that didn’t fit, she and her family were able to enjoy the holiday season much more.
If any of this resonates with you, it’s time to de-clutter your holiday traditions.
- What is it I want my family to focus on this Christmas? (What is most important to us?)
- What one or two things are we already doing that we would we not want to give up? (Which traditions do the best job at helping us focus on what is most important?)
- What new traditions might we want to add to help us focus on what is most important?
- Does our family have any capacity left after that? If so, what else would we like to add?
Our Family’s Main Focus
To our family, the most important thing about Christmas is realizing the amazing gift God the Father has given us through Jesus. We have the opportunity to be reconciled to God through Him and to have eternal life- which is the amazing chance to know God now and forever.
John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
To focus on this, our family has done The Advent Book every year which my mother-in-law graciously gave us. It’s a beautiful, well-made book with gorgeous doors on each page. You open the first door December 1, read the first part of the story of Jesus’s coming, close the book, sing a hymn, pray, and that’s all. Each day, you open the previous doors and read up until the new door for that day. With the ages of our kids, it would have been rare to have found a night with both boys sitting wiggle-free in our laps as we read, sang, and prayed. It wasn’t perfect and didn’t need to be. In fact, some nights it was just hard to make even that happen, depending on what kind of hectic day we’d come from and how tired the kids were. Yet, this is our main tradition, and it works for our family.
Our other main traditions involve family and being with them. That is also very important to us.
At MOPS today, they brought our kids in at the end to sing a couple of songs, and they asked three of them what they most liked about Christmas. I don’t remember what the first child said, but the second was so sweet, saying they most liked remembering the birth of Jesus. Then came Elijah, who responded, “Opening Presents!!!” His perspective is clearly what many kids, and adults for that matter, feel.
A mom recently shared during an evening event that in her family, they like to direct their kids to think about getting Jesus a present for His birthday. They work throughout the year to earn money, which they save. Around Christmastime, they use their money to get Jesus a present, such as a goat or a chicken for people that need them in other parts of the world. We have great gift catalog options like:
- Voice of the Martyr’s Christmas Care Packs (for family members of persecuted brothers and sisters in dire conditions)
- World Vision’s Gift Catalog
- Samaritan Purse’s Gift Catalog
This is a tradition we are going to do with our kids starting this year.
Let Go of the Pressure
In looking at the season approaching before Thanksgiving, I thought about other traditions that I wanted to do, like Truth in the Tinsel. It is so great! Yet, I just don’t have the capacity to do it this time. And that is okay.
It is okay to let go of some of the great opportunities to do what is best for your family. A mom recently, wisely shared with me and some other ladies that her family has decided to almost put blinders on. To focus in on whatever they are doing at the time and choose not to get distracted by all the other glistening, glittering opportunities in their peripheral vision. She can excitedly give a sincere, warm “That’s wonderful! What a great idea!” to other moms who tell their victories- of elaborate Advent traditions and detailed homeschool plans.Yet, she doesn’t feel guilty that she is not doing those things.
Just last night, I had to forgo a cookie exchange that would have been so fun. I just did not have the capacity to bake 70 cookies (nor do I have any flour in my cupboard at the time or any desire to go to the grocery store). Plus, I would have had to rush back to teach a class. It was just too much. And I didn’t feel any guilt for de-cluttering my holiday some. I hope you don’t either! Don’t let the clutter of too many great things drag you down. Let go of the guilt and rejoice where joy is truly to be found this Christmas.
What About You?
Got a tradition that resonates with your family and keeps you focused through the season? Please share in the comments!