Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Christmas Traditions

I love family traditions. Our church leaders often teach us that family traditions are important in binding together families and helping build wonderful memories and strong relationships. It seems to me that having a tradition says "This is our family: this is what we do."

Christmas is a time when family traditions are the strongest and many have been passed down across generations. Growing up, for example, it was our tradition that we didn't open the presents around the tree until after lunch. (We children had already opened the presents Father Christmas had left in the stockings on our beds–generally very noisily at 3 a.m.–so we didn't mind waiting. Much.) Once we had bellies full of turkey and Christmas pudding the adults would settle down in the lounge and after the Queen's Speech the children (just my sister and I) would pass out the presents. We would all then take it in turns to open a present each so that everyone could see what everyone got, and thank the giver. That 's a tradition I've kept now that I'm a Mum, and my kids love giving out the presents and taking turns opening them.

Not all traditions are decades old, however. A new practice can become a family tradition, and can serve to unite the family and build love and appreciation.

Apparently the McIntyre family always get new pyjamas on Christmas Eve (presumably so that they can look smart for Father Christmas) so my children, on learning this from the McIntyre children at church, insisted that we have to do the same. Another family in our ward has to find their presents in a treasure hunt. I was happy (until I saw the price of pyjamas, but I digress) to build a new tradition into our family life, so I've combined the two into a Christmas Eve treasure hunt in which they have to find their new (Primark) pyjamas. We'll see how it goes and then decide later whether to do it every year.

Christmas Eve is full of traditions in our home. We drop off our Pixie hamper, go to a Nativity carol service (or a Christingle service sometimes) and I make my Yule log. The pyjama hunt may have to be very brief.

For several years I've tried to introduce a new tradition of having us all sit down and light the advent candle each evening in December as I read out something uplifting about Christmas. Unfortunately it never works too well. It's very difficult to get us all home and awake at the same time, for one thing, and the candle takes over half an hour to burn through each number so we tend to get bored, wander off, and forget to blow it out. (It currently says it's the 22nd December. Oops.) We'll try again next year. Maybe.

A slightly more successful new tradition in our family has been having a ham as well as turkey for Christmas lunch. That tradition came with my husband's family who always had both. He asked me very nicely whether I'd mind if we incorporated it into our new family. (It involves more food, so it was a no-brainer.) We seem to have dropped the tradition of going to a Christingle service every year, however, which is a pity, but oranges and jelly-tots are obviously less tempting than a baked ham.

What are your Christmas family traditions and how do they help your family feel the spirit of Christ and grow closer together?


  1. Okay, you Brit- what is a Christingle service? And I love the advent candle- I’ve never seen one of those before. Maybe try setting a timer to remind you to blow it out?

    Our traditions involve going to the Christmas parade the first Saturday in December. It’s on a main street in downtown Richmond, and my brother’s architecture firm happens to be on that street, so we sit in their second-story conference room with huge picture windows that look out onto the street, drink hot cocoa, and enjoy being warm and cozy while we watch! (and the kids get to draw on giant rolls of paper while they wait!)

    We also go to a local Christmas tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree. Decorating is also a family event- we usually do it for family home evening, and we put on Christmas music and deck out the house.

    Our advent calendar is a little house with tiny numbered doors that open up. I have scripture references and treats inside. We haven’t done great with it this year, but we try!

    We’ve also gone out Christmas caroling the past few years, and that’s always fun. This year we’re starting a new tradition- we’ve always gone out to drive around and see the Christmas lights, but this year we’re doing it differently- Friday night is always our family movie night, and this Friday night we’re going to watch the Polar Express. After the movie we’ll tell the kids it’s bedtime and get them all ready and then meet in the living room for song & prayer. While they’re in the living room I’m going to find an excuse to sneak back upstairs, when I’ll lay out new bathrobes for them, each with a bell in the pocket, and a ticket for the “Minivan Express” on their beds. When we send them up to bed, they’ll discover them and we’ll all pile into the van with hot chocolate and popcorn to go see the lights.

    On Christmas Eve we always watch Luke 2 and we sing Silent Night by candlelight around the nativity scene before we go to bed.

    Wow, we have a lot of family traditions! Love it! :-)

  2. A Christingle is an orange (representing the world) with a candle stuck in it (representing the light of Christ) and cocktail sticks with fruit and sweets on, and a red band around, and it all represents stuff but I can't remember what! And during a church service (usually CofE) they light the Christingles and each child gets one to take home. I went every year as a child but we haven't been for a while.



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