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.
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?