Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BEEing A Mom: Christmas Traditions

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart."
~George Matthew Adams~
For the last two evenings, my three-year-old son Hayden and I have carried on a family Christmas tradition from my childhood: making cookies together. Last night, we mixed the batter for sugar cookies, rolled out the dough, cut out tree and snowman shapes, and baked them. Tonight, we iced and decorated the cookies. The best part of the activity: the special time we spent together.

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are the Christmas traditions I shared with my parents and brother. Now as a mom myself, I hope to pass on some of those traditions and create new ones for my family. But how do you choose the best traditions for your family? I've discovered some of my favorite traditions tend to be simple and meaningful. And many are fun for the whole family.

Here are some of my family's Christmas traditions:

(1) Decorating the tree and house together as a family. Every year when we pull out the Christmas decorations from storage, I bubble with excitement as I open the boxes and begin decorating the tree and house with my family. I especially enjoy watching my husband search through the boxes of ornaments to find the ones from his childhood. I can tell many of them bring back special memories of Christmas with his parents and brother. And this year, my son has been fascinated with the nativity set, which has provided many opportunities to begin teaching him about the true purpose for Christmas.

(2) Giving. The true spirit of the Christmas season is to give to others, especially those in need. This represents the ministry of Jesus, and what better way to celebrate his birth than to give to those in need during this season.

(3) Making cookies together. Growing up, my mom and I shared many special moments together in the kitchen making Christmas cookies. As many of you know, I love to bake. But I've also discovered how simplifying this tradition can result in a more relaxed Christmas for my family and me. Before I became a mom, I'd spend days in the kitchen baking hundreds of cookies. Now, I only bake a few varieties and spend less time on this activity. During the last two years, I've especially enjoyed the time I've spent with my son as we make our special sugar cookies. And when we're done baking, we love sharing the cookies with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

(4) Reading Christmas stories together. During a visit with my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom gave me a book from my childhood: an illustrated book with stories from the Bible. Flipping through it, warm memories filled my mind. As a child, my family read the story about Jesus' birth from this book at Christmas. And now, I'm thrilled about being able to carry on that tradition with my husband and son.

My son and I also enjoy reading other Christmas stories during the season. This year, I purchased a picture book entitled Advent Storybook: 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas by Antonie Schneider. This beautifully illustrated book tells short stories (one for each day from December 1-24) about a little bear's journey as he follows the bright star to see baby Jesus. Similar to Aesop's fables, each story in this book ends with a statement summarizing the moral of the story. For example, for a story about an eagle, the mother bear tells her son, Benjamin, "If we trust in God, he will always catch us before we fall." Both Hayden and I look forward to reading this book each day, and I'm planning on carrying on this tradition in the years to come.

(5) Driving through neighborhoods in our town to view the Christmas lights. During my childhood, my parents loved driving around our small town to view the Christmas lights. And as an adult, I still enjoy this tradition. As Christmas music plays in the car, I find this a relaxing time to spend with my family. Of course, we can't forget to bring hot cocoa on our outing.

(6) Attending church together as a family on Christmas Eve. My parents began this tradition with my brother and me when we were young, and my husband and I have continued on with it since we've been married. This is a precious time to focus on why we celebrate Christmas and to give glory to Christ.

(7) Christmas Breakfast. Christmas mornings in our home often include a special breakfast. This year, it will probably include Ebelskiver pancakes and quiche with orange juice and coffee.

I'd love to hear about your family's Christmas traditions. :-)

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