Each of us has traditions. Many are the same. Some vary. Some get lost. Some don’t work. A tradition may be carried on for generations. Some may brush away.
One of my favorite Christmas books is “God’s Vitamin C for the Christmas Spirit” which shares stories, ideas, traditions and reasons. One of the thoughts I read was written by Christi Anne Shepeard in which she shares a tradition of “The Jesus Sock”
The story unfolds that there is an extra sock in her possession – one that doesn’t match the other socks selected for each family member that year. She decided to make it a sock for the Savior in which her family would write letters and insert them into the sock – every year.
I thought that sounded like a cool tradition – one I wanted to incorporate into my brand new family. But only Randy and I seemed serious about keeping the tradition and wrote faithfully for three years or so. And I continued by myself for a while. But then I seemed to lose track as well. But our thoughts and words to Jesus are pretty much all year around without the sock.
Gifts - One of my favorite traditions is to actually take turns watching one another as we open our gifts individually. When everyone is tearing into their own gifts they miss out on the joy of watching one another – I think. I don’t know when it started for the family I grew up with, but I remember doing it that way more than not. And that’s how we did it after I married into my new family.
I thought the greatest Christmas would be if we could milk unwrapping packages all day. I tried incorporating thoughts and scripture or singing carols between each gift. That lasted only one Christmas. But I finally got my wish when Jenna was a year and a half.
Oddly enough her sisters actually spent Christmas Eve night with us – but Roland was instructed to have them home by 1:00 on Christmas afternoon. The ward had provided many of the gifts that were under the tree – plus there were some from each sibling and the girls had brought gifts for Jenna, Roland, me and the boys.
We had set up an appointment to feed the missionaries for an afternoon lunch. And just so the girls wouldn’t miss out on seeing one another’s reactions, we had to make sure to open all the gifts that were to or from the girls before the missionaries arrived.
We’d opened maybe 20 gifts before the missionaries arrived. Somehow we had missed the one to the boys from Francis and Pamprin. But Jenna took it upon herself to find and open the gift while we visited with the three Elders who came for lunch.
After the Elders left our house, we loaded up the cars. Roland took Francis and Pamprin back to Malificent’s and I took Jaime and her brothers to my mom’s and we opened more gifts after Roland joined us.
We were at my mom’s for several hours, playing games with siblings and cousins and enjoying the holiday. It was kind of late when we returned back to the house where Roland and I resided at the time – still many packages awaited beneath the tree. Each we opened one at a time. It had been an all day event! I absolutely loved it! And would love to do it again.
Ornaments - And then there’s the ornaments. Mom and Dad had no ornaments the first year they were married. They decided each of their children would have ornaments to take with them when we left the nest. My mom and dad traditionally brought each child an ornament for every year they lived at home.
Actually tried that one with the boys – but it didn’t take. They had ornaments. I had ornaments – more than just the ones from home – they had doubled, quadrupled even. And the amount of ornaments in the box always outnumbered the branches on our mostly Charlie Brown trees.
Roland was more into themed trees. One year we had a boring one that consisted only of silver baubles. I like the personalized ornaments much better. The children have always decorated the tree. I believe Jenna rearranges the ornaments on a daily basis.
Family dinner - we do this on Christmas Eve. For the longest time we had it at the home of my great aunt on my father’s side. It continued – even when the family seemed to outgrow the house. 10 of us became 12 and then 16, 17, 20 . . . and then it became too much work for my great aunt. So we did it at mom’s house for a while – 25, 30, 32 – in-laws, schedules, more-than-not inconvenient weather. And one year we said: “Maybe we can do a family bbq in July instead” which has its perks.
We still do a family dinner, but right now it is just mom and her children and their families. 14, 15 16, 18 and growing. Neither my sister nor I have houses large enough to have us all around the table – but to take the stress off mom, we did a simple dinner at my brother’s house last year. Their house is small, too – but somehow it seems to work. As it would have worked at the first house that Roland and our children and I lived in.
Hats - On Christmas morning the child who passes out the presents wears the Santa cap. Often the rest of us will wear elf or Santa caps as we open our gifts.
Exchange - There is still gift exchange – though family to family is more of a recent thing where we draw names. We used to get for everybody – but the economy’s made it tough. Actually, we didn’t even draw names this year (that usually takes place on Thanksgiving) Just as well. We’re all on the financially strained side – three of the families are anyway.
Movies - I enjoy watching Christmas movies, no matter how trite and sappy. I will always tune in to “It’s a Wonderful Life” just as Clarence jumps in the water to save George who jumps in after him. I love that cute angel.
A tradition I have only for myself is to watch at least five different versions of the Christmas Carol between Thanksgiving and New Years. Among my favorite are the Muppets, the American Christmas Carol, Mr. Magoo and the musical Scrooge.
And those are just a few of my personal examples. What are some of yours?