“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours… then we’ll go ice-skating…
then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can…
and then we’ll snuggle!”
– Buddy the Elf
Point to Ponder:
What holiday tradition are you most looking forward to?
Until my dad’s mother passed away ten years ago, we spent every Christmas Eve at her house in Liberty Hill. My dad is one of seven children, making me the youngest of twenty-two grandchildren, so by the time you throw in seven spouses and thirty-six great-grandchildren, Mamaw’s three bedroom, one bathroom house was overflowing — just as her septic tank did… every single Christmas Eve.
I have so many fond Christmas Eve memories: getting to Mamaw’s house early so we could claim our seat on the couch, my aunt Betty’s famous cheese ball, candy canes hanging from every branch of the Christmas tree, Mamaw giving each grandchild two dollars and each couple ten dollars, her consistently misspelling my name on my card, and family members walking in the house and me whispering to my sister, ‘Who’s that?’ While we saw Mamaw several times a year, we only saw the whole family on Christmas Eve, and with so many of us it was impossible to remember everyone as the families grew and spouses changed, frequently.
Needless to say, Christmas Eve has always been a special time for my family, and when Mamaw passed away we decided to keep the Christmas Eve tradition alive and host it at our house. Unfortunately, our extended family members do not join us, though my mom and her husband, my dad and step-mom, my sister’s family and any friends who don’t have family near by come over. We keep it real simple! We graze through a delicious spread of food, watch the movie Elf, spend time together, and then around 5:00 head to Riverbend Church for the annual Candlelight service.
Following the service we come back to my house where we let the kids open a few presents, pop open a bottle of wine, eat dinner, turn on A Christmas Story and get ready for the big day which always entails me staying up extra late to wrap presents and watch A Christmas Story over and over again while Russell begs me to watch a different movie. It’s my favorite (as it is for another leader below)!
While traditions come in all shapes and sizes, and even sometimes come wrapped in a big dysfunctional bow (like they time my cousin showed up at my grandmother’s on Christmas Eve claiming to be a warlock), they are all memories that add meaning and some good story-telling to our life.
As you ponder some of your favorite holiday traditions, enjoy the following favorite holiday traditions from some our leaders:
“My favorite tradition is waking up with my family on Christmas morning, staying in our pajamas, and slowly opening gifts around the Christmas tree while A Christmas Story plays 24/7 on TBS. We enjoy each other’s company and don’t feel the need to rush to the kitchen to prepare for our lunch. I love the simplicity of it!”
“Starting after Thanksgiving, before bedtime we all sit together as a family and watch a Christmas show. We like to stick to classics like, “Frosty”, Santa Claus is coming to town”, Charlie Brown….etc.”
“Every year the week before Christmas we have a BIG birthday party to celebrate my triplets, who were born on December 17th. They turn 26 this year! Now that they are all working it has become hard to gather everyone, but it is always a fun party when we finally get them all in town. I still remember their first Christmas — WOW what a whirlwind! Love my girls!”
“The very word ‘tradition’ makes me a little anxious, and at my ripe age of ‘I’ll-never-tell’, I am finally okay with that. The reason that I cringe upon hearing that word — especially at this time of year — is because, well…here goes — Brandy Milk Punch. At Christmas. Every year. In the morning. When I was a kid. Now I am not saying that one shouldn’t imbibe at Christmas in the loving presence of favorite and not-so-favorite people — grab that glass and drink! I’m just saying that as an adult-in-training, my traditions instruction was a little…shaky. But I get it now, after years of toiling and trying so hard to create my own sparkly family traditions, after being blessed with two very different boys and a husband who sometimes worked holidays. My childhood training was actually very spot-on! My parents — unintentionally with the Brandy Milk Punch thing — taught me to be adaptable. To embrace the “what is” and move with it. So with that recent epiphany, I now love that our family tradition at Christmas is this — we are untraditionally together. In some form, in some fashion, we are together. Not forced or contrived, but spontaneous, real and in the moment that is ours. For a short while maybe, and maybe not on Christmas Day. Maybe the Tuesday before. Maybe throwing the football, maybe having hot chocolate. And it’s all good. We love each other, and we are lovingly together in a different way, every single year…our favorite tradition!”
“There is a recipe for a Buttermilk Coffee Cake that is OHHHH so tasty and has been a Younkman family favorite for three generations. We make this coffee cake throughout the year and always at Christmas. The great thing is, Steve (who doesn’t cook) is in charge of making the cakes. It has become his “trademark recipe” along with his homemade caramels that he also makes at Christmas time. Every year right after Thanksgiving Steve will ask me, “Did you get the pans for the coffee cakes yet?” He then sets aside a day where he mass produces them, along with our help. We then distribute them to neighbors and friends. For 32 years we have made coffee cakes and this year will be especially memorable as we honor Steve’s recently deceased Mom who made many a coffee cake in her day!”
“Our family’s favorite Christmas traditions include: the kids lighting the candles of our Advent wreath and reading the verses behind the doors on their advent calendars every evening during Advent; Laney performing in Dance Discovery’s “The Nutcracker” at the Trail of Lights; Selling Christmas cards and baked goods made by my kids for donations to support Beyond Batten Disease Foundation at our church’s Alternative Gift Market; and the highlight of the Christmas season for my family is our church’s Christmas Eve candle light worship service and impromptu children’s nativity, in which all the kids, dressed as the characters from the Christmas story, act it out, while our pastor tells the story and the congregation sings Christmas hymns.”
Take some time this week to stop and think about what Christmas means to you and your loved ones.