Last night I had the opportunity not only to relive one of my fondest childhood memories, but also to share it with my children. We had gone out to eat with guests, and while they and Jeremy were heading out from the restaurant to go to a meeting at Columbia, I was waiting for the boys to finish thier trips to the restroom so that we could head out as well. I looked up at the television hanging from the ceiling near the bathroom door, and instead of the usual televised sporting event, they had it tuned to TBS, which was just about to show The Wizard of Oz. In a moment I was taken back to my own childhood, my sister Stefanie and I in our jammies cuddled on the couch with blankets and possibly even a snack, giddy with anticipation of the one night each year that we were allowed to stay up way past bedtime and watch a special movie. Now looking back, I’m sure that wasn’t the only time we got to stay up late and do something fun as small children, but that memory has always really stood out to me. So once that split-second vision flashed through my mind, I quickly gathered the children and ushered them off towards home, promising them a fun family night once we got there. The boys enjoyed the movie, and I enjoyed not so much the movie, but watching them enjoy the movie and realizing that I was witnessing something that had been a special part of my childhood being passed on to the next generation.
With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just around the corner, I have been thinking a lot lately about family traditions. When Joshua, our oldest, was 8 months old, we celebrated our first family Christmas that included a child of our own. We celebrated with my extended family at my sister and brother-in-law’s home, with their infant son and my parents and brother. We had a wonderful time, extending to our new family many of the traditions of my “old” family. We realized, though, that we wanted to create our own family holiday traditions, taking what we loved from our own childhoods, changing and adding to those activities to create special memories that would be our little family’s “own.” For the next several years, we spent Christmas and some Thanksgivings at home, just with our own family, so we could focus on creating traditions that were important or special to us.
Over the years as our family has grown, we’ve tried many different family holiday activities. Some are turning into traditions that we find ourselves repeating each year, others have been enjoyable but for whatever reason we haven’t decided to do them consistently. Our primary criteria are that our holiday traditions center on honoring God…reflecting on being grateful for the many, many blessings we’ve been given at Thanksgiving, and celebrating God’s ultimate gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, at Christmas. While we do enjoy some of the more “commercial” aspects of the holidays, we want more than anything else for our children to grow up understanding the real meaning of the season.
For Thanksgiving, some of our traditions include watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and, of course, a big Thanksgiving meal with turkey and the works in the afternoon, with everyone at the table sharing what they are thankful for before we enjoy our meal. As our older children have grown old enough to understand, we’ve also started reading stories about the history of Thanksgiving to them in the days leading up to the big day. This year, we’re planning on taking time off from our regular school schedule the whole week of Thanksgiving and just focusing on stories and activities to both remind us and celebrate how richly God has blessed us. I’ll be sure to post next week some of the things we do! And since this is our first Thanksgiving in New York City, Jeremy has promised the boys that we will get up insanely early Thanksgiving morning and go watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. I’m not so sure about the getting up early part or the crowds, but hopefully it will end up being a treasured memory for the boys!
Some of our favorite Christmas activities have been making and decorating ornaments together, making and decorating cookies together, cuddling up on the couch and reading the Christmas story, choosing a child or children in need from the Angel Tree at the mall and then shopping for those children together, watching classic Christmas time movies together, and driving around looking at all the neighborhood light displays together. We’ve also hosted neighborhood Christmas parties (well, our little section of our neighborhood, anyway) to get to know our neighbors and be able to share with them why we celebrate Christmas. I don’t know if we’ll do something like that this year in our new apartment or not. I think at least the boys and I will make cookies and other treats to take to some of the neighbors we have met so far. This year, I want to have Joshua and Jonathan memorize the Christmas story in Luke 2. I also want to find something we can do along the lines of the Angel Tree we used to participate in while in Austin, so that the boys can focus on blessing someone else instead of being focused on the “gimmies” that seem to surface amidst all the commercial trappings of the holidays.
So those are some of the things we will be doing over the next several weeks to celebrate the holidays. What holiday traditions do YOU, my wonderful readers, enjoy and hold dear? I would love to hear everyone else’s traditions as well…both to see all the creative ways everyone celebrates, and possibly to find some new things for us to try as well!