I am finding, as our family ages, that our traditions are evolving and changing. The days when we would write our Christmas letters to Santa and then pack up and head to the mall to both ask him in person and then pop our letters into the Macy’s mailbox, are a memory. The nights of reading a Christmas story a day before bed…are no longer. The activities hinged on the magical anticipation that young children bring to the holiday are ones that I hope our children carry on with their own families… someday. It is the traditions that we carry on, regardless of our age, that fuel us now, connecting us to those memories of Christmas pasts, and thus to each other.
There are certain activities that I engage in each and every year that feel as good as putting on your ratty yet most comfortable of sweatshirts and slippers (yes I wear slippers) at the end of a long day. These activities feel comfortable, they feel good, they exude warmth and they help me welcome in the season, that while being one of the busiest, is one of the most joyful. Yes, I always shoot to begin them the day after Thanksgiving, but no, it rarely happens as it is planned. That is okay, life happens, and in our family…life happens…A LOT! Regardless of when you start, keep the activities that mean the most to you and that generate the most feelings of satisfaction. When I was a younger mom, I said YES to everything, often finding myself engaged in activities around the holidays that made me wish I were attacking the ones that I connected to, the ones that made me “smile inside.” I know that sounds corny, but I think you get my gist.
So…it is December 8th and my Christmas inspiration board just went up in my office even though I have been doused in Christmas decor since well before Thanksgiving due to the Holiday and Christmas sales in the barn. My husband walked in there this past Friday and stated, “I think we should have Christmas Eve dinner up here.” Most likely he stated that knowing full well that it will probably be a feel good temp of twenty degrees, due to the fact that the house is still unadorned of its finery.
My chalkboard in the kitchen just transformed from its Fall quote into our Christmas Advent Board.
The Christmas books have been shelved in their traditional place in the hallway, their pages to be turned much less frequently than in years past. It does still warm my heart when I see a now adult child, turn to one of their siblings and say, “Oh my gosh, remember Morris and the disappearing bag?”
The 2015, Christmas countdown list has been created as in years past, and while we may be starting on day number 8 (that is okay, for I always leave a little wiggle room) we are starting none the less! These activities have matured as we mature but it is the constants that feed us, the evolution of the others that keep the traditions alive.
The greens have been purchased and are about to go up. The boxes have all been brought down from under the attic’s eaves by all members of the household who are still residing under those eaves. Santa has fallen down the stairs, yet again, the moans and groans have been emitted from those bringing the boxes down each and every year. The advent wreath has been constructed on the kitchen table. The Christmas tree will be picked out this weekend, minus one child who has been there the last 22 years to help with that tradition through fevers, colds and the tummy bug. There was great consternation on whether we await her arrival home to even go and get the tree but approval was finally given to get the tree without the missing sibling. Under no circumstances should the decorations go up until the “chick” is back in her nest.
I believe very strongly in the carrying on of traditions through times of the blending of families, each one having their own set of traditions. You can carry on elements of each member, creating new traditions that have sprung from the old. Traditions are so much more difficult to carry on through times of transition, difficulties or loss. I realize that many of you may be missing a family member as we enter into this season of joy thus dousing that joy. Their place at the table will be empty as well as your heart from their absence. Try as you might to keep the traditions, for they help to heal and keep their presence close. I know the heaviness of the heart at these times and a dark cloud always fills my skies as I know these times will become more a part of my life as we travel through all the ages of it.
Revel in the moment of each and every day. Give thanks for the gifts of today and of the people that are in your life for this day will be different from one five years from now. For as we all know, it is not the things that create these traditions and make them such an intregal part of our lives…but the people. Create memories for these people and they will ground their lives to help get them through challenges that they will face as they make their journey.
As I look upon my inspiration board, I am committed to bring beauty to the lives of those I love in this uncertain world of change, both in their hearts and in their environment. I know that I will continually have to adapt our traditions as our children, their cousins and other family members grow and leave the nest. These departures will cause shifts in traditions as we know them. Hang onto what you can and adapt what you cannot. I know that my readers are committed to bringing beauty into their lives as well. I would love to hear about your traditions and how you have perpetuated them. Feel free to share!
As we prepare for the birth of Christ, the reason for the season, I know that I will find comfort in the routine of my traditions. I longingly look at my stash of recipe books and tear sheets that I have collected over the years. Soon, when time allows, I will grab them, head to the warmth of my bed with a cup of tea (keep in mind I live in an old drafty house) where I will spread them out and pull from them to assemble this year’s Christmas gift projects, the Christmas Eve Menu, gift lists etc. (Don’t get too much agita) for I have been shopping all year. This activity of list making and the gathering of ideas brings me great pleasure. For you, you might sit in front of Pinterest and gather your inspiration, whatever the source…seek inspiration! Here are some of my activities that will be on my list. I hope that you can take one and adapt it to your family celebrations and traditions!
~Advent countdown calendar
~Family tree hunting expedition and then decorating party
~Cookie and treat baking party with whoever is around
~Card writing party, stamping and sending even if after the first of the year for we still need to take a Christmas photo of all of us
~Christmas movie watching night (when they were little we would then sleep under the Christmas tree)
~Bedroom decorating night
~ Involve yourself in a charitable organization where you make up boxes of goodies to give
~Activity where we volunteer our time to help others (soup kitchen/food pantry this year)
~Go over to parents and grandparents houses to help them get out their Christmas decor and assist in putting it up
~Make reindeer food to give to each of the younger cousins to take home with them on Christmas Eve and sprinkle on their lawn
~Pick names of your family members from a hat and be their secret “elf” Christmas week
~Christmas shop as a family to pick out Pollyana gifts that will be given Christmas day
~The lighting of the Advent wreath every night (again, when they were little we would read from an advent book as we lit the candles, now we are so scattered at dinner time that this activity becomes so much more difficult)
~The making up of THEIR GIFT GIVING list taking into account teachers, friends, etc.
~Take turns opening your Christmas cards as a family at dinner or whenever you will all be gathered together. Open them one at a time and pass them around.
~Drive around your town or community to look at Christmas lights
~Attend a Christmas production or choral concert
~Attend a live nativity at a local church
~This year, we are going to do the 12 days of Christmas giving box where each of the 12 days before Christmas we assemble some gifts or do a good deed for those we know could use a little cheering up.
~Take a breather and remember, it is not what you accomplish that matters. It is that you are ENJOYING what you are accomplishing
I could go on and on and on with ideas and suggestions for I am a confirmed Christmas addict. I will be posting some blogs based on these activities as the Christmas Season unwinds.
May your Christmas season be wrapped in the moments that will stick in your memory forever!