Christmas Thoughts and Traditions
Crystal Miller

One of the things about raising children and creating a life for them is that at some point we all analyze the things we do and what kind of things we want our children to remember and what things we want imparted to them in their life. Several years ago I pondered things about Christmas and my childhood Christmases. I reflected about what kind of things I remembered from my childhood. While I do remember a few Christmas gifts, what I remember most is the family time, baked goodies, Christmas lights and the special feelings that came with this time of year. I wanted my children to grow up some of these memories. I did not want Christmas to become a time of gift lists and my children spending lots of time wondering what “they” wanted under the tree on Christmas morning, there is just too much focus on “me, me, me”.

I really love Christmas time and the many joys of the season. Some of the things I love about this time are the cozy evenings, the lights on the tree twinkling in my living room, the sound of Christmas music playing softly in the back ground. I love hot cocoa, hot apple cider and trimming the tree. I love to watch the faces of my little ones when they open a gift. Mostly I love to talk with my children about the love of God. How He sent us His Son as our Savior to reconcile men to Him. I want them to know that Christmas is more than the baby in the manger it is the plan of salvation!

We spend a lot of the season reading the Christmas story to the children, setting up the nativity and in years past as we sat it up I would have my little ones recite the story as we put the pieces in there places. For many years I have had my children memorize Luke Chapter 2 and to recite this at family gatherings. I think this year I may let them act out the Christmas story. Most every year they participate in our churches Sunday school Christmas program. Advent type activities are also enjoyable to do. I also love to play lots of traditional Christmas songs that are filled with the wondrous message of the birth of Christ! This helps to keep my children’s focus on the most important meaning of the holiday for us.

One of the things my husband and I rethought was the gift giving traditions we had. We decided we wanted to make a change in this in our home. Partly our decision to depart from the traditional gift giving traditions had to do with our family size and mostly from the stand point that the holiday has gone on materialistic overload these days. We told our children that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. On their birthdays we focus on just them and that is “their” own day. This is Christ’s day! Of course part of the fun of this season is the gifts and that excitement. So we did not want to get rid of it completely but in a major way we wanted to put it into a much lower gear. Let me share what we do now.

Each of my children has a Christmas sock. We fill their socks with small goodies for them individually. Our socks are not those huge Christmas socks that are sold but are wool socks that are made for men that you buy in the hunting department! They are gray and trimmed in red… I personally love the look as it is much more old-fashioned in my mind! The size does limit what can be put into them. The next thing we do is when we buy our children gifts to put under the tree we buy things for “all” of them. There are no names on the gifts under the tree. These gifts are for them as a group. Now some may be geared for older ones or younger ones. Sometimes it has been funny to have a teenager open a Playschool play set! But everyone laughs and the teenager has fun taking the set out and helping the little ones to set it up. There is a sense of the family in a much larger way. Other things that have been put under the tree are videos or DVD’s, board games, computer games, books… lots and lots of books, which I have bought used most of the time!, color books, cards, play dough, doll houses, etc… We were wondering what the reaction to this change would be with our children and it was received better than we could have imagined. The reason being I think is because they had so much fun interacting with each other and the items that “they” received that day. There was no sense of “Hey that is mine!” or “Tell him to give that back to me!” It takes away from the materialistic mindset that comes on Christmas morning. The year we made this change my children all agreed that this had been their best Christmas ever. Each year since that year we have continued the same tradition and now the children eagerly await that day.
We also feel that the most joy from the Christmas gifts comes from the little ones. As our children leave home we still fill a sock for them and I give them a basket of mom’s homemade goodies and maybe a few extras in it like a new ornament for their tree or something else small. We do make the point that gifts this time of year is for the little ones and they are just fine with this.

It has helped to lower expectations of what is expected of me, both physically and financially. Physically I am not running all over town trying to get each of 8 children just the right gift and making sure I am being fair and just with each one. That can be such chaos! And financially, it has helped because I am not trying to find “the” gift for each child. That expectation seems to grow as the years go by. It can be so easy to overspend in this area. I think it is a shame when people go into debt for this holiday. I remember a sermon one time where the pastor commented that it is not right to give away more than what God has blessed you with. In the Old Testament during the holidays people brought an offering to God that was a portion of what He had blessed them with. That always stuck with me. So my children and family know that I am not trying to compete with anyone during this time, but love and desire to share from what I have been blessed with.

My hope in all this is that my children will remember and have the memories of fun Christmas days, warm family times, special home baked goodies and the love of a God who gave His only Son for their salvation. These are things that they will carry with them in the years to come.

Merry Christmas to all you wonderful Ladies and your families! May Jesus bless each one of you!

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