Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December Holiday Traditions

In a week, a niece will be marrying and I wonder what Christmas holiday traditions she will carry on and make new with her fiancé. I know one of her mother's (my sister) traditions was to purchase dated Christmas ornaments at every place they traveled to on vacation.
When David and I married, we made the mistake of not talking about how we wanted to celebrate the holidays with each other and our parents. David just assumed that I would go along with his family's traditions and his toe tripped over a speed bump when he discovered his bride had some wishes of her own in addition to both our parents expecting us to celebrate the holidays with them that first Christmas. Oops!
One thing common to both of us was that we had celebrated Christmas together with our extended families -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We decided that we wanted to continue that tradition, however, deciding who got first dibs without ruffling feathers became a major struggle as both of our parents lived in the same metro area and our grandparents lived out of town in opposite directions. A few years ago, I read of a couple of capital ideas I wish we could have implemented in the beginning of our journey together as man and wife -- alternate holidays every month on an annual basis (I'd have to write it in on my calendar so I wouldn't forget) or make one holiday such as Thanksgiving a paternal holiday always and Christmas a maternal one or visa versa.
My family stayed home for most of the holidays during the year and celebrated them together, along with school parties. We were only able to visit my grandparents in southwestern Kansas and the panhandle of Oklahoma two times a year as they lived an 8-10 hour drive away. First my parents and siblings would open gifts at home, around my brother's birthday on the 21st, then drive to the Kansas grandparents, spending several days there and then going on to the Oklahoma grandparents before returning home. We had three Christmas' in one!
Some of my favorite memories from those times are -- looking up and seeing the "great star" (Jupiter and another planet's conjunction) in the sky as from a mattress in my folk's station wagon (mom and dad almost always made up a bed for us four kids so we could sleep while they drove all night); getting out of school because of a blizzard that roared through Oklahoma; playing with our cousins; attending church with our grandparents and seeing old friends; Christmas dinner; watching for familiar towns along the way down and the mounting excitement of being almost there and the alternate -- the growing homesickness as we pass those same towns coming back and the longing to be home; and watching my grandmother's eyes mist with tears as they waved goodbye to us. My grandparents have all graduated to heaven and as I write this, I miss them very much and know I won't be able to celebrate holidays with them again until I meet them in the sky.
David's immediate family spent the night at his paternal grandparent's home and woke up at dawn on Christmas morning to open gifts. Then in the afternoon, they would all pile in the car to go visit his mother's parents. He said his favorite memory was hanging out with all his cousins. And let me tell you, he has quite a few in Cole and Miller Counties, MO.
Some of our blended Christmas traditions came when we had our son. I found a recipe for a Christmas cottage in the newspaper and we'd get together, either with his cousins or his homeschool friends and make them from poptarts, frosting, and Christmas candies. It's very much like a gingerbread house.
We also had a birthday party for Jesus with cake and ice cream after my aunt gave our son a book about celebrating Jesus' birthday with a party. We made Christmas ornaments together and exchanged them with friends' homemade ones. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we drove around to see the lights and generally, we'd wait until after Thanksgiving, usually on my birthday to decorate the house for Christmas. We also collected one or two Christmas books or videos a year and sit and read or watch them together before Christmas day. And we still love to play games and put puzzles together with our friends and family  Christmas evening!
At my Kansas grandparents we would open gifts after Christmas dinner at noon and only after all the dishes were done and she read the Christmas story from her Bible. It seemed like it took forever before we actually got to open the gifts, but imagine our son's excitement when he was allowed as a first time reader to read his shortened version of the Christmas story at his Grandma's house! After all, Jesus is the reason for this season!
As preschool Sunday School teachers, David and I have participated in our home church's children's pageant -- me helping with costumes and David/stage and props. In previous years, we participated in a Living Nativity (next time you see David ask him how cold it gets without long handles under a costume and about the braying donkey) and choir cantatas. This year we're reading a new devotional book called "Anticipate: An Advent Experience" by Paul Sheneman and published by Beacon Hill Press. I'm decorating paper tags based on this book's Jesse Tree symbols called "24 tags of Christmas" to hang on my Christmas tree. This would be a good book to have for your own family tradition of celebrating Advent preceding Christmas. A Jesse Tree is a version of an advent calendar.
Hey Family, I would love it if you would add your favorite Christmas memories to the comment section below. Thanks!

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