In our house, we do Christmas a little differently. My husband and I were both raised in homes where we went to midnight Mass as a family and then were up just a few short hours later opening presents. We decided we wanted to do things differently with our family, so we set a few new traditions in place to keep the focus on Christ and not on the secular, materialistic side of the holiday.
We don’t set up our Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. Yep, you read that right! We do our decorating on Christmas Eve in preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is an active preparation, anticipation included. We sing carols and tell each and every story of each ornament as we place them on the tree. We eat treats that have been prepared and simply spend time as a family preparing the way for our Lord.
Once the decorating is done, we all sit down as Tom reads “The Night Before Christmas” to us all. Even our teenagers listen attentively as each word is read. We all snuggle together…yet another opportunity for family bonding. Next comes the reindeer food. Yes, I still make my older kids spread reindeer food on the front lawn. How else are the reindeer going to fly, right? They love it as much as I do…they just don’t admit it.
Now we set out milk and cookies for the big fat man and the kids are off to bed. This is the one night during the year when magically no one needs that one last hug, run to the bathroom, or sip of water. They disappear like cockroaches when the light turns on, not to appear again until morning!
Christmas morning the kids are not allowed to touch a thing! I know, we are so mean…but it is because this is how it has always been that they have realized the day is not about them…it’s about Jesus. We dress in our Christmas best, the girls get their hair done up neatly, the boys wear ties…we actually clean up pretty well. Then it’s off to Mass. We love to go to Mass on Christmas Day because the other Masses are so crowded and noisy, packed with the “twice a year” attendees that it is very hard to focus on what it being said. There are very few people who take the time to venture out to Mass on Christmas Day…usually just our family and the old folks. We like it that way.
After Mass it’s home for a big family brunch. Nope, the kids haven’t touched a thing yet. The gifts aren’t going anywhere. One child puts the baby Jesus into our Nativity scene and is met with loud cheers and clapping! Christ is born! Yay!!! Each child has their own little match box manger with a plastic baby Jesus as well. A dear, sweet lady from our old church sent us the supplies to make these mangers along with a story about how she and her family used to make them at Christmas time many years ago. This is one of our favorite family traditions. Once all of the baby Jesus’ are placed in their mangers…the kids are finally allowed to open their gifts! Each child receives 3 gifts, just like baby Jesus. The gifts are usually very modest, as we remember Jesus came into this world to a poor family and was born in a manger. He chose to come into this world this way rather than to a very wealthy family whose home was full of riches and material things. It’s a running joke in our house that Christmas is the only time we get gifts on someone else’s birthday! After gifts are opened, the cooking commences. We have the usual fare…but dessert is a simple red velvet cake; a birthday cake for baby Jesus.
For many, the Christmas season runs from Black Friday until the day after Christmas. This is when most of the shopping, baking and preparing is done. Once the gifts are unwrapped and out of town family members return home, the tree comes down and it’s back to life as usual. Our Christmas tree stays up until Epiphany, when we remember how the Magi visited the infant Jesus. This, for us, is our Christmas season.
You see, Christmas is not just a day; it’s a condition of the heart. It is a time when we are filled with the hope that the birth of the child Jesus brings. If you have ever been blessed with a child of your own, you know how crazy things are in the days and weeks following your new little one’s birth. Family comes from all over to visit, gifts are brought for the new little blessing, meals are prepared and frozen in order to take care of the family for the next few weeks while Mom and Dad adjust to their new addition…the celebration when a child is born doesn’t simply last one day. Why should it last only one day when we celebrate the birth of Christ?
I am interested in hearing what your favorite family Christmas traditions are! Please feel free to leave them in the comments below! Wishing you all a blessed Christmas season from my family to yours!
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