By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
Every family has traditions. Some are so woven into the fabric of family life it may be difficult to even identify them such as watching football after church or eating spaghetti every Thursday night. Other traditions, like taking every family member out for lunch on his or her birthday, are intentionally celebrated. The holidays are where most people associate traditions to family life. Christmas seems to be one of the most apparent environments for family traditions to develop. If I asked you to reflect on traditions that occur in your family’s Christmas season, you might find you have some that began in previous generations. My wife’s family has strong Scandinavian roots, so Christmas always includes Swedish Meatballs, lefse, and lutefisk. However, at our own house, we traditionally make truffle cookies instead of the typical desserts from my wife’s heritage. Our family looks forward to both. Well, all except the lutefisk.
Traditions provide an element of identity to children. Kids associate family traditions as being a part of a unit, a bigger community than just themselves. Participating in the various traditions of faith, culture, and home life allows each member to identify with a larger body of people.
Traditions also provide memory milestones. The Christmas season is often a nostalgic time when we recall the excitement, joy, and anticipation of celebrating Christmas. The season’s fond traditions provide a milestone in our memories, triggered by Christmas music, decorations, or even advertisements.
We thought we’d share a few of the traditions celebrated by several of our staff members. Feel free to comment and share your family’s Christmas traditions, as well!
- After Christmas Eve dinner, Grandpa would read the Christmas Story from Luke before we opened presents
- Our family would enjoy driving around during the Christmas season and look at Christmas light displays and then have a cup of hot chocolate afterwards
- We make a birthday cake for Jesus with our kids
- Christmas Eve dinner includes taco salad
- Every Christmas Eve as a child, we would get ready to attend Christmas Mass, but my dad would always seem to forget something in the house before we left, and magically, when we got back home, we would find Santa had left gifts.
- We would have steak or fondue for Christmas Eve
- For my family these days, I make waffles on Christmas morning every year
- We also did an Advent calendar with the kids when they were young
- Every Christmas Eve, we read the story of Jesus’ birth. My wife’s great-aunt has done this for her family for the past 60 years.
- Since we live away from both our families, we celebrate Christmas 3 times: once with our immediate family before Christmas, once with one side of the family at Christmas (traveling to that home) and then again over New Years’ with the other side’s family (staying our home). We have a lot of family time!
- For our immediate family, we have a Christmas elf that shows up each morning in new spots and silly positions. The kids enjoy trying to figure out where he is at and what he’s been up to. His name is Frank.
- When we celebrate Christmas with our kids, we usually have a pajama day and eat breakfast favorites for supper such as carmel rolls and Swedish tea rings.
Traditions are elements of family life that go beyond just being fun. They can remind us of our identity through the generations, give us a sense of belonging, provide snapshot in our memory bank to recall and share with the next generation, and help us celebrate life together. We hope your family has a very merry Christmas!