Christmas brings such a nostalgic feel to my senses. The visual change of the season with the onset of prolonged nights. The long overdue scent of balsam, the taste of freshly baked bread and spiced cookies, the sounds of holiday music and the cozy feel of a warm, fluffy blanket. All things that drive me into a season of celebration and rest. Traditions have a place of honor here in our home as it helps us center on the joy of Emmanuel and can oddly ground us as a family. Our traditions bring remembrance, starting points, and a little laughter into the mist of my ever growing “to done” list.
As our years of raising littles has passed, I find myself telling younger moms, “Concentrate on the culture you’re creating in your home. Your children will remember the culture, however good or bad, and will learn from it.” This is not to elevate perfection but a nudge to encourage families to create rhythms that will be remembered fondly. For the holidays, traditions can signal the beginning of Christmas and the winter season. Putting up the tree, making the first hot cocoa with peppermint sticks, the chocolate Advent calendar, the Jesse Tree, tucking small children into bed by candlelight. Small things that can leave comfortable memories for years to come.
Scripture tells us that God also created a culture of tradition for His people. These traditions were established to help generations upon generations remember His goodness, care, and provision over them. We can do the same in our own families and I will say from experience, it’s so fun and grounding. Traditions do not need to be elaborate and can honestly be as simple as sleeping under the tree on Christmas Eve. The point being traditions can have a positive place in our celebrations and help settle the chaos that we also carry this time of year.
I’ll share one such tradition that has become a reference of fun for our family. Every Christmas eve, after an evening candlelight service at church and a yummy, shared meal, our now grown kids disappear into the back hallway as Chad and I hide the ever so small pickle ornament on our Christmas tree. It’s a silly little thing, but so fun! The four of them and now two spouses begin the very competitive game of finding the pickle. Sometimes it can take a while and I’m often afraid they’re going to knock off ornaments in the process. But eventually a winner emerges with howls of victory and complaints of “you cheated” – it’s all a great time! It’s grounding, it’s silly, it’s fun, it kicks off Christmas eve and it brings us together.
Now, this is not to say that traditions won’t change as we walk into different seasons of life and I’m confident they will. But for now, finding the pickle in the tree every Christmas eve will continue. Sitting by the fire as I tell our grown children, “Be careful, you’re too close to the fireplace”. Coffee, cinnamon rolls, and stockings will always have their signature first place on Christmas morning. It’s a culture; a way of life at Christmas - safe, expected, and comfortable. All the things we’ve been hoping to cultivate in our home. What traditions at the holidays bring delight to your family? What small gifts can be seen as markers of time, beginnings of comfort, a habit of joy? Rest in them, let them pivot as time progresses and champion the rhythms in your own families as you and yours create a home marked by traditions for good.