There is something special about being able to say, “We always…” It is a bond, an assurance, a connection between people. Whatever it is that “we always” do is our tradition and traditions matter, especially around the holidays.
Most families in the Owensboro area celebrate with Christmas trees and special treats and gift-giving, but a few of us are saying “we always” with some unique traditions.
Many families follow the tradition of setting out a Nativity scene complete with the baby Jesus, the proud parents and various livestock. At my house, rather than being set up all month, our Nativity scene fills up a little at a time. Similar to “Elf on the Shelf,” last year we started a new tradition of playing “Mary and Joseph on the Shelf.” Throughout December, we place the Mary and Joseph figures from our Nativity around the house as a representation of their long journey to Bethlehem. They enter the stable on December 24th and baby Jesus and the shepherds show up on Christmas Day. We keep our Nativity scene out for a few more weeks to wait for the traditional visit of the Three Wise Men celebrated on January 6th.
Salvador and Sarah Vanegas celebrate Christmas with many of the traditional customs of Salvador’s home country, El Salvador. In their family, the big event is a family meal on Christmas Eve with traditional foods like tamales and panes con pollo. There are no presents exchanged at Christmas, but everyone wears new clothes for a big family picture and at midnight, they all embrace and wish each other, “Feliz Navidad!”
On Christmas Eve at the home of Matt and Nikki Wimpelberg the tradition is that each person gets to open one gift before bedtime. Often that gift is a new pair of pajamas. These new pj’s are put on immediately for sleeping and then stay on while enjoying Christmas morning.
Brad and Jeni Goodall and their girls also get new clothes at Christmas time, but they use them to put a little humor in their annual Christmas card. Rather than the typical red and green turtlenecks, the Goodalls choose a theme and dress in costume for the family photo. In the past they have been elves, Disney personalities, and characters straight out of a Thomas Kincade painting. Last year the entire family dressed up as Star Wars characters. How fun it must be for their family and friends to be surprised by their photos each year!
Many families like to use Christmas as an opportunity for active family fun. While special foods and treats are still an important part of the celebration, they also plan some sort of nature adventure on that day so that they will be sure to step away from the table. Keith and Krysti Piersawl share this love of outdoor activities on holidays. Their family uses almost every holiday as an excuse to take a hayride around Krysti’s family’s farm checking out the changing seasons and appreciating the beautiful landscape.
If you are looking for a way to reemphasize the Christmas story with your family this year, you should check out “Inspired Traditions” on Etsy.com. Local Etsy shop owner, Beverly Smith, makes and sells Jesse Tree Ornaments. These lovely handmade pieces are a guide through the Advent Season with references from the Old and New Testament to share the lineage of Jesus, and the whole of God’s perfect plan throughout the Bible. Bev and her family add an ornament to their Jesse Tree each day in the month of December in anticipation of the celebration of Christmas.
If you are tempted to think that your family does not have any traditions, take a closer look. What movies do you always watch? What songs do you always enjoy together? What special food is always on the table? What special people do you always get to see? These simple things are what makes holidays sweet.
I know that Christmas Eve would not be the same in my family if my father did not sit on the couch piled with his kids and grandkids to read Twas the Night Before Christmas. It is a tradition that I took for granted while growing up, but now I can see the importance of this small gesture. It is a precious moment that we get to relive year after year.
No matter how your family decides to celebrate the holidays, your traditions are what binds your family together through shared experiences. There is just something special about saying, “We always…”