by Pastor Nick Mance
The holiday season is always one that people remember. From the smells of holiday meals and candle scents, to the cutting of the Christmas tree (or unpacking of it from the garage), to hanging Christmas lights, to opening gifts together, and laughing at all the bad “dad jokes.” The holidays are always memorable and allow for students and parents alike to share in special moments together.
As we draw close to the beginning of the Christmas season, I would encourage you to make the most of the times that you share with one another. These moments together allow for you to establish family traditions that are deep with meaning and value. These moments also resonate with students and children and help them to realize the depth of love that you and Jesus have for them.
We would love to share some of our traditions with you and perhaps give you some ideas for incorporating your own traditions in your families.
“Elise and I love Christmas. It is undoubtedly our favorite time of year. We love everything about it: the hot chocolate, decorating the tree, Christmas music (after Thanksgiving, of course), and giving to others. One of our traditions we love is when we set up our tree. We make hot chocolate with marshmallows, put on Christmas music on Pandora or Spotify, and then sing and dance together as we decorate. We also love giving gifts to each other on Christmas (and sometimes before because I don’t like waiting); but before we do that, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 together and spend time praying. We thank God for all that he has given to us, and praise him for all he has done this past year. Then we individually open gifts from one another and rejoice together. Last year we started another tradition: baking cookies for our neighbors. This started as part of the IMPACT Challenge but has now become something we love to do. It allows us to engage our neighbors and build relationships and then have conversations about Jesus. Everything about Christmas has always been a sweet time of reflecting on Jesus and his gift to us, so all of our traditions are rooted in who Christ is and what he has done for us.”
“We did not have a lot growing up, and I remember a few years where Mom and Dad did not get anything for each other because they sacrificed for their kids. I’ll always be thankful for that. However, we did do a few cool things that I value and remember to this day. There was always special food. For our family with Scandinavian heritage, we tried various things when my grandfather was alive. I tried lutefisk once—ONCE. This did lead to having seafood of some kind around Christmas and New Year’s. Even when we had very little, the three of us kids would always look forward to seafood. We also ate lefsa (imagine a potato-based, crepe-style food) and grandma’s ‘infamous’ layered yellow salad with stringed carrots in it. Needless to say, we don’t do that one anymore. My mom always made her ‘sticky buns,’ and we ate them by the dozen. They were so good.
“In addition to the food, met with mixed anticipation, we revolved our calendar around church activities. We always went to church together, and I remember the sacredness to Christmas. No matter what age I was, going to church at Christmas was different and extra special. My parents continued what happened at church in our home where we always read the Christmas story before opening presents. Dad would embellish the story a little, for dramatic effect, and prolong the ‘agony’ before we could open any presents. Christmas is such a special time; and no matter what Joanna and I do with our kids, the season reminds me of the specific things my parents did to make Christmas a special season. The extra time together, food, and church activities will always be with me. I hope what is happening with our kids will do the same.”
“Growing up, my family’s tradition was to go to Christmas Eve service with Mom’s side of the family, and then we would have our Christmas celebration at Gram and Pap’s house. On Christmas Day, my brother and I would open our gifts together as a family. When we were young, Dad’s parents would come over to see what we got; and then in the afternoon Dad’s side of the family would go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to have Christmas dinner and exchange gifts. A big family tradition on Dad’s side of the family is to hunt the first two days of buck season. Growing up in Mifflin County meant we had those two days off of school, so we would all go to my grandparents’ house and hunt on our farm land. We would go out all day Monday and Tuesday and only come in for lunch and to share any exciting stories.
“Our traditions now are pretty much the same, except we see Mom’s side of the family earlier in the month as well as Dad’s side, and we spend Christmas Day together with my parents. My mom and I now go to Christmas Eve service with my grandma and grandpa, which has been a sweet new tradition. We still go hunting the first two days of buck season with Dad’s side of the family. It’s one of my favorite traditions we do together. Wish me luck this year!!”
These moments allow for us to create space for our families to grow together and develop spiritual rhythms with each other. As our families grow together these traditions begin to become part of our lives and allow us to see Jesus moving in all the moments. Traditions shouldn’t just be something we do, but should have a point and meaning behind them. Whenever these moments present themselves, we should always find ways to bring Christ into them and to point our families to him.
As you begin this holiday season, carve out time to start a new tradition together and build those unique and special moments that will last a lifetime. It could be decorating cookies together as a family, watching Elf together and reconstructing the spaghetti for a “special” meal, singing Christmas carols to your neighbors, wearing matching pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve, reading the Christmas story together on Christmas, giving a special gift to your neighbors, or inviting people over who don’t have family to spend Christmas with yours. The holidays are amazing moments to establish traditions that showcase Christ in what we do and why we do it. My prayer is that your traditions do just that, and that they build lifelong memories for you and your family.