Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 Traditions To Add To Your Christmas Bucket List

I have known many people with Christmas tree traditions.  My grandmother, for instance, always liked to have a small cedar tree cut out in the country (usually a family member's land).  Her tree never looked like most peoples, but I learned that it was an old fashioned custom.  One year we actually cut a tree for our Christmas from a relative's property.  It was probably the nicest I remember.  The cedar tree shown is covered in clowns because I had just finished my teaching internship and the kindergarten class (whose mascot was a clown) made clown ornaments for me.  This was great since I was newly married and had few ornaments at the time.  My husband and I also strung popcorn.  I remember him being much better at it than I.

A Real Cedar Tree
Another friend always got a real, flocked tree.  All of her ornaments were "Santa" inspired.  A beautiful tree I once saw was covered in a huge collection of teddy bears.  I wish I had taken a picture (that might be a nice tradition)!  Here is a picture of a similar tree.

But the tradition that made the most impact on me was my neighbor Debbie's tree.  She always had it shipped in from up north, and every single ornament was home made.  So of course, I have spent the last twenty-two years making home made ornaments for my trees (some have been given to me).  This blog is on the importance of traditions which is described as the following:

"Traditions are a strengthening influence.  They are the supporting 'beams' in a family built to last forever.  What a family feels together will mold them in an eternal way.
Traditions can be information, beliefs, or customs handed down from one generation to another by either word of mouth or example.  They can be enjoyed in all seasons and for many reasons.  Good family traditions can teach good principles.  

A special time for traditions is Christmas where we anticipate the festivities, observe the birth of the Savior, and share expressions of love through giving."  (Creative Homemaking for Happy Living, Relief Society Homemaking Booklet, 1984 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 146-148)

Here are eight Christmas traditions from Creative Homemaking for Happy Living that our family has tried and made a few of them lasting traditions.

  1. Organize a notebook into sections for spiritual Christmas stories and poems, beautiful Christmas cards showing the nativity, pictures of the Christmas trees from past years, and stories and pictures of memorable occasions.  Then leave the book where everyone can look through it and enjoy it.
  2. Have an "Old Fashioned Christmas"  by stringing popcorn and cranberries for the tree.  Go caroling to friends and neighbors.  Cut your own tree, (maybe on a friend's property).   Make a fruitcake.  Give handmade gifts.
  3. Learn about "Christmas in Other Lands" by learning customs of other countries which are a part of your heritage.  Incorporate these customs which are appropriate into your celebration.  Decorate with various items acquired from other countries.  Prepare recipes of foods that are traditional in other lands.
  4. Observance of Christmas can (and should) include the story of the Savior's birth from the scriptures.  Display a beautiful nativity scene and/or act out the story, read by Christmas tree light, and listen with soft Christmas music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the background. 
  5. Give a gift to Jesus.  This can be a renewed commitment written down or an expression of gratitude for blessings received.  Place these in a wrapped box under the tree as the first gift.  On Christmas eve open the box and have each person tell about his gift to the Savior.
  6. Make a birthday cake for Jesus.  On slips of paper write different acts of service or love that could be shown to individuals.  Wrap each slip in waxed paper and insert in the baked cake.  Frost the cake and decorate.  (I like the idea of baking charms in the cake to represent these).  When the cake is served, each person tells how he can perform the particular one he received.
  7. Choose a "secret friend" to do things for during the holidays keeping the giving anonymous.  This was done for our family one year when we were "dirt poor."  We didn't plan on having a tree because our children were still babies and we couldn't afford it.  We came home to find a real Christmas tree with some decorations already on it on our front porch.  Some treat or gift was left for us during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas day.  It helped restore our faith during such a hard time.
  8. I love to hear my husband tell stories from his childhood.  I always say he should write a book because he did some hilarious things!  Recording these conversations, especially memories of Christmas' past can be a special gift to give your children.  My grandma's personal history is extensive enough to be published and she had the most interesting childhood to read about.  This would be a great gift for grandparents to give as well.

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