Christmas: Then & Now

[Ok, obviously I lied. I said at the end of my last post that I would be back on Thursday and seeing as it's Monday, that didn't happen. Sickness is a real thing and it is not so fun. My apologies!]

I love traditions. The excitement and anticipation of something consistent and meaningful is unrivaled. My childhood was filled with traditions---over the top, decorated kitchen on our birthdays, baked chicken, lasagna, or Taco Bell after church on Sundays, singing songs (hymns, Christmas tunes, Disney themes, etc) around the piano while my sister played. I especially remember traditions we had surrounding Christmas---decorating for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving, driving around to see Christmas lights, visiting the Hackley & Hume houses in Muskegon, participating in Christmas activities at church, Christmas Eve with family friends, and Christmas day with extended family. I really am overwhelmingly thankful for the childhood I had. My parents didn’t have high paying careers but I never felt like I was missing out on anything. I always felt like my physical and emotional needs were being met and I’m grateful that my faith and my parents’ love have been constants throughout my entire life.

As I have transitioned into creating my own traditions, especially since becoming a mom over five years ago, it seems only natural to reflect on what I have loved about past traditions and what we’d like to incorporate into our family now. Of course, there are many traditions that have carried over and I’m sure we will continue to add more traditions as our boys get older. I think there is so much value in consistency and, well, that statement can be applied to many facets of life beyond ‘tradition’. Consistency. Reliability. Dependability. As a child, I remember there being certain seasons of life that were filled with uncertainty (job loss, cancer diagnoses, church upheavals, loss of friends), yet I always knew that I could rely on certain traditions, certain positive habits that my family had established. Seeing as it’s the Christmas season right now (and the time of year that is FILLED with traditions), I thought I’d share some things that we do each year and some thoughts for the future.

--Buy (and decorate) a REAL Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Oh, and we have to buy it at Lowe’s. You see, the first Christmas that my husband and I were married, we were determined to start a tradition of cutting down our own tree. The day came...and it was a blizzard. And we really really wanted our tree. So we drove to Lowe’s and, people, it was SO EASY. Bam. Tradition created.

--Set up porcelain winter village on the back of the piano. Even if I forget how to play the piano and my boys never want to play the piano, I will always own one just for the purpose of decorating it at Christmas time. My mom always set up her winter village at Christmas time on the back of our childhood piano. I am now the proud owner of that same winter village and, honestly, I’m getting teared up just thinking about how special it is that my mom would gift that to me. My oldest son has helped me organize all of the buildings and trees and figures and we are continuing to create such special memories. Thanks, Mom. :-)

--Put up A LOT of Christmas decorations. I really don’t know how to expand on this one. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I mean, we have four Christmas trees inside our house, if that helps your mental image of “A LOT”.

--Drive around multiple times throughout the month of December to look at Christmas lights. We have so much fun doing this. My five year old actually started pointing out (IN JULY!) neighborhoods he wanted us to drive through during Christmas season to see the lights. I love it!

--See the trains at Breton Village. Sadly, it’s the final year for this so if you haven’t done this, NOW IS THE TIME!

--Watch these movies: The Polar Express, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the original), Rudolph (the original), Frosty the Snowman (the original), Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, The Holiday, The Family Man, Home Alone, White Christmas, & It’s A Wonderful Life (on Christmas Eve---always on Christmas Eve). (My husband insists Harry Potter qualifies, too, but that seems debatable to me.)

--Daily countdowns: 1) Paper countdown chain & 2) Advent barn (yes, an actual barn) that we fill with candy at the beginning of each Christmas season

--Send out Christmas cards. I will never be able to top the Christmas cards my parents sent out when we were growing up, but it’s still something I enjoy doing. My dad would write the Christmas/annual update letter from the perspective of our neurotic black labrador and I wish I had a letter to share with you. Trust me, you would be highly entertained.

Phew! I’m sure there’s more but I’d say that covers most of our Christmas traditions. We LOVE Christmas (obviously) but more than that, we love creating memories with our boys. It was so meaningful for me this year when our oldest son actually remembered things from last year that he wanted to make sure we didn’t forget to do this year. I strongly desire to create a wonderful childhood for him and his brother that doesn’t require buckets of money or fancy gadgets in order to still be happily memorable. Love. Support. Consistency. Reliability. Joy. It really isn’t as hard as we make it sometimes, is it? I’m saying this to myself, too! How easy can it be sometimes to let ourselves get caught up in what we want/wish/envy? I have been there and still find myself there sometimes but what do we usually find there? Is it happiness or fulfillment or love? No way. It’s usually sadness or anger or jealousy or stress. Most likely, we will always be able to find someone who can afford something that we can’t afford or makes time for something that we can’t make time for or this or that. I love this quote from Ann Voskamp that I shared on my Instagram page a few days ago: “Busy is a choice. Stress is a choice. Joy is a choice. Choose well.” Choose well, for what you choose will often be what you remember most about the memories you are making.

Hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about my favorite Christmas traditions! May you have a joyous holiday season, making beautiful memories with those you love and remembering to focus on what really matters in life---the people, not the things.

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