New Christmas traditions

This year, we have a Christmas tree for the first time.

Well, unless you count the 2-foot tall tree we’ve put up for the past 3 years. Which I don’t, really, since it sits on a table.

This is the first year we won’t be traveling to our families’ for Christmas, so I thought it was fitting that we actually have a tree of our own. My parents had an extra one that was small and manageable and pre-lit, so on Sunday my mom came to visit and we decorated it with the ornaments from Peter’s and my collections that we’ve acquired over the years.

Some favorites include the kissing fish we received from my aunt as a wedding gift:

(Their lips are magnets.)

One of two cupcake ornaments:

And this:

Peter’s first Christmas! Awww.

I hadn’t missed having a tree in the past, but once we started decorating this one I remembered how much fun I always had as a kid admiring all the ornaments on our tree and on my grandparents’ tree. I’m glad we have one of our own this year to bring back memories and create new ones.

How we celebrate Christmas is definitely something that’s going to change a lot once we have kids. Up until now, we’ve spent Christmas Eve usually at my family’s annual gathering at my grandparents’ and Christmas morning at my parents’ house, almost just like it was when we were kids. Then we visit Peter’s family either the weekend before or the weekend after Christmas and do it all again.

But with a child of our own, I think it’s appropriate that we not only have a Christmas tree but that we have our own family celebration. This is made difficult by the fact that we live in a different state than either of our families, and we’ll still want to see them for Christmas. I guess I always had it easy in that almost all of my extended family lives in the Chicago suburbs, so we could see them all Christmas Eve and wake up Christmas morning at our own house. And then even sometimes go back to my grandparents’ because Santa always left us gifts there too.

So I’m not really sure how the where will work logistically, but tonight Peter and I chatted about how we want Christmas to be celebrated with our kids. It probably won’t really matter for a few years, but it’s always good to discuss these things and be intentional about them.

I’m kind of torn between wanting to set a standard for minimal materialism at Christmas and wanting my kids to enjoy all the fun of opening a ton of boxes under the tree. I think we can figure out a middle ground that is fun and keeps the holiday about Jesus. Here are some of the ideas we floated around:

  • Peter’s family has a tradition of reading the Christmas story from the Bible every Christmas morning. We want to carry that on, and probably make that the first thing we do Christmas morning to start things off on the right note.
  • I’ve done a little bit of reading up on the idea of giving three gifts to each child that represent gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold is a gift of high value to the child – the thing they really want. Frankincense is a gift that helps them grow in their relationship with God (a study Bible, worship music, devotional, Christian game… obviously would be very different depending on age). Myrrh is something for the body – perfume, bubble bath, etc. There is more info on the meanings of the gifts in this discussion thread. The myrrh gift still seems a little bit of a stretch to me, but maybe there is some way to adapt this to make it work a bit more fluidly and without missing the point.
  • We like the idea of volunteering as a family around Christmas, but that is the time of year when charities have the most volunteers. Instead, we think it’d be nice to decide as a family on Christmas where we want to do a volunteer project in February, when many organizations are lacking in support.
  • Special homemade family breakfast Christmas morning!
  • Peter is anti-Santa Clause. He doesn’t want to lie to our kids, and thinks it’s just a distraction from the real meaning of the holiday. He’s right. But I think this will be a tough one! Maybe the gold, frankincense and myrrh will be the gifts we get in our family instead of gifts from Santa… or something like that?
  • I read somewhere the idea of hiding Christmas gifts in luggage. Brilliant hiding spot.

Of course, our first child will inevitably have a birthday really close to Christmas, so hopefully we can also come up with a way to make it special and set it apart.

What Christmas traditions do you have/want to have for your family?

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3 thoughts on “New Christmas traditions

  1. becomingcliche says:

    We do a little Santa, but he’s not the main focus. It hasn’t distracted the kids. Littlest knew that Christmas is Jesus birthday before he knew Santa. Choose what you’re most comfortable with.

    We went nuts at Christmas with our first child. Now we have scaled back to a big family present and a couple of small things. They get a ton of stuff from relatives, and it’s nice to not have TOO much clutter!

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  2. Laura B. says:

    And now you get to start a year earlier with those traditions than you thought! 😉 I like the idea of the specific meanings to the gold, frankincense and myrrh gifts. I’d heard of three gifts before, to represent them, but not with such meaning attached to each one. Maybe the myrrh could be an item of clothing they need/want (clothes are for the body, right?), especially now that you know that First Born is a boy (gifts of bubble bath can only only last so long with him…).

    Tim is very anti-Santa, too, but since I know that we’re planning to send Ev and babies beyond to public school, there is that tricky game of not being the parents whose child spoils Christmas for all of the Santa Believers. My plan is to allow her to embrace the story of Santa (in the same way that she can embrace Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer), but not participate in any Santa traditions ourselves. When the questions of “why don’t I get presents from Santa” would come, hopefully she’ll already have accepted that it’s not a real story, and not have to rub it in to all of her friends… :/

    It might be hard to figure out the balance of celebrating with extended family, and setting up your own more nuclear traditions, but it will come, either by choice, or just naturally. It’s wonderful, even though sacrifices in your own expectations will be made, how much more fun it is to share Christmas with your child!

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  3. lynne says:

    I just wanted to comment on something my neighbors did with their kids when they were small (and believed in Santa). Santa only brought each child one present – the rest of the presents under the tree on Christmas morning came from the parents. Their thinking was that way – the kids didn’t believe that Santa would bring them everything they asked for – just one special thing. They would be more appreciative of the fact that it was their parents that were giving them gifts.

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