Saturday, January 1, 2011

Family Traditions #4: Christmas

"Family traditions give identity and belonging to each member." - James Dobson

Most traditions don't happen unless you plan them. December is a very busy time for everyone, so I think this holiday required more planning for our family than any other. There were several times that Jimmy and I sat down and decided to eliminate unnecessary things from our schedule in order to enjoy the things we felt were most important. I pray that we make those decisions every year.

This holiday is filled with opportunities to instill into your children the foundations of our faith. Not all Christians choose to celebrate Christmas, but for us, it was what we made it. I personally am not passionately against Santa Clause, but there is so much that I want to pass on to my boys it just doesn't leave any room for him.

These are the traditions we started with this year. Hopefully we can build upon them as the boys get older.

1. Decorate the Tree Together by December 1: I want our boys to see it as a month long celebration of the birth of our Savior.
November 30th after the boys went to sleep Jimmy and I made some hot punch, turned on the Christmas music, lit a pine candle, and started decorating our tree. I'm not sure if the boys will ever be interested in this part, but either way it is something that Jimmy and I can always do together.
2. Ornaments as Souvenirs: This is part of the reason it is fun to decorate together. Ever since we have been married whenever we went someplace interesting together we would buy an ornament as a souvenir. (Lots of times we find the smallest/cheapest chotchkie that you can tie a string to because once someone slaps the word Christmas on something it gets expensive.) It's fun because these souvenirs don't clutter up your house and once a year you go down memory lane. With the nature of our life, we travel constantly. I can't wait for the boys to start picking them out with us.
This is one of my favorites because of the memory with it. It was from a trip we took to Guate for a doctors appointment. It was the time we found out that we were having 2 boys! They gave me this blue pacifier attached to a birthing class invite.

3. Soccer Socks for Stockings: This one was Jimmy's idea. We all went to the market together and picked out our socks. This year we went with red.
{Silas with his stocking on Christmas morning}

*Another thing we learned about missionary kids while Rick and Mike were here this month is that while not only is it important to carry on the traditions of your home country, kids want to share in the same fun their friends are having celebrating the traditions and holidays of the country where they are growing up. So these next 3 are traditions of Guatemala.*

4. Nance Garland: It took a while for us to find these this year, but 2 days before Christmas Jimmy spotted some. Around here people call them manzanillas. It is little round fruit that you can eat, but I think they are mainly used to make drinks out of. They are strung up as decorations.
We got them up just in time!

5. Ponche: This is hands down Jimmy's favorite tradition! In our family Jimmy always makes the drinks, wether it is coffee, tea, or smoothies. This is the first year we tried this traditional punch, but thankfully we tried it early, so we could enjoy it all month long! Jimmy has made this punch dozens of times in the last 4 weeks.
You boil all kinds of fruit, sugarcane, and cinnamon sticks in water for 30 minutes and then drink it hot. It is YUMMY! Jimmy just went out and bought more ingredients for it today!
Yeah... those are pumpkins in this photo. We started drinking this stuff before Thanksgiving and haven't stopped!

6. Fireworks on Christmas Eve: Here the big day is Christmas Eve. They call it Nochebuena. Everyone waits up until midnight and then sets off fireworks and eats tamales. We cheated a little bit this year. I wanted the boys to see our fireworks so we set them off at 8pm, before the boys' bedtime.
{Silas in his pjs ready for the show!}
{Jonah ready for the fireworks!}
Later we went back out at midnight. Our little town was lit up! I love the smell of fireworks! (This is our dogs' least favorite tradition)

7. Open One Present on Christmas Eve: This is a tradition handed down from Jimmy's family. On Christmas Eve they would all open one family present. It was always some type of game that they would play together. Soon the boys will be old enough to be included in this one, but this year it was a card game that we played with my parents the entire time they were here.
Thank you to Arlen and Keturah for teaching this to us!

8. A Birthday Cake for Jesus: This one is a tradition from my family. My mom and I always made a cake for Jesus together. This year my mom brought down an Angel food cake mix. I don't have a tube pan, so I used 2 tortilla pans.
My assignment for next year is to learn how to make one from scratch and find a tube pan!

9. Attention to the Little Things the Boys Might Miss: This year we thought of 2 things. The first one was that there are no real Christmas trees around here, so we faked it as much as possible with a pine candle. Scents are a big part of memories. Maybe next year I will be able to at least find some pine branches to put in our house.
The second thing that they are not around is Christmas carols in English. Every night as part of our Bedtime routine we sing a hymn together (I want my boys to know them), so it was easy to flip through the hymnal and find Christmas carols for the month of December.

10. Our Advent Calendar: Growing up my dad always read the Christmas story on Christmas morning, which I loved, so I wanted our boys to experience that all month. I decided to go with advent calendar devotions.
I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I broke up the Christmas story, Christ's Genealogy, and why we need a Saviour into 25 mini devotions. I'm posting our outline if anyone wants to take it and run with it. Each day has an idea for an ornament and a passage to go with it. Baby Jesus is the last ornament for Christmas morning.
I. The Need for a Saviour
Dec 1: Apple - Romans 3:23; 6:23 Adam, sin / Need for a Saviour

II. Why God Sent Jesus
Dec 2: Emanuel (in words) - Matt 1:22-23 God With Us
Dec 3: Candy Cane (staff) - John 10: 14-15 The Good Shepherd
Dec 4: Wreath (circle) - John 17:3 God sent Jesus to give us eternal life
Dec 5: Family Photo - Gal 4:4-5 Jesus came so God could adopt us

III. Parts of Jesus’ Family Tree
Dec 6: Tent - Gen 12:1-3 Abraham / Through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed
Dec 7: Ram - Gen 22:1-14 (vs.8) Isaac / John 1:29 Lamb of God
Dec 8: Ladder - Gen 28:10-14 Jacob / John 14:6 the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Dec 9: Scarlet Rope - Joshua 2:1-21 Rehab / Eph. 2:12-14 Blood of Christ
Dec 10: Wheat/Bread - Ruth 4: 13-17 Boaz and Ruth / John 6:35 Bread of Life
Dec 11: Crown - II Samuel 5:1-5 David / I Tim 6:15 King of Kings

IV. The Christmas Story
Dec 12: Mary - Matt 1:18 Mary is a virgin and becomes pregnant
Dec 13: Joseph - Matt 1:20 Angel speaks to Joseph
Dec 14: Jesus (in words) - Matt. 1:21 Name Him Jesus
Dec 15: Donkey - Luke 2:1-5 Joseph descendant of David / Census
Dec 16: Angels - Luke 2:8-11 Angels appear to shepherds
Dec 17: Manger - Luke 2:12-14 Recognize Him lying in a manger
Dec 18: Shepherds - Luke 2:15-20 Shepherds go to see Jesus
Dec 19: Bethlehem - Matt 2:1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem as prophesied by Micah 5:2
Dec 20: Wise Men - Matt 2:2 Wise men look for Jesus / Herod
Dec 21: King Herod - Matt 2:3-8 Herod lies
Dec 22: Star - Matt 2:9 Wise men follow star
Dec 23: 3 Gifts - Matt 2:10-11 Gifts
Dec 24: Camel - Matt 2:12 God protects Jesus
Dec 25: Baby Jesus - Luke 2:6-7 Jesus is born!
Our calendar is made of burlap and rope. For now I just printed off some small pictures, colored them, and laminated them. Hopefully one year the boys can make some special homemade ones.
This was so much fun for us as a family. The boys quickly caught on to our routine. Each morning after our devotion as soon as we walked out of their bedroom door with the ornament, they would reach out ready to hang it on the tree.
They may not understand much of it yet, but it will be familiar next year when we do it. It will have always been a part of our family's Christmas. In the future we hope to attach a family activity to each day that we can enjoy together in the evenings.

11. Serving Together: The boys were out there with us in Santa Rita. Our goal is to always be able to serve the Lord together as a family.
Since that was the main thing the grownup MK's mentioned, it has to be a tradition!

12. Yearly Family Photo Ornament: It is obvious I love photos. I am a very visual person. My mother-in-law gave me several empty photo frame ornaments last year, so I thought it would be fun to document our family as the years go by!
I put the year on the back.

13. The Food: Specific food is a big part of each holiday. The only permanent thing we decided on this year was french toast for breakfast. It is easy and doesn't take any prep work.
Next year maybe we can pick a traditional Christmas dinner. The main problem this year was that our grocery store stops restocking after the first of the month, so I am going to have to buy everything in November next year. By the middle of the month we were eating weird cheese, butter, meat, using really cheap trash bags, and were all out of yeast. Lesson learned!
My mom brought down cookies that she used to make every Christmas. I was thrilled to receive these! It just reiterated to me how special the little things are in your family!


  1. I love this post! It's SO important to have traditions with your children and it sounds like you've done a lot of planning for it.

    We mix the traditions from Canada and Guatemala, as well. I think they need something from each culture, but it's interesting to hear what adult MKs have to say about it, too. And I love bringing bits of my childhood into their lives. :)

  2. This will be one of my favorite posts! I am so appreciative of the fact that my grandchildren are being raised to know Christ and who he is early on. We are thankful for what you are doing in Guatemala even though we miss you terribly!


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