There is no one right way to celebrate Christmas

Traditions help make holidays special. We look forward to the things we “always” do, the seasonal foods, events, activities, decorations.

But as busy as everyday life is, adding in all the holiday extras can increase pressure. Every year brings tips about managing Christmas. But this year I have seen a new emphasis, calling for a more minimalist approach to the holidays: less spending, less decorating, less going and doing.

Most of us truly appreciate finding ways to reduce pressure. We shouldn’t keep doing things just because that’s what we’ve always done. It might be best to discard traditions that have become burdensome rather than joyful or rotate some so that we’re not overwhelmed.

But some of the posts I have read on this topic cause me to fear a new judgmentalism, a looking down on those who don’t do less.

If a minimalist approach appeals to you, that’s fine. But the person who enjoys putting out all 32 pieces of a Christmas village because she loves the way they look and she remembers the people who gifted her with the pieces one by one through the years shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

What everyone does for Christmas depends on how many people are in the family, how much time, energy, and money is available, personal preferences, etc.

One person likes to put out just a handful of decorations. Another likes to display every Christmas item she has accumulated for 30 years or put trees of various sizes in every room.

One family’s Christmas dinner might look like any other meal, with the exception of pumpkin pie for dessert. Another likes to go all out with special dishes for the season.

One family prefers no gifts or a gift to a charity in their name. Another saves up for months or shops all year for gifts.

Some like to hit all the Christmas performances and events they can. Others prefer quiet nights at home by the fire with hot chocolate and Christmas movies. Most of us are somewhere in-between.

None of these is wrong one way or the other.

Most of us find that some traditions change through the years. We’ve added some and discarded others over time. We made Christmas cookies when my sons were young. Then one year we just didn’t get to it – but no one seemed to notice. We have so many sweets that time of year, we didn’t suffer for not having cookies. But with a young grandson now, it’s fun to revive that tradition. We used to do a birthday cake for Jesus mainly for the kids to remember Whose birthday it was. But in later years we stopped. One year we had an elementary Christmas piano recital on Monday night, a high school piano recital Tuesday, church on Wednesday night, an elementary school Christmas program Thursday night, and a high school Christmas program Friday night. That week was probably bookended by Christmas cantatas and children’s Christmas programs at church on Sundays. Talk about exhausting. Fun, but exhausting. Thankfully our church and school adjusted their calendars after that. But in those years of so much to attend, we didn’t go to many community events. Since our kids are grown, we have been able to venture out and try a few new things. Some have laid aside the tradition of Christmas cards and family newsletters, but I will determinedly keep sending them as long as I can because I enjoy both sending and receiving greetings

The point is, there is no one right way to celebrate Christmas. We have to be careful that we don’t impose the solutions we find for our family onto everyone else. It’s up to each family or individual to assess all the factors involved and decide what works best.

We can commemorate the birth of our Savior in many ways. Let’s not judge each other on how we do it. Let’s just each work on keeping the focus of Christmas where it ought to be: remembering that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday,Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

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Christmas traditions

hfch04fpcollage.gifEarlier in the month someone, I can’t remember who, was hosting a meme about Christmas traditions. I didn’t have time to write then, and didn’t think we had all that many, but as we have gone through the month I’ve noted several things that we almost always do, and I guess that’s what traditions are made of. 🙂

Jim doesn’t like to put the Christmas tree up after Thanksgiving, especially years like this one when we have an extra week in November. So we try to aim for the first Saturday in December. We all go out and pick the tree, always a real one. When we lived in GA we found a place where you could cut your own, and that was fun. Then we bring it home and the boys get the Christmas boxes from the attic while Jim gets the tree into its holder. We put on a Christmas CD (this year a new one of piano renditions of both sacred and “fun” carols called “It’s Christmas” by Kenon Renfrow); Jim and the boys figure out the lights while I put out some of the decorations, and then we all put ornaments on the tree. The boys enjoy putting out the ones they’ve been given over the years and of course we all enjoy commenting or exclaiming over various ones each year.

Through the month there are various programs and recitals in connection with school and church. It got to be a bit much when we had kids in high school and elementary school and therefore double the things to go to. They were always enjoyable once we got there, but just the number of evenings taken up with such things got to be kind of stressful. One year we had church Sunday night, the elementary piano recital Monday night, secondary piano recital Tuesday night, prayer meeting Wednesday, elementary Christmas program Thursday night, and secondary Friday night. That about did this homebody in. 🙂 Now I do kind of miss the elementary ones — but not enough to go to without having a child of my own in them. Our kid’s choirs at church do usually do a Christmas program one Sunday night in December that we enjoy, and the adult choir does a cantata every year. Our adult Sunday school class has a party and the kids’ classes usually have some kind of party of Christmas event as well.

The last few years we’ve gone to Hollywild Animal Park’s Holiday Lights Safari and seen all the neat light displays and fed animals.

I like to watch some Christmas movie every year, but not always the same one. We’ve varied between A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version), It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas.

I make Harvest Loaf cake every year, but usually a couple of weeks before Christmas. Often I give away extra loaves of it. I don’t know how it got started, but Jim loves Chicken in a Biscuit crackers around Christmas time, and I get the canned spray cheese for them. My mom used to send those sausage, cheese, and cracker packages, so we’ve gotten into the habit of having something like that around for munchies during December, along with store-bought eggnog (I can’t stand the stuff, but Jim, Jason, and Jesse like it). We used to make Christmas butter cookies every year — we had gotten away from it just due to busy-ness, and now the boys are probably too old for it. I don’t know — they might still enjoy it. I also have a recipe for gingerbread teddy bears that I make sometimes and wanted to this year, but haven’t yet.

No one here wants a big sit-down breakfast on Christmas morning, and since we like to take time opening presents and I have low blood sugar, I can’t wait til afterward. My solution the past few years has been to get one package of Sister Schubert’s sausage rolls and one package of the same brand of cinnamon rolls, warm them up in the morning and set them out with some fruit, and everyone wanders in the kitchen and gets some whenever they feel the urge.

Christmas morning we gather in the living room and Jim reads the Christmas story and prays. Then we open gifts usually one by one or each person working on one at a time, and we show each other as we go along. We like to take our time and enjoy it along the way rather than just having an opening frenzy. The Christmas tree and presents are in the living room while the stockings are downstairs in the family room (there’s a mantle and fireplace there), so ate some point when all the gifts are open we go down to investigate the stockings.

When the boys were little I used to make a birthday cake for Jesus to help them remember in a way they could relate to whose birthday we were celebrating. We haven’t done that in a number of years. Usually on Christmas day we have ham, either mashed potatoes and gravy or some kind of cheesy potato casserole, either a salad or steamed broccoli or a vegetable mix, rolls, apple and pumpkin pies. We eat around noon or 1:00, then fix a plate of leftovers or sandwiches in the evening.

Then usually in the evenings we’ll call grandparents. This is when I miss my mom the most.

Jim usually has vacation days enough left to take the whole week off.

We’ve never done Santa Claus. I was originally going to write a whole separate post on this, but wanted to do it before Christmas, and time’s running out. I used to be militantly against Santa, but I have known some godly people who do incorporate him into Christmas in good conscience and still feel they keep the main focus on Christ, so I have softened up a bit. It’s one of those things that each family should consider and do as they feel led before the Lord. But for our family we felt that a strong emphasis on Santa put the wrong perspective on the holiday. We do look forward to gifts, but when the kids were little I hated that they were met everywhere with, “What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?” Plus, though rewards aren’t in themselves wrong and every parents has used them, the whole idea of being good so you can get presents felt wrong to me: I wanted to teach my children to be good as unto the Lord. Though gifts are a big part of Christmas, we wanted the main focus to be on God’s gift to us of His Son ad the salvation He freely offers.

I do have problems with trying to get children to believe this whole false mythology about Santa (and some put an awful lot of effort into getting their kids to believe) only to have their kids find out it all wasn’t true. I don’t know if any kids have been seriously traumatized enough by that to disbelieve everything else their parents taught them, but, still, it just doesn’t seem right to me.

And besides, I don’t want to give Santa the credit for bringing those gifts! I want my kids to know they came from us because we love them.

I think it is good to teach about the original real St. Nicholas, but I do think young children have problems connecting that to the Santa figure of today.

Over the years we’ve regulated Santa to a fairy tale character. We’ve watched Rudolph and other specials and tried to keep our kids from spoiling it for other kids. I think when children are young they want to believe in something like that. I remember when the boys used to watch Superman cartoons, once Jesse said longingly that he wished there really was a Superman. I was startled and tried to explain that God is so much better in so many ways than any made-up superhero, and I do think he agreed and understood, but he was still a little reluctant to let go of that wish. I don’t want my children so enamored of a made-up character that the real wonder of the real God — who loves us and has done so much for us and is ready to hear and answer every prayer according to His will and meet every need — loses its luster.

Well, those are our traditions. We kind of hold loosely to most — I think traditions help family cohesiveness, but I never want to become enslaved to them or to the thought that it just won’t be a “perfect” Christmas if this or that isn’t done. Whatever we do we try to keep the main focus on love — God’s for us, ours for Him, and ours for each other.

May you have a wonderful Christmas celebrating God’s love for you.

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