Family Traditions4 min read

When I was young, my family had a Christmas tradition that we would do every year after decorating the Christmas tree. We would begin decorating sometime after dinner, which, in Michigan winters, always meant it was already long dark out when we began. With Nat King Cole or other classic Christmas albums playing, we would put the lights on first (okay, my mom would put the lights on, my dad stood nearby helping her and testing and untangling lights, and my brother and I would look through storage bins of Christmas decorations we hadn’t seen in a year, as if they were long lost treasures). Next came the perfectly placed ornaments, and our family’s beautifully hand crafted angel to top the tree. My mom would add the finishing touches of ribbons and bows, while my brother and I followed in tow, in wonder at its perfection. Once the tree was decorated, every year, we would turn off all of the lights, sit together on the couch, and sing “Silent Night” together by the still, soft light of only the Christmas tree. The magic of Christmas, combined with the stillness of a cold winter night, soft light of the Christmas tree, family togetherness, and tradition made these such perfect moments, and now, perfect memories.

Christmas as an adult often looks much different than it does through the eyes of a child. Through the hustle and bustle of this time of year, many more elements seem to be added into the mix. With the chaos of the season, stress of work, holiday travel schedules, and traditions to fulfill, sometimes this time of year looks a lot more overwhelming than “calm and bright.” It is difficult to find those moments of calm, and to slow down and focus. At times, even our traditions, those that are used to celebrate the season, add stress and busyness to our overly-packed schedules. The season becomes a list of tasks: make cookies, buy and wrap presents, decorate the house, go see Santa, attend all the parties. Trying to fit it all in feels like a feat that can only be accomplished by a miracle.

Sometimes, though, our traditions can help us to slow down and remember what it is to simply enjoy the wait of Advent and the joy of Christmastime. Though traditions may end, change, or transition, our remembrance of them can still serve to connect us to Christmases past. While my family does not still uphold the “Silent Night” tradition, in the midst of my chaotic Christmastime, I still find myself enamored by the light of a Christmas tree, and calmed by the silence of winter and that of the soft, ambient light of the tree. I covet the times in the early morning or late evening darkness, when I can sit in silence in my apartment, by only the light of the Christmas tree, and reconnect with God, around whom all of life, and this season particularly, centers.

If our traditions are created with intentionality, to focus on and worship the Christ child or to exemplify family togetherness, then the season will be celebrated with those two things at the heart. As families age and children grow into adults, those traditions, while possibly no longer maintained, may serve as a reminder of what this season is all about: taking the time to slow down, remember the birth of our Savior, and give the gift of presence to our loved ones around us. Amidst the chaos of our lists and shopping, we need to remember to slow down, be present with our families, and focus on the Christ Child who was born to be our Savior. Sometimes, being present—not just physically there, with minds focused on our next task and preparation, but truly present with our children, spouses, and families, and taking time to be in quiet moments with them—is all we need in order to see the meaning of the season. Traditions that become regular habits of the season serve as a perfect way to build that into our seasons.

May our traditions be created with intentionality, and help us to stop and focus this season. Whether it’s family devotions around an advent wreath every day after a family dinner, singing carols in the living room by the tree lights, or simply making cookies together as a family, we pray your advent and Christmas season traditions bring your closer together as a family, and shine the light of Jesus to everyone in your family and everyone you encounter this season.

Many blessings to you this Christmas season and always.

Photo (c) Claudine Chausse/Lightstock



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About the Author

Ashleigh graduated from Concordia University Ann Arbor in 2011 with a degree in Family Life Education, and has been working in congregational ministry as a DFLM for seven years. She has also served with Concordia Center for the Family in various capacities and roles for the last three years. She has a passion for teaching the Gospel, writing, photography, and painting.

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