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Traditions of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come

Boy holding lit candle by Christmas tree

I have many memories of childhood Christmases. I remember the most the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Each year, the same decorations hung on the walls and the windows of our home, while classic carol melodies played and the scent of smoke from the Lionel train filled the air.

I remember looking forward to the long car trip to my grandparents’ house and the Christmas Eve basement parties. There I would play with cousins and sneak finger Jell-O from the dinner buffet.

Sometimes we would go to Christmas Eve services, where as a child I was allowed to hold a candle. I’d sing hymns while wax dropped on my fingers. As I got older, our family grew. We’d visit with extended family, circle around the piano and sing carols lead by my grandfather’s deep but sweet voice.

Even as I write this now, I am surprised by how much I remember and how clear those memories are, as if it were yesterday. In my everyday life there are things I forget, like where I put my checkbook or whether it’s my turn to carpool. Yet these memories, these traditions, are not easily forgotten.

Traditions are activities we engage in time and time again. They are powerful because they stay in our memories, shape our lives, and can span generations. They lift us out of the ordinary and herald the arrival of something significant.

Some traditions are created intentionally. Others are set into motion by simply doing what we enjoy together as a family.

Traditions are important because they strengthen family bonds. They provide comfort and security, connect generations, and create a sense of belonging. They teach values and allow us to emphasize what is truly important.

Now that I have a family of my own, there are new traditions I look forward to each year, such as counting the days of Advent and watching my children make chocolate chip cookies with their dad.

Carrying on a family tradition we both happen to share, my husband and I set up a train beneath our tree. I can count on exchanging holiday pajamas on Christmas Eve and playing my dad’s homemade games on Christmas Day.

The way we celebrate the birth of Christ continues to evolve.

We kicked off this holiday season by packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. The kids plan to make homemade gifts for family members, learn to play a Christmas carol on the piano, and read books by the fire.

Our Christmas library continues to grow. This year we added Peace on Earth, written and illustrated by Mary Engelbreit. The delightful storybook captures the true meaning of the holiday with a beautifully illustrated collection of stories, poems, carols, and quotes. This book is a perfect compliment to a hot cup of cocoa and a snuggly blanket.

Also new, and already a favorite, is The Perfect Christmas Pageant by Joyce Meyer. You can’t help but smile as you follow Hayley Hippo’s quest to put on the perfect show for the Everyday Zoo. When things don’t go as planned, Hayley and her friends learn that the most important part of Christmas is Jesus.

While I never know which activities my family will embrace and participate in the future, I have no doubt we will be reading both of these books for years to come.

Your Turn

What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories? Share with us your family’s old and new traditions for Christmas. We’d love to hear from you!