Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Traditions

We've had fun seeing some traditions form in our family over the past few years. Having kids around makes it easy to keep traditions alive, because they rarely forget the things that mean the most to them and don't let you get away with forgetting to do whatever it is.

Every day for the 25 days of December leading up until Christmas we get up in the morning and read the story of Jesus' birth, and act it out with our play nativity set, with people/animals in a stable that the girls can touch. They really love to do it every day. We read the story with the book The Night Before Christ, which is a christian version of the poem 'Twas The Night Before Chrismas, or whatever the title is. This has been really good this year- because Grace could recite most of it by the 10th day or so. It's amazing how quickly they can memorize things. We then open up the door for that day on our Advent calendar- which they, of course, love. Right now it's just candy, but as they age, I'll add little gifts etc. too that would mean something to them. We also talk about what Christmas is , why God gave us Jesus, etc. On the 25th day there will be a note inside the door for them to go find a hidden present (a really COOL present) somewhere in the house- I'm excited for that...

We try to sing Christmas carols together often, but i haven't gotten my guitar out nearly enough this year (ahem, only once, actually...). Grace loves the songs that have Mary in them. Patie just likes to dance.

We don't do Santa at our house in the traditional modern American way, but we do celebrate St. Nicholas. You can find a lot of good, interesting information/ legends about St. Nicholas in books- he really lived an incredible life and we like to tell the girls about him and his love and commitment to Jesus and his heart to love and serve others and share Christ and His love with them. This led us to start a stocking tradition in our house. There is a legend that says during the life of St. Nicholas there was a poor widower with three daughters. They were so poor he got to a point where he thought he would be forced to sell his oldest daughter into slavery and hopefully use the money from that for the dowry for his youngest two to keep them from all starving. When it came time to sell her, he couldn't bear to do it. Thinking he had sentenced his entire family to starvation, he had no idea what to do. They were poor, obviously, so they (like all the other poor people around them) only had one set of clothes. So every night they needed to wash their socks, etc. and hang them by the fire to dry for the next day. The legend says St. Nicholas was in the area at the time and somehow heard about the man. At night when they were all sleeping he reached through the window and placed a gold piece in one of their stockings. It was enough for a dowry for the first daughter, and they were saved. When it came time for the other 2 to marry, the same hapenned. Other similar things would happen whenever he was in a village. There are a number of stories of his giving to others that needed it, all out of his love for them, spurred on through his love for Christ. So, on Christmas morning we tell the girls that story and have something special in their stockings to remind them of that spirit of love and giving-- as they are able to understand it, I'd like it to be something that they then take and pass on to someone else.

I have ornaments on my tree that I made last year that we can use to remind ourselves of all the gifts God gave us in the ultimate gift of Jesus. They are large, red balls with a white ribbon tied to them. On each tail of the ribbon there is a name/word for who Jesus is to us (Brother, Light of the World, etc.) and the other tail has the Bible reference where you find the name. I really, really love them, since I pass by the tree countless times a day, and they always catch my eye and make me think.

Jim and I have a dream that one year, once the girls are a little older, we'll have a family campout under the tree for a night. We might do that just the two of us this year.

We went to Storybook Island last weekend and walked through all the beautiful lights (a wonderland for a child- the girls loved it), and then we came home, in from the cold, and curled up on the couch by the christmas tree and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas and drank hot chocolate. It was so fun. (Mom and Dad forgot that rule we have about Grace not getting too much to drink after dinnertime, and she had a HUGE accident that night in bed...oops! :) ) I think that will become a solid tradition (nix the accident part).

Here we are at Storybook Island 2006

We love, love being a family. We say it to one another all the time. We are so full of joy in all the things the Lord has given us. I'm excited for us to live all the days God has for us together!

We're so excited that this year we will be HOME for Christmas for the first time in the six years we've been together! WOO HOO! We'll get to go to our own church to celebrate with that family, and get to hang out at home for the holiday (after our trek back east to see family the week prior to Christmas is over).

This will probably be my last post until the new year...

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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