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Traditions Matter

Traditions Matter

Okay, I realize that Christmas has come and gone—but there are some important lessons we can learn from that season that we can carry throughout the next year.

Every year when we strip down our Christmas tree, there are two ornaments that come and will not be placed back on the tree the following year. Their time on the tree was short because it was only placed there a few days earlier—on Christmas Day. It may seem a short life, but the ornaments will live again—because they are part of a Christmas tradition in our family.

For much of our married life my wife and I have lived far from the rest of our family, and initially, as a couple, we had few traditions. My family always had Christmas stockings so we did the same.  We always attended a Christmas Eve Service.  Numerous years we shared dinner with friends who were also away from their family (or had no family).  Many times, my wife—a nurse—would work on the 25th so her co-workers could be with their families.

When God blessed our home with children we felt the need to start some traditions of our own. Some were inherited from our extended family.  We kept the stockings mentioned above. My wife’s family had a tradition of the children receiving new pajamas on Christmas Eve so we started that as well. We had to release other traditions we grew up with because there can be an overload (and they just don’t feel the same without Grandma there). We have found too many traditions can add to Christmas stress—and maybe you’ve discovered the same.

But in addition to the ones revealed above, we started some new ones because our family needed some of our own. We start the season by creating and sending an annual Christmas letter.  There are special foods that are only consumed in December. Our Christmas Eve meal is traditionally a fondue (the pots only come out once a year). We help with a community “feed the needy” meal.

We are often involved in a church/community musical, theater productions, or the town parade. In the days approaching the 25th, we watch Alastair Sim’s A Christmas Carol and the Jimmy Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life.  On Christmas morning we read the Christmas story—passing it around so everyone can share in the oratory. I have treasured memories of helping my boys, who were just learning how to read, pronounce some of the sacred words.

The traditions strengthen our family unit. I want my children to know Christmas is more than presents. Traditions solidify the elements that are truly important in Advent.

Many of our traditions honor God.  That keeps the whole season in proper focus.  It makes little sense to celebrate Someone’s birthday and not invite the Guest of Honor to be with us.

So what are the two ornaments mentioned at the start?  They belong to my sons.  Every year we give them an ornament that portrays an important event in their lives from the previous year. They range from baptisms and academic achievements to learning how to waterski or playing on a sports team.

Each son has a fancy storage box to store his annual ornament. The box includes a legend to help identify the source of the decoration. When they eventually set out on their own, the ornaments will go with them to decorate their tree. Then they will tell their wives and children about all the memories the ornaments represent.

It may seem cart after the horse to be talking about Christmas traditions at the start of the new year.  But now is the time to start some new traditions in your family—not just at Christmas—but throughout the year. Now is the time to start planning ahead for the year.  Are there traditions you need to consider starting?

Some great occasions for starting new traditions include Valentine’s Day, birthdays, the first and last days of school, Easter, fun summer activities, fall activities such as visits to the orchard, and days that are special to your family. And I can promise you that someday you’ll look back and be so glad you made the time to include some traditions in your family…and it’s especially wonderful if some of those traditions bring honor to God.

Every month each article published in Just 18 Summers On-Line Magazine is followed by a comments section.  Why not use the opportunity to share some of your traditions to provide some ideas for the entire Just 18 Summers audience?

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

Join us at for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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