For the past 15 years or more, our family has sought out and cut down our Christmas tree. Somewhere along the way, it became a tradition. When we lived in California, the tree farm was in Fillmore, an hour from our Newhall apartment, but we went anyway. And we added a new activity to the tradition... after cutting the tree, we would visit our favorite Mexican restaurant. This year, we did have to adjust that part of the tradition and eat yummy hometown Italian instead (still don't have a favorite Mexican place in Cartersville), and we also watched the Christmas parade.
Once we have the tree set up with lights and garland, and I've unpacked all the ornaments, we fulfill another tradition -- this one started by my mother. Each year, she handmade or carefully purchased an ornament for each grandchild. When we began thinking about our tree in 2006, it suddenly hit me that there would be no ornaments from Mam-ma (she went to be with her Lord that past Christmas morning). I knew that this tradition was too good to let go, so I've continued it for our children. Over the years, each child has collected many beautiful ornaments -- this year, Christopher's are boxed up waiting for him in case he puts up a tree in his condo.
Each Christmas Eve, we allow the children to open one present -- something my parents allowed each year. While we were allowed to choose any gift under the tree, Jeff and I always select the gift our kids get to open. Sometimes it's a book they can read in bed for a bit, sometimes new pajamas or slippers, sometimes a game we can play that night.
I can remember that, as a young child, my older siblings usually woke me up in the wee hours to try to sneak out and see what Santa had left (that, apparently, was their tradition). One year, my father laid a trap -- a swivel rocker blocking the end of the hallway, with metal mixing bowls and a few marbles to sound the alarm. I believe my crafty brother disabled the trap and we made it through anyway! Jeff and I have tried various foils over the years, but we finally just resorted to either putting out the Santa gifts early Christmas morning, or wrapping them but putting them out after the children went to bed. Our kids have always known that we are Santa (although I "believed" into teenage years because he kept bringing me things!), and we all enjoy the fun.
My father, who was not normally one to set tradition, did bring one important thing to our childhood Christmases. After the dust cleared from the Santa gift excitement, but before we tore into our other gifts, we all sat down together and listened to him read the Christmas story, the real Luke 2 Christmas story. It set the tone for our day, for our whole celebration. And that was a tradition worth keeping.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:1-20, ESVWhen the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.