Sunday, December 5, 2010


David is a BIG lover of traditions. If we do something twice, it is suddenly a "tradition" and we must do that very thing annually for the rest of our lives. Therefore, in our 18 Christmases together, we have accumulated a considerable number of traditions.

My kids always get chocolate advent calendars, we always have fondue on Christmas eve, David always makes cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and no Christmas presents are ever put under our tree until AFTER the children have gone to bed on Christmas eve--a tradition born out of the unfortunate exploits of a curious pet in our early years.

My favorite tradition is actually one that I read about in a Family Fun magazine and adopted back when both of our boys were babies. The idea resonated with me because I found myself struggling with the consumerism that had seemed to take over Christmas. I love presents as much as the next person, but I didn't want them to become the overwhelming focus of our season.

The idea that I found in Family Fun was simple. The author suggested that each family member receive three gifts, based on the thee gifts of the magi. The gift that represents GOLD should be something the person really wants, an item of great personal value. The gift that represents MYRRH should be something that the person needs, like new snow boots, a tool, or a cooking utensil. The gift that represents FRANKINCENSE should be something that the family can enjoy together, such as a new board game or a favorite movie on DVD.

For the past 10 or 11 years we have embraced this tradition. Each member of our family gets three gifts. Period. And we all like it that way. We think very carefully about each item that we purchase. Nothing is bought in thoughtless haste.

And what about Santa? We love the Santa tradition--as a piece of Christmas--not as the main event. When our boys were very young we told them about the real St. Nick and the fun of giving gifts anonymously. We "play" Santa in our home...but only in the filling of stockings. Santa brings small goodies: hand warmers, chapstick, gum, and other such treats. And our kids have always known that it was a game. A wonderfully fun game that was started by a man who wanted to celebrate the birth of Jesus by blessing children.

And so this has been our tradition for gift-giving. Three gifts and a filled stocking--enough to honor the tradition of exchanging gifts without distracting us from the real meaning of Christmas.

And now that we are in France, I am sure we will add some new traditions to our routine. A special pastry perhaps? A new collection of carols? I can hardly wait to find out what we will do.

What is your favorite family tradition?

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