In thinking about this tip, we first must establish the differences between habits and traditions. For example, my family knows we take our shoes off at the back door before coming in the house. My family also anticipates reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve because it is central to our family celebrations. One of these I consider to be a habit and one a tradition. What is the distinguishing factor? Its purpose. God set precedence for our traditions in the Scriptures. In setting the foundation for Passover, God made sure the Israelites understood the night of watching is “to the Lord” (cf. Exodus 12:42). God also made sure traditions were set in place to teach beliefs and worldview from one generation to another. Traditions rooted in Scripture create times to intentionally reach back into our history, remember, reset, and renew. I encourage you to make a list of “traditions” your family has participated in during past seasons. Jot out to the side their purposes. It may be that one of the traditions your family has participated in is just simply fun! The activity may be an event the entire family looks forward to for camaraderie, family unity, and laughter. Did you list any traditions promoting a decisive spiritual time of family reflection on the season and Christ? Balance is key and purpose is essential. The year I was pregnant with our first daughter, now 8, I remember pondering during the Christmas season what traditions I hoped to establish after her birth. I began writing them down on index cards. Eventually I put them in a file box, now divided by the month, so I can have easy access to our traditions.
As our family has grown, I have modified a few and quite honestly, discarded the traditions that became ruts. Some of our early traditions took much time, and time is a hot commodity in my home! So while our traditions are treasured, don’t be afraid to modify or completely overhaul it. I have listed below some of our advent traditions. Feel free to share some of your family’s traditions so we can steal them! I love the wisdom in Socrates’ quote: “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”
- Advent Calendar: Each pocket contains a slip of paper with a different Christmas book. Stored on our fireplace hearth is a large box full of books that only appear during the Season.
- Advent Candle and corresponding Family Advent Readings at dinnertime.
- Trip to “Journey Through Bethlehem,” an interactive campground turned historical Bethlehem city in Huntsville, TX. The city is full of opportunities to weave baskets, make bricks, mock temple service, food tasting, Jewish wedding dancing, and of course, a live nativity.
- Cookie Baking Day paired with Gift Giving (discussed in Tip for Treasuring the Season: Rewrap Gift Giving).
- Christmas Story Reading on Christmas Eve.
- Family Movie Night: The Nativity.
- Happy Birthday Jesus cake.
- Fisher Price Little People Christmas manger set playtime.