Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Through The Years

I absolutely love this time of year. Christmas is my favorite holiday, alongside Easter, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ and the love that God sent to earth that blessed day.
It's also time for holiday traditions, which tend to get passed down from generation to generation. It's so much fun to watch as my children take over some of those traditions that I grew up with!

When I was a child, it was tradition for our family to go out and purchase a Christmas tree from the local Boy Scout troop, shortly after Thanksgiving. My Dad insisted that we soak the tree in a bucket, outside, for at least 48 hours before bringing it into the house. I guess it was supposed to help in preventing the risk of it setting on fire...We would then delightfully drag it into the house and set it into the metal stand (I don't ever remember replacing that metal stand, although when my hubby and I have tried to use them, they always end up bending), tie it to the wall, and pour some water in. Once Dad had the lights on the tree, he would lovingly climb the ladder to place the angel on top. My mom had crafted the angel from cardstock and material scraps, a styrofoam ball for her head, and some yellow yarn for her hair, sometime in the early years of their marriage. She still holds the honorable spot atop their tree to this day!
Would you know, there must be a three step directional manual to decorating a tree somewhere out there! When my husband and I married, we continued in the tradition of lights first, then the topper, then the decorations! We cut our tree, if we have enough daylight. The only step we leave out is the 48 hour soak. My husband prefers a star to an angel, as well...

As for stockings, our family had a routine while I was growing up. We didn't open the traditional night before Christmas gift. I never remember feeling an anxious desire to, either. What we did do was this: We kids would try getting up at the wee hours of morning, such as 4:00 a.m. We were so excited about our presents, we could hardly wait! I'm sure no one who's reading this can relate. My parents came up with this plan: We could open our stockings anytime in the wee hours of the morning, but we had to go back to bed until at least 6:30 a.m. My brother, sister, and I began to figure out that we could then obtain presents as early as 1:00 a.m. on some occassions! It was tradition for me to sneak upstairs, get down three bulging stockings, awake my siblings, and all of us would climb onto one or two of our beds and tear into them. I could expect that I would find my new music cassettes in there, and that would keep me content until the later hours of the morning. Mom was so smart! And, I don't remember there ever being a year that we didn't open our stockings together...
The other important part of our stockings was that my aunt had handmade every one of mine and my siblings stockings. They were identical, with our names on them.
This tradition was thankfully passed on when I got married.
She lovingly made one for my husband and my step-son somewhere along the line. She then continued making one for each of my following four children, and she would stuff them full of baby items and send them, wrapped, our way! What a blessing to us! I love that she took the time to help me carry on the stocking traditions with my children! They, too are now allowed to open their stockings while waiting for the adults in the house to roll out of bed. Although, they tend to sleep a little later than I used to on Christmas morning! So far, I've been able to enjoy watching them rip into their stocking gifts.

Then came the most wonderful time for a child...Christmas morning! Growing up, we were not allowed to touch a present under the tree until all of the adults had gathered to watch. This was torture for us, as Grandpa had to have his cup of coffee (that 10 minutes it takes for the pot to fully drip through is like an eternity for a child awaiting presents), Dad would occassionally want a shower (oh goodness!), or he would mosey as though he had no place to be. Mom would try to hurry them a little, but not fast enough for us. Needless to say, the tradition continues for our family today. The kids are not allowed to go present grabbing until the adults are gathered. And up to this year, the same adults are getting coffee and moseying in...
However, once the ripping began, it was over in a matter of minutes. We would have one kid play "Santa" and "deliver" the presents to everyone. I usually took the role, because as the oldest, you are the first to be able to read the labels on the gift tags. We would always have a garbage bag nearby to catch all of the torn paper and packaging from our newest toys (I wonder how much garbage is picked up the week after Christmas?). We loved every moment of it. And it hasn't changed from when I was a child. My children enjoy it just as much as we did, as is to be expected!

Eventually, all of the excitement would die down, we'd all run off with our new treasures and a Christmas cookie breakfast. The adults would settle in to relax on the couch for the day, until it was time to cook Christmas dinner, and the day would come and go for another year.

Fortunately, God made a change in our lives, and now the day doesn't pass as a day meant for getting gifts. It passes as a day to celebrate a Savior's birth, the gift from God that would change all of our lives, even today! If you don't know who Jesus is, if you think Christmas is all about the lights, the tree, the stockings, and the presents, consider this:

The angel said, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all the people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

If there is any tradition that I pass on to my children and following generations concerning Christmas, it will be that it is not a time for receiving a bunch of earthly treasures, but it is a time to celebrate the birth of their Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is He who matters this season, and that they should carry Him with them throughout the year, not just on Christmas day! HE was the GREATEST GIFT OF ALL!

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