My family has a tradition we started our first year together. Itâ€™s simple and timeless, and a perfect end to Christmas Day. Over the years weâ€™ve shared our tradition with friends and relatives, and even included a â€œtradition starter kitâ€ as part of our Christmas greetings one year.
We spend Christmas Eve with family, and Christmas Day together at home. Like many families,we would gather around the tree to unwrap presents in a fury of colored paper, bows and boxes Christmas morning.
My wife fixes a favorite breakfast mid-morning. I spent most of the day taking care of the â€œsome assembly requiredâ€ duties. When the kids were small, that meant Barbie houses and G. I. Joe jeeps. As they grew, we figured out the computers and fly-tying kits.
But around 5 or 6 p.m., we get ready for company, and to renew our tradition. Our parents join us for supper, as well as a family or maybe folks from church or work. We always try to invite somebody new each year. Some years we have a sit-down dinner complete with the antique china and fancy tablecloth and napkins.Â Other years we might have finger foods served on paper plates with plasticware.
Following the meal the family and guests gather in the living room. We take the little brass candle holder and its stubby beeswax candle down off the bookshelf. We light the candle and turn out all the electric lights in the house. As everyone settles in the conversation tends to die down, and I thank everyone for coming to our home.
By candlelight, I read the story of Jesusâ€™ birth from the Bible. Every Christmas, it’s what we do. If there are little ones in the group I stop ever so often to question them and make sure they understood the events as explained. The goal is to take time at the end of a day of gifts and playing to redirect our focus back on the real reason for celebrating Christmas.
After reading the story of Jesusâ€™ birth, one of the kids will bring me my guitar. I play as everyone joins in to sing a couple Christmas songs, such as â€œOh Holy Night,â€ or â€œWhat Child Is Thisâ€. Following the sing-along we blow out the candle and turn the lights back on, and spend the remainder of the evening visiting. While we routinely light our 120-year-old house with candles or oil lamps in the evening, we only light our â€œChristmas candleâ€ for our tradition on Christmas evening.
Now more than two decades since our first Christmas as a family, we occasionally hear from guests we shared our tradition with over the years that they went on to ‘borrow’ this simple Christmas tradition for their families.
Being a writer by profession, one year I wrote down our tradition and we made copies on nice parchment paper. We bought a couple boxes of candles and wrapped each with a copy of the letter tied with a nice bow. We handed them out as Christmas cards that year. Not only did each recipient learn of our simple tradition, but now they had a candle to use if they chose to start their own.
Both our children are in college now. As they aged, our tradition became as important a part of Christmas as the presents under the tree. Iâ€™m happy to say even their wish lists eventually began reflecting the â€œreal reason for the seasonâ€. Gift requests included donations to charities and help organizations in their name, and my daughter began a tradition of her own. She saves the shoeboxes from any new shoes she receives at Christmas or throughout the year, and fills those boxes with toys the following Christmas to be given to Operation Christmas Childâ€™s gifting program for underprivileged children in third world countries. And during his Christmas 2012 break from college, our son will spend several weeks donating his time and energy working with orphans in villages and city slums in West Africa.
I hope you have a Christmas tradition of your own. Feel free to adopt ours, and even blend it with yours. Itâ€™s proven to be a good one for some time now.