Christmas on the Homestead: Creating Meaningful Traditions

In many of the beloved children’s classics –Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Little Women,” “Anne of Green Gables” – Christmas is a common theme. In all instances, the focus is on the joy of family and the pleasure of helping others. Gifts are simple, decorations are natural, and the emphasis is on warmth and merriment.

While these passages are pleasant to read, some people think they can’t experience Christmas on a “homestead” because they live in an urban or suburban environment. Their residences look out upon streets and traffic rather than woods and wildlife. Is it hopeless to try and capture the old-fashioned gaiety these books convey?

No. On the contrary, a “homestead” isn’t necessary to celebrate Christmas on a homestead. It’s just as much a place of refuge as it is a log cabin in the woods. Often, it’s not even a place so much as a frame of mind.

One of my fondest memories is spending a snowy afternoon in the 16-floor Chicago apartment of a friend’s grandmother as she showed me the secrets to making her family’s beloved holiday shortbread. I had never met this woman before, yet she treated me like family – and I still make her shortbread 40 years later. Her apartment was just as much a “homestead” as our rural farm is.

Mother and daughter baking Christmas cookies

For too many years, people have been pressured to believe creating Christmas magic can only be achieved with expensive presents and designer décor. But more and more people are moving away from the commercial aspects of the holidays to focus on the warmth of family gatherings. They’re creating their own “homesteads.”

All families, no matter how new or old, have traditions of some kind. These yearly rituals and customs are dearly important for children, since it offers them continuity and stability. It’s up to us, the adults, to make those traditions as joyous and full of love as we can.

After all, what will your children remember more fondly? The gewgaw you got at the mall, or the time you all made Christmas cookies together? The newest gadget, or the time spent playing board games at the kitchen table? The hottest toy, or the experience of decorating the tree while singing carols at the top of their lungs? Children instinctively gravitate toward the family activities. This is what a “Christmas on the homestead” mindset is all about.Family playing cards together around fireplace

Adults cherish these moments as well. The times you secretly slip extra money into a homeless person’s cup, or provide the makings of a hearty meal for a family in need, or even offer extra kindness and patience to hardworking service or retail personnel – these are the modern-day equivalents of those storybook Christmas passages.

It’s been said generosity is the most fun you can have with money. But generosity doesn’t have to be just financial; it includes being generous with time toward those you love as well as those in need.

Lehman’s urges you to create your own Christmas on the homestead. No need to live in a log cabin or don a prairie dress to enjoy Christmas on your “homestead.” Find the homestead of your heart, and celebrate there.

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