As a child, each Sunday we could count on roast beef for dinner. If we’d lost all calendars and had no idea what day it was, seeing roast beef on the table would give us a clue it was at least Sunday. Honestly, because it was so predictable, I made fun of it.
Until I moved to a dorm and my family Sunday dinner was whatever I found in the dining hall.
It was then I started to understand the importance of traditions. As a young adult I no longer complained about a Christmas Eve present, a tradition, and knew it was going to be pajamas. Once I married, we’d add attending Christmas Eve service before opening that present. On Christmas morning we’d read Luke 2 before opening presents. Christmas dinner would be at my childhood home, where there would be a ham dinner. Once I got pregnant and violently ill thanks to the spiral ham, the tradition forward was turkey.
Fast forward and our two children are young adults. One is married and about to experience his first Christmas away from home and with his new traditions. Both my parents and my in-laws are gone. The moments I reflect on those past Christmas seasons I realize it is the traditions I hold close.
Some traditions might seem silly like the one my sister, a teacher, created “reindeer food” outside Christmas Eve with my kids. When her son came along, we added him to the process. I still remember his glee when he’d go outside and find the glittery concoction had been touched. Even at 23 and 19, last year my kids headed out to help spread the food. It’s a fond memory for both of them.
There are also traditions that probably only our family invested in. My parents worked hard, but like most families in the 70’s and 80’s, from paycheck to paycheck. Mom did a lot of her shopping after Christmas because it was affordable. One gift she stumbled upon was a vendor at the mall who created a “blue ice village.” Each year I would receive a piece. I was excited to showcase each piece under the tree. To this day, that village goes under my tree. Mom etched each piece with the year she gave it to me. That village means the world to me not for the unique look, but because it came from my mom.
Last year was our first Christmas without a parent. Our boxes were surrounded by memories and traditions I now see I took for granted. I assumed those things would always be there, just like my parents would. The reality is they are gone, and if I don’t pick up the traditions, they die too.
We decided to keep mom’s traditions but added one. Instead of opening a Christmas Eve present, we chose something with a humorous side to help us through our grief. We drew names among the kids, my sister, and myself and chose a white elephant gift. Once unwrapped our tokens included a large glittery rubber duck to a calendar of dogs doing their business. If we keep that game up, it will be a fun tradition that I’ll cherish as one that got us through a rather bleak time.
If you’re facing a Christmas full of traditions that don’t make sense to you, or seems too costly in time or finances, ask God to help you see the interaction as He does. For me, a lot of what I thought was boring and predictable when I was younger was in reality tangible moments with my family I’ll never get back. Those traditions became precious memories, and that’s what I’m left with. There’s nothing in a store that could equal the value of those Christmas times.
What are some of your Christmas traditions? What do you think of them?
Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the new contemporary romance series SURRENDERING HEARTS (Anchored Hearts, Repairing Hearts, +four more.) Her other romance series is SURRENDERING TIME (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged.) She also co-wrote a YA series with her daughter, SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ (You’re Beautiful, You’re Amazing, You’re Brilliant.) Her stand-alone romances include MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. Julie maintains a blog at juliearduini.com and participates in the team blog Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and daughter. Learn more by visiting her at http://linktr.ee/JulieArduini. Her newest release can be found at