My kids really like pickled herring. Yes, really truly. But not the store bought stuff. Gram’s herring is special. It’s tradition.
Traditions bind family members together. Whether it’s eating pickled herring, attending a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, or collecting toys for kids in need family traditions draw us close. There’s power in our traditions. Values are instilled and relationships are strengthened.
But sometimes family traditions need to change or be dropped. A mom in a parenting class told me how her in-laws insisted on preparing a particular side dish for Christmas dinner every year. The only person who ate it was her mother-in-law who had passed away a number of years ago. The tradition was to make the dish regardless who consumed it, or not. Time to let that one go or change the dish so others will eat it.
Old traditions and new traditions can meld together. It takes good communication, a desire to try new things, and a willingness to let go of the old. Scott and I have integrated Danielson family traditions with my immediate family’s and added a few of our own over the years. As the boys have grown, some of the customary activities have been set aside to accommodate their maturity. For example, the boys outgrew the family Advent celebration at our church as it was geared for younger children. The live nativity was a good substitute. The chocolate and glitter Advent calendars morphed into the calendar with the little doors with treats with Baby Jesus from our nativity set behind December 25. That tradition has changed too.
Our oldest son’s first year away at school was “Advent calendarless”. I didn’t realize how much he missed it until after the fact. Last year I figured out a way to honor the tradition for him. This year both boys will have their Christmas countdown in their mailboxes at school with the dates on yellow stickers. I know that tradition will be short lived too.
Another change in our Christmas traditions is with the St. Lucia celebration. This began when I was a little girl delivering breakfast to my parents in bed. It has changed from a candlelight breakfast delivered to my parent’s home after Scott and I were married to breakfast at our house when the boys were young. Now it is a celebration of the True Light of Christmas, Jesus, in memory of my sweet dad. He enjoyed Swedish Christmas festivities and food so much. It’s a joy to have others who knew and loved him along with new friends join us for a traditional Smörgåsbord with a nod to St. Lucia.
Consider the traditions you keep. What activities are meaningful to the family? Which ones are obsolete or merely obligations? Rather than filling the calendar pages with busyness, carefully choose what is important to you and yours. Here a few question to start the conversation.
• What are your favorite family Christmas traditions?
• Why are the treasured traditions?
• What family traditions have become obsolete?
• What meaningful new traditions can you add to the mix to build faith in your family?
May your Christmas traditions fill your heart with joy and point to Jesus Christ, the One who is the only reason to celebrate!
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
What Christmas traditions do you hold dear?
By Becky Danielson
Wife to Scott, mom of two college boys
Licensed Parent & Family Educator
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting
Co-author of The 1 Corinthians 13 Parent Series
Raising Little Kids with Big Love and
Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love
both with Study Guides