In 2008, I gave birth to our third son and knew that it would be my last pregnancy. In December of that year, I felt the need to solidify our family traditions. Assuming that our family was now complete, I felt that if we were going to have a tradition that we could say we had done every year together, then this was my last chance to add a holiday tradition. I didn’t want this tradition to be pulled randomly from Pinterest, and I didn’t want to poll my friends on Facebook so I could steal one of their traditions, either. I wanted to make this one special; this tradition was just for us and it had to come from inside.
I pondered all of the things that I love about the Christmas season. I thought about cookie baking, a long-standing tradition in my family. I thought about the lights at Country Club Plaza and carriage rides to view them. I remembered live manger scenes much like this one that I visited as a child. I thought about my Savior, his birth, and his sacrifice for us. I thought of many Christ-centered visits to the Independence Visitor’s Center to view the lights and beautiful images of the Savior. I thought about Christmas carols and singing them around my grandmother’s piano.
My mind soon turned to our own Christmas tree – thoughts of holding my children close and basking in the warm glow of its clear lights; this is my favorite part of the holiday season. I love decorating the tree and placing ornaments that come with memories of a beautiful winter wedding, the birth of a child, and a kindergarten-sized hand print. I love the music we listen to as we add those memories to the tree! My heart is happy when I hear the sounds of my Crooners Christmas album and my honey spins me around our living room to the tunes of Sinatra and Bing. I love the angel that sits atop our tree, reminding me of the glorious news of the birth of a king. It was clear that our tree should be a central part of our holiday tradition.
Sometime after Thanksgiving, we venture out to enjoy the sights and sounds of holiday shopping as we each find the perfect ornament within that theme. It is wonderful to see how we are each able to find something that matches our personalities as individuals while working within a particular ornament family.
Back at home, we stand around a perfectly trimmed tree with this year’s ornament in hand. We sing “Silent Night,” a song that my great-grandmother played on her Victrola long ago, and then quietly we hang our newly acquired treasures. We talk about the family that came before us. We walk back in time as we hang the special ornaments that were part of this tradition in years prior. When all ornaments are on the tree, one last ornament is placed higher than all the others – a single carpenter’s nail, painted silver and dressed with a red ribbon. This reminds us to look up to the hope that is provided in our Savior, the man whose life was the greatest gift ever given.
Traditions are what our children will remember; they are the glue that binds us. They won’t remember the diapers I changed or the jelly I wiped off their faces; they will not remember the laundry that I folded for them or the many miles put on our minivan as I played chauffeur. Instead, they will remember the love that they felt every year as they stood around our tree. My kids will remember that Christmas has much to be enjoyed, but that family was at the center of it all. I love that when my boys are grown and leave my home to start families of their own, they will be able to take with them these ornaments and memories of many years lived in a home full of love.
What traditions bring your family together during the holidays?