I’m a fan of good wholesome musicals that leave me with a tapping toe, a smile on my face, and something worthy to ponder. The musical, Fiddler on the Roof is one of those kinds of musicals. I adore the opening scene. The main character, Tevye, a Russian Jewish father opens the play with these lines:
Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: (said with conviction in his voice) tradition!
I echo Tevye’s conviction and shout with him, “Tradition!”
Traditions bind and hold our values together.
They are the hands-on activities that cement Godly instruction.
Traditions are the baton of standards that we pass on to our children.
They are the stabilizing principles that help us keep our balance during life’s crazy ups and downs.
Traditions are glasses that help us see life’s big picture.
Wise women in my life have taught me two lessons about Christmas traditions.
- Begin with the end in mine.
- It’s never too late to start a new tradition.
Begin With The End in Mind
The world with its focus on the “big holiday bucks” competes for mine and my family’s thoughts and ideas about Christmas. So when my husband and I consider adding to our Christmas traditions, we talk about what message or value we want to share with our children and grandchildren.
It’s Never Too Late to Start a New Tradition
Our family has grown over the years and so have our Christmas traditions. Some traditions remain, and some are exchanged to accommodate our family’s larger size and the needs of our children as they marry and start families of their own. I have learned over the years that it’s never too late to start a new tradition. It’s important to be flexible and allow room for new creativity and even input from our children.
So here are some of the Mora Christmas traditions we treasure! Now mind you, these traditions didn’t become traditions instantly. Our Christmas traditions were created slowly over time.
Christmas Tree Decorating
We decorate our tree a couple of days after Thanksgiving. Our ornaments celebrate God’s gift of individuality of each family member. Years ago, my mom started a tradition of giving each person a special ornament that celebrated an accomplishment, a part of the person’s personality, or their favorite things. We also add special ornaments from our family vacations and other special times. Each ornament has a story and that story gets retold on the night we decorate. After decorating, we eat yummy panzerotti (homemade pizza pockets). When our children marry, they are given their box of ornaments so that the tradition can continue in their family.
Value: Every family member is unique and important. Our family is a gift from God.
Long ago, when our third son was little, he insisted that after we open presents, we watch a Christmas movie telling the story of Christmas. Over the years, our tradition has expanded. We have a box of favorite Christmas movies, and for the month of December, we watch each movie.
The story of Christmas is a shared story. Each one of us sees Christmas through a different point of view, and so do the characters of the Christmas movies. We discover the true meaning of Christmas when each of us individually meet the King of Kings, who came to His people not in judgment, but in humility, to win the hearts of His people. The different Christmas movies offer different points of view of the same story.
Value: The Christmas story is a shared story.
The Christmas Star
This tradition stems back to when I was growing up. We had a felt advent calendar where each day before Christmas, my brother, sister and I would take turns putting a felt cutout ornament on a felt cut-out tree. The last ornament to be placed on the tree was the star. However, the star could be stolen and hid somewhere in the house. This hide-and-seek star game would go back and forth. On Christmas morning, the last one to hide the star would reveal the hiding place and place the star on the tree. It was then, and only then, that presents could be opened. When we all married, my mom had the advent calendar replicated. And so the tradition continues with our children. At this moment in time, our star is M.I.A. The one who stole and hid the star is our adult son, who just left for a job in Colorado. He promises he will call us on Christmas morning and let us know where it is so we can open presents.
Although, we are Christians, my husband’s family roots are Jewish. Our family has wonderful memories celebrating this special holiday. We celebrate by eating traditional potato latkes served with sour cream and applesauce, playing dreidel, and singing Hanukkah songs. The Hanukkah story reminds us of God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragic events and the hope that there will be a day when there will be no more tears. We celebrate it with joy and hope for the future.
Value: God is always with us even in the midst of tragic events, and to joyfully celebrate the gift of life every day.
Church Christmas Musical Performance
For years, our entire family used our acting or tech skills in our church’s Christmas performances. It was the way our family served during the Christmas season. Practices began in August (Yes, singing Christmas songs in August is a family tradition) and culminated with 12 performances starting December 1 and often lasting to the week before Christmas. It blessed us to know that many people in our community have come to Christ through this outreach.
Value: Use your gifts and talents to serve.
Our nativity scene remains on display all year long as the centerpiece of our home and reminds us all year long the gift God has given to us, His precious Son. For the backstory, click here.
Years ago, our pastor’s wife set up a life-size nativity for her grandchildren to perform the Christmas story. I fell in love with her tradition! So when we had our first grandchild, we added one more yearly memory-maker. I use an old stage set from our homeschool co-op days, and fill a tub with props (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), and all the costumes required, to tell the Christmas story. Since we only have one grandchild, Knucklehead, (our basset hound), has to play the “wise pup”.
Value: Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas
Candlelight Christmas Eve Service
Our church has a beautiful candlelight Christmas Eve service every year. We sing Christmas carols among the glow of hundreds of lights. My tears easily flow as I remember Christmas pasts, present, and future. God is good!
Value: Remember God’s goodness through worship
We Wear Santa Hats When We Open Presents
I have my reasons for wearing a Santa Hat (Click: here) And, well, I just wanted to share the message. So if you are invited to our home on Christmas morning, you’ll receive a Santa Hat with your name on it. Please, wear it proudly!
Value: Extend God’s grace to everyone!
We used to fill our kid’s stockings with the usual small gifts. Now our stockings have more significance. Tucked inside each stocking is an announcement telling our children the destination and activity for the yearly family vacation. Our adult children are scattered up and down on the west coast, so, once a year, we gather together at a campground or cabin and enjoy each other’s company for an extended weekend. It becomes a highlight of the year!
Value: Family Togetherness
We swapped Christmas dinner for Christmas brunch. This gives our adult children the flexibility to visit with their spouse’s family. We open presents and share laughs. Favorite foods include cinnamon rolls and Cowboy Egg Casserole.
Value: Heaven is described as a banquet feast. Our feasting is a slice of heaven!
Brother/Sister Christmas Picks
Having a large family means you have to get creative with gift-giving. The Brother/Sister Christmas Pick has become a favorite tradition. Everyone picks a name out of a hat and buys a special present for their brother or sister.
- It’s a secret until Christmas Day
- You cannot have your spouse as a “pick”.
- $30.00 limit
To help with the gift giving, each must write a letter to Santa. (10 reasons why we write a Dear Santa Letter Click:here)
Value: Gift giving shows love
Visits and Phone Calls
The Christmas season also includes travel to visit our So. Cal family and phone calls to family and friends. We affectionately call this tradition, “Our Twelve Days of Christmas” because it often takes twelve days to connect with everyone.
Value: Family and friends are cherished gifts.
Our family traditions are unique to us, and we look forward to our Christmas traditions year after year. Traditions help our family stay focused on what is important during the season. And we have learned, it’s never too late to create and add a new Christmas tradition to our family legacy.
From Our Home to Yours,
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?