By Miriam Walsh
Christmas traditions can feel like traps to me, silent pressure to assimilate. They seem so appealing from my vantage point outside of other people’s families. Other moms gracefully weave their traditions into meaningful celebrations saturated with spiritual significance. Yet when I tried to engage what other moms successfully did, I ended up feeling captive to my own unmet expectations. I also ended up feeling more conformed to the image of the Grinch rather than to the image of Jesus.
How we choose to honor the holy days on which our faith is securely anchored—Christmas, Easter, and the spirit of Thanksgiving—says more to our kids than doing things others do in the same way that they do them. Traditions practiced for the right reasons are the moorings that remind us of whose we are and why we believe what we do. How that happens is for each family to seek the Spirit’s guidance to discover.
These general guidelines are tools that have helped our family establish traditions—
1) Missing a year won’t matter. I used to feel I failed if we had to skip a year of our traditions due to travel or some unforeseen circumstance. It was almost as though I thought the kids would forget who we are as a family if we skipped. I was being a legalist. Now when we travel, we enjoy the traditions of those we are with and look forward to when we can again celebrate our own.
2) A tradition is not the law. Substitutions and modifications are welcome. It used to not feel like Christmas unless there were myriad kinds of Christmas cookies made from scratch. But that exhausted me. And—trust me—that was not fun for any of us. Now it’s two types of cookies and two types of candy.
3) Traditions can be birthed and retired at any time. I persisted in reading the same fun childhood Christmas stories to the boys because it was tradition. I loved those stories. But one year in looking at their polite but extremely bored faces, the Spirit gave me the courage to retire that tradition. We have focused instead on creative ways of sharing the Christmas narrative from the Bible.
4) Unanticipated traditions sometimes yield the greatest joy. On an evening during the Christmas season, we open our home to a never married friend without family in the area and share a marvelous evening of faith talk, dessert and the exchanging gifts. He has become an extension of our family. It’s one of our kids’ favorite traditions.
That’s the beauty of tradition viewed in the right Light. It has intended consequences that keep us from becoming slaves to them but allow us the freedom to see what God is surely trying to teach us through them. “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
What has God taught you through your Christmas traditions?
Miriam Walsh thrives in West Michigan with her husband of over 20 years and two teenage boys. Known for her ability to weave powerful personal stories with the transformational truth of God’s Word, Miriam loves to refresh the souls of women. Miriam’s ministry passion is leading solitude retreats for women who desire to live out a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. These experiences balance solid biblical teaching with time for personal reflection out in God’s glorious creation. Join her at her blog: Holy Wonder to delight in the majesty of God’s presence.