Some Lessons Learned
by Lloyd and Karmel Newell
When our children were small, we learned a few key lessons from them about what makes for good Christmas traditions.
Keep it Simple
Because our third child was born about a month before Christmas, we knew there would have to be less hustle and bustle that year. We spent more nights at home; we attended fewer events; we did less shopping—but we had one of our best Christmases ever. We gathered by the fire and read stories. We played together. We thought of the baby Jesus. In those quiet moments, early in the morning or late at night, holding a newborn, a fresh perspective on Christmas came into view. Christmas was a celebration of love: God’s love for us, our love for Him and for His Son, and our love for one another. Traditions strengthen bonds of love. They are to bless, not burden the people we love.
Focus on what matters; be flexible.
Worthwhile traditions have purpose. Whether the purpose is to serve, to teach, or just to have fun, watching for and being sensitive to changing needs of family members is a key to establishing good traditions. Late one December night, we were returning from yet another after-hours visit to the pediatrician. Our then three-year-old son was holding his ears trying to alleviate the pain form an ear infection. We asked him if he would like to drive by a home that we called the “Christmas house” because it had so many beautiful Christmas lights. We were surprised when he said, “No, I want to drive by the temple.” He was in pain, and he wanted some comfort. He wanted to feel close to Jesus. We were humbled as we drove past the temple, and we couldn’t help but think that sometimes we look for Christmas in all the wrong places.
What may have worked last time, what may have worked twenty years ago, may no longer be the best tradition for a dynamic family unit. Adjusting traditions and not just doing “what’s always been done” is good for families.
One Christmas night, our family was excited to hear carolers at our front door. The children raced to see who it was. Imagine their surprise when they saw their aunt, uncle, and cousins from across the country on our doorstep. Our children squealed with delight! They jumped up and down. They hugged each other and could hardly let go of their cousins throughout the stay-over. A couple of days into all of the fun, our then four-year-old son exclaimed, “We’ve never had carolers stay so long!”
Remembering is half the fun!
Even when traditions don’t go as well as hoped, even when traditions are met with some resistance, even when it seems that our best efforts failed, the meaning of the tradition may change over time. The perceived outcome is not as important as the effort. Stay committed. It took years of writing in our “Christmas Journal” before our children began to appreciate the idea of keeping a record. Now one of the first things they look for in the boxes of Christmas decorations is the little red journal that holds special Christmas memories. One entry reminds us of how our children used to slur a couple of holidays together. When talking about gifts the wise men brought, they’d say, “Gold, Frankenstein, and Myrrh.”
*Excerpted from A Christmas Treasury for Latter-day Saint Families; Deseret Book
I really liked this article, so I decided to share it! Enjoy your family traditions!