Do you struggle with the ache of Christmases past?
Transitions have occurred that make you dread the holidays.
How can this possibly be the most wonderful season of all? you ask.
Maybe there’s been a change in your marital status.
Maybe your military spouse is deployed.
Maybe a job assignment has you far from loved ones.
Maybe you’ve lost a family member.
The holidays can be brutal after a loss or drastic lifestyle change.
When our life as a military family began in Oklahoma in 1979, we were parents to two sons, 3 years-old and a newborn. The overwhelming sadness of facing Christmas far away from our East Coast family forced my planning mind into action.
Wanting to connect our small family around the Savior’s birth, five family customs became treasured Christmas traditions.
Ease the Ache of Christmases Past by Focusing on the Reason (for the Season)
The military base chapel introduced us to liturgical services. During the Christmas season, I found the weekly Advent candle lighting magical and intriguing.
A small Advent wreath with 4 candles became a Christmas centerpiece on our dining table.
December 1-24, a short ( 3-minutes or less) devotion after dinner involved a scripture about the awaited Advent and a child-sized discussion about its meaning.
Each Sunday of Advent, another candle was lit. We’d sing a Christmas carol and make an Advent-related craft.
Children are mesmerized by the lit candles and can’t wait to blow them out. Don’t be surprised if you have to light the candles again and again so each child can have his turn at extinguishing them.
Be prepared throughout the “devotion” to hear…
Can I blow out the candle?
Search Pinterest for simple DIY ideas.
Children need help visualizing timelines. This interactive countdown to December 25 is a great way to focus on the Reason.
Once our kids were in bed, I’d prepare the next day’s pocket by inserting a single piece of candy with a small slip of paper identifying an activity to look forward to that day.
A few suggestions of simple activities:
- We pick out the Christmas tree after breakfast
- We’ll decorate Christmas cookies this afternoon
- We’ll light the 3rd Advent candle after lunch
- After dinner, we’ll drive around to see the Christmas lights
If you tell children you plan to do something, give them a time of day to do it, and then be consistent and faithful to do it!
3. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Our military base chapel introduced us to this memorable tradition.
We choose to go to the earlier service, since the 11:00 p.m. or midnight service was too difficult with small children (and now as older adults).
I am always in awe….
The complete darkness of the room slowly coming to light as one candle after another is lit…
A holy hush is reverently interrupted as all sing “Silent Night”….
Add a pipe organ and I’m so there.
I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to usher in the Advent of the Savior. The real Reason for the season.
Well, I do envy the Bethlehem shepherds who were serenaded by angels on the first Advent.
4. Open one gift on Christmas Eve.
We like to open gifts on Christmas morning. But our young ones couldn’t stand to wait one day longer. We allowed them to open ONE gift on the 24th.
When do you open gifts?
5. Smell of Christmas
I wanted to start a tradition that would always smell like “Christmas morning” in our home.
I love to bake, and found an excellent recipe for cinnamon rolls.
Now, our grown kids say nothing smells like Christmas than the aroma of just-baked cinnamon rolls.
Today, the grandchildren have theirs with Grammie’s Special Coffee (steamed, frothy milk topped with colorful sprinkles).
On Christmas Eve (after the candlelight service), the rolls are prepped and left to rise overnight. The aromatic smell of cinnamon and coffee enticed us all as we gathered around the table to light the white Advent candle.
What special aroma smells like Christmas to your family?
Whatever transition you face this year, consider starting new traditions to ease the ache of Christmases past.
A blog post addressing some of your suggestions is forthcoming. I’d love to hear your new traditions.
What will do you to prepare your heart and your family’s in anticipation of the Savior’s Advent?
I’d love to hear how you focus on the Reason for this Holy Season.