Family Life

Traditions and Memory

For all the emphasis we put on Christmas gifts and the excitement of Christmas morning (and I’m as guilty as anyone…nor do I think these are bad things), you know what’s really surprising? Try to think back and remember individual Christmas mornings.

If you’re like me, you remember specific gifts and noteworthy Christmases, but have large swaths of holiday mornings that have vanished into the mists of time (the mist is tinted a festive red and green, of course, but it’s mist all the same). I remember, for example, one Christmas when the local Kmart was going out of business and my parents were able to get me two significant lego sets. This was a big deal! Also, I remember the Christmas when we got a new puppy on Christmas Eve and she woke us all up at 4:30am the next morning. Presents were all open before 7 that year:-).

But there have been lots of Christmases and lots of presents that I have no memory of. I sometimes even have trouble parsing out the holiday’s we’ve had with our kids, and I’m sure the specifics will dim further with time.

One thing I’m hoping will really stick with our kids as a lasting memory are the repeated traditions that we establish around the holidays. Several years ago at Easter we started having a “dark day.” Credit for this idea goes to my sister-in-law, I think. At sundown on Good Friday we put tape on all the light-switches and don’t use any electricity (with a few minor exceptions) until Sunday morning. The darkness forces us to slow down and enforces a feeling that this is not a normal day; the lack of electricity forces a simpler dinner on Saturday, which further enhances this feel. After trying this for one year, we were pleasantly surprised to find how impactful it was to the kids. They really remembered it and looked forward to doing it again.

It was harder for us to find something similar for Christmas. We have an annual drive around the neighborhood to look at lights, but we wanted something tied more to the meaning of Christmas. Two years ago we tried this: on Christmas Eve we watched a new movie together as a family and then the kids constructed a “tent” in the living room. They brought down their pillows and sleeping bags and slept under the “stars” (Christmas lights) like the shepherds did that night so long ago.

The tradition stuck.

It’s a simple thing. We’re not teaching any deep theology and, admittedly, the connection is at a very surface level. But it seems that it will be a lasting practice: they remember it and look forward to it and I hope – apart from setting the day apart as special – that this tradition shines out in their memories despite the inevitable fogs of time.

Merry Christmas!

4 thoughts on “Traditions and Memory

  1. This is a great tradition and I am sure your kids will likely want to sleep in their Christmas Eve tent well into their teens, just because!

  2. Your grandpa Vesey was a very sentimental man and he carefully created many holiday traditions for his own family. The thing I remember most about Christmas morning was that we were not permitted out of our bedroom until he came for us, one kid at a time. We had to close our eyes and hold onto eachother like a “Christmas train”. With our eyes tightly closed, he would lead us past the living room door and into the kitchen where we HAD to eat breakfast. Then, we were led into the living room, each of us to our specific little pile of gifts. Then we opened one gift a a time; going around in a circle so it took awhile! No out-of-control chaos was allowed! Wrapping paper was carefully put into a trash bag as each gift was opened. I LOVE the Easter and Christmas traditions you and Kyna are practicing! You guys are so creative!

  3. I don’t think your ideas are only for those with small children. I don’t think you need children at all to ‘copy’ your ideas. My children are long from being little and at home, but my husband and I can still use your ideas. We’re having our first ‘How are things going’ talk in January and we love the ‘lights out’ from Friday evening until Easter. Thanks for sharing them, and know you are helping more than ‘families with children at home.’

    1. Thanks, Debby, that’s encouraging! I’m really trying not to post things that are just “day in the life” ramblings (my life’s not that exciting). My goal is to only post things that I think might be helpful to people…glad to know they are!

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