I had really intended to post this a few weeks ago, but got caught up in life and so, there's nothing like last minute!! Most of our family traditions center around the holidays. I have already posted about some of our food traditions, but we have several other traditions around here that I hope bring special memories to my children as they grow and leave home. I not only hope that they have great memories, but they understand the reasons behind our traditions.
In the Chamblee home we bring out our Thanksgiving decorations and serving pieces in mid-September. We spend one or two days putting the every day items away and placing our cornucopia, platters, pitchers, wreaths, Pilgrims and various foliage throughout our kitchen and living areas. We have had this tradition ever since moving into this house over 11 years ago and we all look forward to it. Last year, as Caedmon was due in early October, I begged out of decorating for fall. Everyone complained that it just didn't seem like Thanksgiving without all of our decorations. Hoping that they realize the decorations don't make for a thankful heart, we decorated joyfully this year.
Not only do we decorate for fall, but we spend time studying the Pilgrims and do a devotional series from Family Life called The Thanksliving Box. We listen to praise music that reflects a thanksgiving theme. Every year Jeff reads Margaret Pumphries' Pilgrim Stories to the children.
Most years we have one or two bonfires. We drink gallons of hot tea and hot chocolate when the weather cools. We drink coffee with all the flavored creamers that are available now. We make leaf and acorn shaped cookies and begin filling the freezers with hearty casseroles and soups. I pull out our fall table cloths and placemats and we enjoy a little more formal table setting. For our Thanksgiving meal, we will use our "fancy" dishes. These are not my treasured China dishes that my granny gave me when I was seven years old, but some white dishes with golden trim that were purchased from a dollar store. They look fancy and nice, but I will not worry about them being broken. After Thanksgiving we will use them for most of our evening meals until after we put away our Christmas decorations. Most Thanksgiving Days are spent here at our home with Jeff's parents and my mom joining us. We don't watch the parade or any football, but eat and enjoy some outdoor time and fellowship. Last year we even took the pictures found in my sidebar and tomorrow we plan on taking more. Maybe I can switch the pictures out and you can see how my children have grown this past year!
The day after Thanksgiving may find the girls and I doing a little shopping, but we will definitely begin to transition our decorations from Thanksgiving to Christmas on Friday with the hanging of the Christmas ornaments on the tree coming Sunday afternoon after church.
My mother started the tradition of giving our oldest daughter a Christmas ornament (or set) each year and she has carried that through with all of the grands. (I am so very sure she never thought that we would have 7 children and there would be 5 other grands as well!). We also purchase ornaments for each of the children and now, our own grandchildren. The ornaments typically reflect each child's interests that year or reflect a family trip or vacation. This year I purchased the ornaments in Gatlinburg and most of them have a mountain theme.
When recently asking our children what they like most about Christmas some of them responded, "Advent!" About 15 years ago we were vacationing in the Ozarks (in the fall---we love mountains in the fall!) and came across a little store/bakery that was associated with John Micheal Talbot's (a singer) monastery. There we found a beautiful hand-carved Advent wreath and decided then and there to establish a new tradition. So each year we spend most nights around the Advent wreath singing and reading scripture that looks toward the coming of Christ. Each week a new candle is lit until the final candle is lit on Christmas Eve. It is a very special time for our family and helps to keep the focus on Christ at Christmas. The Advent season begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so you have time to set up this tradition for yourselves if you haven't done so.
Another tradition we started about 10 years ago was the Jesse Tree. We have a small table top Christmas tree that is covered in white lights. Each night during our devotions around the Advent wreath we also put an ornament on our Jesse Tree that reflects the prophecy from the Bible that we are reading that night. I printed the ornaments that I found on the internet on cardstock, colored with colored pencils, cut them out and mounted on red or green cardstock and hang them with sparkling gold thread. We also have some Nativity ornaments that we hang on this small tree.
Spending so much time focused on the true meaning of Christmas helps us to keep our thoughts from being quite so self-centered and more Christ-centered. Santa doesn't come to our house, but we do get three or four gifts for each of the children. The children also draw names for each other. Christmas Eve the children open the gifts from each other and the gifts from us. Christmas morning they have some small gifts that we put in a stocking, but each child from the very youngest knows that mom and dad put them there. Our gifts are not big. We are not into electronic gadgets or commercialized toys. They are usually tools needed for a hobby or craft, items to put in a hope chest for our older girls, books, fun school supplies or outdoor play items such as bikes, basketball goals or roller blades (and these come very rarely--how many basketball goals do you need, anyway!) This year the children have mainly requested books. It seems they have read everything that appeals to them on our heavy-laden bookshelves. Books are one item that I will happily invest in!!
Our Christmas Eve dinner has become a puzzle, but it seems our tradition has become to have take-out Chinese!! I think that has come from the years that Jeff was in full-time church ministry and having candlelight services on Christmas Eve. We generally have homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning and have a meal much like our Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas Day.
Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, I have some more prep work to do and a house to clean as well. I have some coughing, feverish children to take care of as well, so I am very thankful that we did not plan on traveling tomorrow. Praying that you and yours will have a very special Thanksgiving and that you will make some special memories with your family.
Linking up at Learning to Live a Surrendered Life. Check out the link for more Thanksgiving ideas!