Preschool: Traditions, Why again??

Esmé was two years old.  It was her first Christmas in the US.  I was going to do this one right.

On Christmas morning, I get up at 5:30 a.m. to wrap the last gifts.  I have visions of the three of us drinking hot chocolate and eating cinnamon rolls while reading the last Jesse tree devotional, then gathering around to watch Esmé gratefully open her presents while listening to Christmas music.

Enter a tired, grouchy miss – the one who is NOT a morning person but still gets up at the crack of dawn for fear of missing something.  Trampling her Jesse tree coloring page into the carpet, she insists on watching a DVD.

I attempt to rouse the slumbering Pappa.  His idea of a white Christmas is picnicking with family on the warm sandy beaches of South Africa.  My vision isn’t working for him.

I give up on the devotional idea, pointing Esmé toward the wrapped presents.  “I bet there’s a DVD in there!” I say.

Esmé vehemently kicks around the pile of gifts.  “I don’t want presents!  I don’t LIKE presents!” she hollers.

She finally picks out and unwraps a Care Bears DVD with a little foam Care Bear.  The little Bear lasts about three minutes before its head is torn off.  I can’t find the superglue.

Pappa gripes that he’s been awakened to sit around and watch a Care Bears DVD.

The cinnamon rolls come out flat – the yeast was dead.  The only thing Esmé wants to eat is candy.  Forget the hot chocolate.  I drink a Monster instead.

Traditions.  Why?  It seems they only lead to unfulfilled expectations and disappointment!

With four brothers and sisters, I grew up expecting stockings filled with oranges and pennies and lip gloss and candy.  Dad read The Birds’ Christmas Carol.  We caroled and collected money for the poor, ending the evening with McDonald’s hot apple pies.  We debated whether to open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas – every year the same debate.

These are traditions I can’t replicate in my third-culture family.

Tradition is a good thing.  God instituted the tradition of Sabbath as part of Creation.

However, as the Pharisees had to learn in their keeping of Sabbath, tradition is not the purpose.

Tradition is a tool to the purpose.  A tool to remember.  A tool to celebrate the relationship.  A tool to keep family together.

We pick and choose Christmas traditions carefully.  We have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake each year.  We do some sort of Advent or Jesse tree program.  We have a big stack of Christmas books and CDs.

Above all, we try to make sure the traditions are not the purpose.  The gift-giving and receiving – it’s not the purpose.  Doing the advent craft every day – it’s not the purpose.

And that gives us the freedom to focus on relationships.  With family.  And with the best Gift and Friend imaginable.

As Esmé can now sing, “Happy birthday, Jesus.  I’m so glad it’s Christmas!  All the tinsel and lights and the presents are nice.  But the real gift is You…”

** Jane wraps gifts for her 4-year-old in rural Oregon.  You can read about their adventures at Mozi Esmé. **

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The next two weeks it’s Christmas at The Village!  We have a few fun giveaways to bless our community (some for kids and some special treats just for you)!

Have you ever had some Christmas traditions just go all wrong?  Have you been able to redeem the purpose in spite of the failed tradition?

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Krafty Kash is a mom to two children(a boy & girl) and small business owner out of Lincoln Nebraska. “I love words and I love vintage. That is what brought me to make these pendants”.   Like Krafty Kash on facebook to keep up with all her great new designs (maps are beautiful) !!

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Giveaways this week – Monday (Krafty Kash), Wednesday (Sandra Peoples ebook), and Friday (What’s In The Bible)!
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  1. I remember the first year our ‘traditions’ failed. I fell apart. I cried. I got mad. I pouted—a lot. It was shameful. Then I realized that with our new life (we had had a baby that year and everything was changing) came new traditions and that THAT was okay…as long as we remembered WHY we were doing anything to start with. Every year I let go a little more from the “this is how we used to do it” and move into the “this is how we’ll celebrate Christ *this* year”.

  2. We have a lot of traditions. My favorite is going to church on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

  3. Laura Lane says

    We spent one December in a hotel unable to get to our Christmas things. I went out and bought some new things and we celebrated Advent instead.

  4. We try to keep to the same tradition each year. When the children wake up, we take a family picture by the Christmas tree in our pjs and then we read the Christmas story from the Bible. Then we open presents and eat a big pancake breakfast. The pictures haven’t always been pretty due to the kids pitching a fit or other reasons, but it is something we try to do. This year we have started a new tradition with Jesse Tree ornaments. Each night, we unwrap a new ornament and read the devotion that goes along with it. It is amazing way to celebrate Advent. It goes through the beginning of creation all the way to Christ’s birth. It is a great way to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Merry CHRISTmas.

  5. Perhaps it’s time to go back to traditions much older than Irving Berlin’s White Christmas or even Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. What about teaching them about the real St. Nicholas that used to anonymously give to the poor. Perhaps your family could do the same for a family in your area? This week our pastor shared how he slipped $100 under the door of the family that lived beneath him in student housing at Oral Roberts Univ. The pastor and his wife just chuckled as they heard the whoops and hollers from below.

  6. We’re starting a new tradition this year – reading an Advent devotional and having an Advent candle. I never grew up with many tradition, so I’m hoping to start to make those memories with my girls. But you’re right – the relationships are the most important, and remembering our relationship with Christ is the MOST important part of CHRISTmas!

  7. This may sound weird, but it is true… I was raised as a vegetarian. When I had to cook a turkey for my husband (before we got married) the first time… Well, let’s just say that bird was not all that it was cracked up to be.

  8. I’ve been there. We have our traditions for Christmas but they are now flexible. We do advent activities each year but I try to vary those from year to year.

    We always have a birthday cake for Jesus, for breakfast at that lol, but I let the kids choose what kind they think Jesus would like. After the party for Jesus we do presents and such.

    I think my girls, 10 & 3, like knowing what to expect but love that it’s not exactly the same each year.

  9. we had a big time Christmas-tradition-gone-wrong a few years ago. let’s just say it involved my mom’s traditional Christmas spaghetti dinner, a TON of leftovers, not enough Tupperware, and “starving children of the world.”
    but, we have redeemed the tradition by adjusting the recipe and making sure we have plenty of Tupperware. and any leftovers are given to “starving children” in our neighborhood. 😉

  10. Awww- I think we have all experienced something similar. Rarely does reality meet expecations. Great post and great reminder!

  11. We have definitely had traditions go wrong. Usually it deals with an adult expecting perfection instead of thinking about it being the birth of Jesus. My hubby and I have definitely started traditions with our children that deal solely with the true meaning of Christmas. We try to leave extended family out of the picture.

  12. OH, traditions!! I grew up with a few that I’ve tried to keep and so far we haven’t overwhelmed the girls or each other 🙂 We sing Happy Birthday and have a party for Jesus. We get special ornaments each year that signify a special moment that happened. This year we are working through an Advent program which has been fun – if only we could keep up!

  13. One Christmas when our kids were smaller, we had to be at both my family & my husband’s family Christmas gatherings on Christmas Day. So we opened Santa presents that morning, rushed to get to his family’s lunch gathering, traveled an hour away to get to my family’s dinner gathering and then drove back home late that night. By the end of the day, we were wore out, the kids were cranky and in all the business it hadn’t even felt like Christmas “magic” should on Christmas Day. When we crawled into bed that night, we realized we would never do that again because Christmas is about enjoying time spent with family…not feeling like a frazzled, hurried Griswald family Christmas!

    bamagv at aol dot com

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