Keeping it about Christmas

I didn't grow up with many holiday traditions. By the time I was a teen, my mom was making Scottish shortbread to give away, and we did always spend Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family and Christmas Day with my mom's, but that was really about it.

I want my boys to grow up with more entrenched memories than that. I still make shortbread to give away, and am the cookie mom for the boys classroom parties. We're still discovering local traditions like parades and pajama story-times and neighborhood light displays.

Beyond being simply memorable though, I want them to be aware that this is the one time of year that all across the world people pause to remember the birth of the most important baby ever.

I'm intentional about not setting up our tree until about mid-month so the gift repository doesn't become the focus of our decor. I do set up our various nativity sets, including a couple that are intended specifically for them to play with.

But my favorite tradition is our Advent NativiTree. Each day until Christmas morning, we open a door on our "Christmas House" Advent Calendar to discover an ornament that represents part of the Nativity story. The boys hang the ornament on a small tree and we read the corresponding portion of scripture. Then we read a Christmas storybook.

This year I've added a Christmas carol to the tradition. Tonight the Christmas house will reveal an angel ornament as we read about Gabriel appearing to Mary. Our carol will be "Of the Father's Love Begotten."

It surprises me every year how excited the boys get to see what's behind the door and to hang the ornament on the special tree. By the time we put up our regular tree, we'll have spent more than a week focusing on the real reason for the season, and the 'getting' of gifts takes a back seat (at least until later).

What do you do to help your family remember what Christmas is really about? I'd love to hear your traditions.

Thought I'd share this version of tomorrow's song, O Little Town of Bethlehem. YouTube has been a great way to share some of these traditional carols with the boys.

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