Growing up, my family had a number of fun, meaningful traditions surrounding the Advent season. Christmas was such a celebration, something I eagerly anticipated each year.
Some of our traditions were small, far from significant to the meaning of the season - just little habits we incorporated into our Christmases. Others were lined up to build into Advent's meaning and remind us of the real reason for Christmas.
As Mac grows and we prepare to welcome another little one, I'm excited to start our own Smith family traditions.
A few of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child:
- We had an Advent calendar every year. Sometimes there were chocolates in it, sometimes other small treats (Bonnie Bell Lipsmackers!); either way my brother and I so looked forward to opening them as we counted down to Christmas. Because it was just the two of us, I opened the odd-numbered days and he opened the even-numbered ones.
- Each year we'd select a child to buy for, typically sharing our respective genders and ages, and go pick out gifts with our parents. Selecting and wrapping everything meant a lot more than just donating money; I loved having a hand in the giving and imagining what these gifts might mean to someone else. It instituted a real sense of gratitude in us.
- Our stockings had, and still do have, little bells on them so you could hear if they were, um, inspected. My parents take stocking stuffers very seriously, so it was quite tempting to peek or rummage around inside before Christmas morning.
- Every December my parents, far craftier than I, would help us with some Christmas-related project. Making our own ornaments, creating a nativity scene, painting faux Christmas windows (these must be seen to be understood), decorating plates, cutting potatoes into stamps and making our own wrapping paper - the list goes on. My brother and I always had a hand in creating something to commemorate the year; I may still have the glue gun burns to prove it!
- On Christmas Eve, after my family got home from our church's candlelight service, my dad read the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2. As we got older, my brother and I got to read part of the story as well - something that felt like a big honor on such a special night.
- After we read Luke 2, my brother or I (always alternating - Mom's big on fairness!) would place baby Jesus in our nativity scene. As children it didn't make sense to us why baby Jesus was already in the manger all month, so that issue was nipped in the bud by waiting 'til his "birth night." It was such a thrill be the one to place him in the stable, signifying that Jesus had come, just as we were promised!
- On Christmas Eve, we were each allowed to open one present, and it was always the same: Christmas pajamas. (Oh how I need new pajamas now! May have to start this tradition back up.) We went to sleep covered in flannel snowflakes, which made for very cute pictures the next day.
- On Christmas morning, we couldn't come out of our rooms until we put our robes on (over our new Christmas pjs, of course) and made our beds. Our bedrooms were upstairs, so we had to dress, brush our teeth and get presentable before coming downstairs together. This part was agonizing! I suppose the point was to make sure no one slid down the bannister at dawn to peek at Santa's presents solo?
- Speaking of presents, Mom and Dad wrapped their gifts to us, but Santa's were beautifully laid out, unwrapped.
- Dad set up a video camera most Christmas mornings. I'd pay money never to have to watch the videos from 1993 to 1996. Eep.
- We didn't have a ritual for opening our gifts one by one, but as we've gotten older and the frenzy around Christmas morning has died down, we have tried to take turns and see what everyone else got. After all of our presents were open, we'd move to the den to open up stockings.
- Our stockings were so much fun! Candies, CDs, sweet treats, lip gloss, lotions, candles and fun stocking stuffers were a given, but every now and then a surprise (a watch! new earrings!) was thrown in to mix things up. You never know what to expect, and I am glad Bradley has his own stocking at their house now so he can participate. Our stockings are woefully empty here at chez Smith...
- Mom would make coffee, holiday cider and sweet rolls for us to eat after all of the present-getting hoopla was over. Then it was time to celebrate Christmas all over again with each side of the family!