Making Traditions Your Own

Last week at Youth Group, the leader asked the kids about their favorite Thanksgiving foods. My daughter Lydia really had to think about this question. She told the group about our tradition of choosing a different ethnic food every year. She said the only repeated tradition for her on Thanksgiving Day, is that she has some eggnog punch at a friend’s brunch in the morning.

We do have a tradition for decor at this time of year. We have an autumn tree. It is our usual artificial Christmas tree, decorated with shiny ornaments of pine cones and acorns and brightly colored leaves. Everything is rust and olive and orange colored, blending beautifully with our living room.

Our desert autumn lingers into December. My kids watch for piles of leaves to jump in, and they usually find them in early December. I like having the autumn tree while it feels so autumnal outside. It reminds me that it isn’t Christmas yet. The stores are full of Santa Claus and tinsel, but at our house it isn’t Christmas yet. (We change to Christmas decor during the week before Christmas, and leave it up through January.)

My celebration of Advent is a mixture of traditional and personal. My Advent readings are traditional. That means I focus on God’s promises and save the manger and shepherds for Christmas.

I realize it is not a traditional Advent practice to play Christmas music during the entire month of December. I have a simple reason for this: we have lots of Christmas CDs, and I uploaded them all to Itunes, and now I have far too much music to squish into the twelve days of Christmas.

I play the old carols frequently. It is important to me that my children know these and know them well. I love singing the carols on Christmas Eve at church and knowing that Christians have been singing some of these songs for centuries. The feeling of connectedness to that long line of people who love Jesus is something I treasure.

And of course we have songs in our collection that are not carols:  “Hard Candy Christmas” and  “It’s a Marshmellow World” and “Cinnamon and Chocolate.” I have Nat King Cole and Elvis on vinyl.

My Advent wreath is not quite traditional either. The typical wreath holds three purple candles and a pink one. (I researched that pink candle–some people light it on the 3rd week and some on the 4th. Some people use it when they talk about Mary and others use it when they talk about the virtue of Joy. I am sure someone will comment with an entirely different reason for the pink candle.)

My wreath has green taper candles and a big white pillar candle in the middle. Those were the candles in my cupboard the first year I had the wreath, and I liked the the way they looked on the wreath. (I have this wreath with green candles)

As you can see, I have blended tradition with personalization. So I am not going to criticize any of you for putting up your tree “too early” or listening to Christmas music in August. I hope you will consider how this study might blend with your own traditions this year.

Photo Credit:  Henk Bouma


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