On Christmas Eve, our stockings would appear under the tree right before our big night of celebration began. After enjoying our stocking loot, we'd head out to my Aunt E's and Papa Cliff's house (my dad's sister and bro in law) where my dad's immediate family would get together and we'd eat and open gifts. And most of the time it included some cheesy 3 person Christmas pagent put on by my cousins and I. After we were done with that Christmas celebration, we'd head out to meet my mom's side of the family, which happened to be much more extensive. We'd play games, eat some more, open gifts. And I do remember a Christmas show or two during these parties as well. We'd head home late at night on Christmas Eve then wake up in the morning and open gifts as a family. Then the feast preperation would begin. We always had family over. There was turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, corn, pound cake, pie, and cookies. Oh man... we would EAT!
And every year it was like that. It was exactly like that long enough into my life that I remember starting to feel a little sense of loss when things started changing. When I had my own children I really struggled with wanting to create tradition for them. I wanted them to have the same type of happiness I had knowing exactly what was going to happen during the Christmas season. And I wanted it to be exactly like what I had growing up.
But I've come to realize this.... it wasn't the schedule that created the happiness- it was the people. It was the love. It was the family. Don't get caught up in making a routine and finding happiness in that. Don't get frustrated when things don't happen exactly like you want them to. Don't feel dissapointed when tradition isn't exactly like what you hoped. Instead, find ways to love others in a new way. Think of a way to serve with your family this year.
It's funny how as an adult, I see the value in things I did as a kid that I didn't like doing. When I was young, every year our kids group at church would go sing Christmas songs at a retirement home around the corner from our church. I'll be honest and say that it was NOT my favorite thing to do. But now, as an adult I know that maybe that was the only Christmas gift some of those folks got. This year, pass that message onto your family. I got so caught up in making my children happy by doing things for them that I lost sight of the fact that doing things for others would make me AND my kids happy too (even if they don't understand it now).
There's always ways to serve around the holidays. I challenge you to find something that everyone in your family can take part in, even if it's as small as donating toys. Nothing small is too small!