Favorite Christmas traditions

December 25, 2023

Merry Christmas! Our family got up this morning, checked our stockings, ate delicious baked oatmeal for breakfast, and opened our Secret Santa gifts. All before 10:30 AM.

The ham is now cooking and we look forward to a feast later today.

On my team’s Friday standup, we usually all answer a fun Friday question. This last week we were asked, “What is your favorite Christmas/holiday tradition?” I thought it would be fun to share some of mine today on Christmas.

Celebrating Advent

The most important part of Christmas for me is celebrating the religious aspect of it. One of the things that has helped me to do that over the years is to observe Advent. Advent starts four weeks before Christmas or five weeks if Christmas falls on a Sunday.

It is a time of preparation and reflection. Observing Advent has lengthened my celebration of Christmas to be an entire month instead of just one day. It has led to a more meaningful celebration of Christmas for me and my family.

My wife and I started celebrating Advent during our first year of marriage. The church we were attending had a special seminar about Advent and gave us plenty of suggestions on how to celebrate. We built an Advent wreath, bought some candles, and would light a candle each Sunday evening, sing some Christmas hymns, and read something that would help focus our hearts.

We still have that wreath today. We even took it to Hungary the year that we lived there so we could celebrate. We added some purple flowers to the base of the candles that we bought in Hungary.

Our advent wreath with 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, and the white Jesus candle in the center. There are also purple fabric flowers at the base of each candle.

Later on my family celebrated with an Advent Jesse Tree. Each night we would add a different ornament related to a devotional in a book we read. The devotional traces the heritage of Jesus through the Old Testament as God’s purpose is revealed for the coming of the Savior. It was a great way to prepare our hearts to celebrate the spiritual aspect behind Christmas.

The ornaments were made by members of my sister-in-law’s church in New Mexico and came with the book. I believe we received it the first Christmas we celebrated in Orlando before our first child was born.

Our youngest standing by the Jesse Tree after adding the first ornament which was a globe, representing God’s creation of the world.

Another way that I have observed Advent is by reading different devotional books to help prepare and focus my heart on the spiritual significance of Christmas. This year I read The One True Light by Tim Chester. I bought it several years ago through our church as they made it available to help families celebrate Advent. We did not use it then and it was in a box of books I had planned to give away. But I saw it this year when I was trying to decide what to read and decided to give it a try. I enjoyed a journey through John’s gospel this past month.

Other books I have read in the past include:

Candlelight service on Christmas Eve

Another tradition that I like is attending a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Our church in Orlando observed it each year and the three churches that we have been involved in here in Chattanooga have all done it as well. This service is usually the apex of my spiritual celebration. These services contain a mixture of singing worship songs together, hearing children’s choirs or Christmas plays, special music, and a short message from the pastor.

Celebrating candlelight service at Hixson Presbyterian Church in 2022. We ended the evening lighting candles and singing Silent Night.

One year, we celebrated a candlelight service in an adobe church in Tuscon, Arizona. We were spending Christmas with my wife’s brother and his family, along with my in-laws. It was a small church and a memorable experience.

We got to celebrate Christmas in 1997 in the Alps in the town of Wengen. We had a late evening service at a small Episopal church. We sang songs, heard a message, and celebrated communion together. We had actual wine and all drank from a Communion chalas. It was all that you could imagine a Christmas in the Alps to be.

Secret Santa

One of our newer traditions as a family is to do a Secret Santa gift exchange. Instead of having to buy gifts for each family member, each person chooses a name and purchases a gift for that family member. Each year we have a budget and each person tries to put together a wishlist.

We have a lot of creative people in our family so there have been a lot of handmade gifts through the years. This year, my youngest daughter crocheted a 8×8 square of purple and pink flowers on a green background for my wife to hang over our fireplace.

A crocheted wall hanging with 8x8 squares of purple and pink flowers alternating on a green background. My daughter made it for my wife for Christmas.
My 17 year old daughter’s handiwork

I think almost all of us are more excited to give our gifts and see the reaction of the person we chose. It is also fun trying to guess who gave you the gift.

This post is part of my attempt to post something every day for a month. I was inspired by Michelle Barker, who recently participated in National Blog Posting Month.

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