Holiday Traditions

Posted by  | Friday, August 15, 2008  at 9:28 AM  
Before Josh and I got married we talked a lot about holidays and what our expectations were. My parents are divorced and live in separate states, his parents live in yet another state, and he also has grandparents on both sides who are living and do additional family celebrations for the holidays. Needless to say, our discussions were more about how we could divide the time between all our loved ones, and not as much on family traditions we wanted to do in our home.

Here's a highlight of the "biggies" and what we do:

Thanksgiving - We have fond memories growing up of wonderful food and gatherings with lots of family, especially cousins, and so much fun playing together. We've continued these things married, although living overseas adds a twist. Instead of going to family gatherings, we try to get together with others in our city and celebrate together. When we're in the states, we also enjoy shopping the day after Thanksgiving and typically get up very early and wade through the crowds to get some good deals. (This includes scouring the papers on Thanksgiving evening and making a family plan of who will go where and in what order :).

Christmas - Both of our families did very typical things at Christmas. When we got married I really wanted to understand the traditions and which ones had a Christian basis and which were more cultural. I found an excellent book - Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins. He looks at the history of our Christmas traditions from candy canes, lights and Christmas trees, to Christmas cards, poinsettias, Santa, gift-giving, and so much more. I've found it to be a wonderful tool to share with non-believers why we do what we do at Christmas and it's opened many opportunities to share our faith.

Santa was definately a much bigger deal in my husband's family than it was in mine, but, at this point, we plan to incorporate Santa on a small scale - definately not to eclipse the true meaning of the holiday but to be fun and imaginative when our children are small.

The day we hang our Christmas tree is very special and we listen to Christmas music, make spiced cider to fill our home with a wonderful scent, drink egg nog, and we all get involved in hanging ornaments, watching a Christmas movie, and talking about what Christmas is all about.

Easter - Another great holiday in our family where we (when we were in the states) went to church, got together with family, dyed easter eggs, played with cousins, and had such a wonderful day together. We do these things overseas, just maybe with friends rather than family and church looks a little different than it did in the states :).

July 4th - Next to Christmas, this was the most important holiday for my husband. He has fond memories of having a grill-out on the lake, all the family coming over, and it just being a wonderful day. We have continued this since married, although, again, this one looks the most different living overseas. (As we were talking about where to spend holidays before we got married, we divided it like this: Christmas and July 4th with his side; Thanksgiving and Easter with mine. It worked for us.)

Halloween - I don't like this holiday and am really thankful October 31st comes and goes where we live as just another ordinary day. At home our church does a "Fall Festival" and I'm sure we'll feel great pressure to be a part of that celebration the years we're home. This is just my personal opinion (and I know many churches doing GREAT outreaches this day and am not at all opposed to what they are feeling lead to do) but I see the roots of this holiday as completely pagan and, to top it off, think it's quite silly to jack our kids up on bags full of candy (aka "poison"). Even churches seem to jump onto this bandwagon with "trunk or treat" as if we must entice them to step away from the world that day and the only way to get them to the "fall festival" (vs. Halloween celebration) is to promise lots and lots of sugar. This is just my perspective. We haven't yet had a discussion about Halloween this week so I'd love to hear from others and what you do this day!

Well, that's a run down of the major traditional holidays in our home. I would like to start more traditions for our family that our kids will take with them and want to incorporate for future generations. Traditions are about family, but, as all things in life, really should point to Christ and bring us closer to Him. Ultimately, as I think through holidays and what we plan, we seek to glorify Him and pray these traditions will not only bring fond memories to our children but they will grow closer to Jesus because of them.


KC said...

Mark and I agree with you completely about Halloween! It has been one of our mini-crusades since we got married. Not because we necessarily want to change what other people do, but because NOBODY seems to understand why we don't celebrate in some way. We see the pagan origins, the folly of giving kids loads of candy and some of the truly evil things that happen on that night and wish it would just pass like any other night.

Leah said...

I was wondering if someone was going to bring up Halloween! :)

We do celebrate Halloween in our family. For me, it is a part of the American culture, and I'm okay with my children participating in it. If we lived in another country, I would teach them about the traditions of that culture as well. It is a way for our children to interact with the other families in our neighborhood. We don't get many other chances to just randomly ring neighbors' doorbells and say hello.

I agree that the candy is a bit much. My boys are still too young to eat any of it (Ed and I ate it all last year!). Once they are a little older, I will divide it up for them and ration it out as a special treat.

My plan is to not participate in Fall Festivals but to interact with our neighbors on this day. We live in suburban Chicago in a little neighborhood with rows of houses. We are trying to meet as many neighbors as we can and build a sense of community around us. Halloween has that built into it.

We walk a fine line each day of being "in the world but not of the world". I hope to teach my boys the difference as we interact with our community and love them as Jesus has called us to love them. For me, this can include dressing up for Halloween and trick or treating down our street.

Keith said...

I hope not to offend any Catholic readers with this post- but here is a Halloween alternative that might be more meaningful than the hollow "Fall Festival," which sometimes pulls Christians out of the world that they'd like to be in if it weren't for the ghost masks.

Doorposts (publishing co) has a notebook full of ideas for celebrating 10/31 as Reformation Day, since Martin Luther chose that day in 1517 to nail up his 95 Theses. I don't have the book, but am curious and may order it. It has ideas for making this day very fun and educational.

Christy said...

I understand the Halloween thing completely. Since having children I have felt even more that I don't really want to celebrate this day the way the U.S. does. I think the Lord blessed me with two wonderful fall babies. My oldest's birthday is 10/29 and my youngest was born a year later on 11/9. I am looking at this as an opportunity to make a big celebration of their birthdays with a fall twist. In a few years when they are both able to enjoy it I plan to use area attractions such as the local corn maze, orchards and such to celebrate their birthdays. I have been a stickler with my husband about the types of decorations that we have in our home. I will admit in the past before children we do have some Halloween decorations but nothing that is related to witches and such. I have a few jack-o-lanterns and lights that say "Happy Halloween". But most of the decorations are ones that can be used the whole fall season up until we decorate for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

This whole Holiday discussion has been so interesting. As a mother of four young children, I definitely feel its been one of the top "what do I do?" areas of parenting. I just wanted to add a note about Halloween.
My oldest three are girls and they LOVE to play dress-up and costumes all year around. This time of year provides a unique opportunity for them to parade this fun hobby outside of our home. We do have a "merry not scary" rule for the costumes they choose. We use the atmosphere of that time of year as a jump-off point to openly discuss and educate on some the issues surrounding the so-called festivities (real witch craft, etc...but most of all just the concept of good and evil). As for the trick-or-treating candy, in previous years we have done what Leah recommended and rationed it out as a special treat, but still ended up throwing away much of it. My girls had a hard time with "wasting all that good" candy (my oldest pointed out that SOMEBODY paid money for it), so we decided together (they were really actually on-board with it) that next time they will carry small bags and say no thank-you to all the treats except for the 3-5 hand-outs that look most appealing to them. While this sounds like a good plan in theory, I'm anxious to see how well it actually works out!

Eric and Sheryl Nelken said...

A family I baby-sat for in High School had, what I think ,is a good approach to the Halloween candy issue. The deal was that at the end of the night, the kids could pick out 10 favorite pieces of candy (to be dispensed over the next week by the parents) and then they 'surrendered' the rest. In exchange, they were each allowed to go to Walmart/Target/etc and purchase one book and one toy ($5 or less) The kids were happy and the parents didn't have sugar over-loaded kids. I have always that was a pretty good idea. I don't really know what they did with the left-over candy...I suspect the parents ate a few pieces themselves! :)

Robin Baker said...

if you're interested, Calvary Chapel has great literature about Halloween and Christians. On that note, I was a little confused that you were against Halloween but NOT easter eggs. They are celebrating the pagan gods of fertility. Something to research and pray about.

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