I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Is Your Christmas Tethered & Anchored?

Is Your Christmas Tethered & Anchored? #christmas #christmastraditions #advent #holiday

Written by Jessica.

Last year around this time, I purchased some Christmas songbooks so that our family would have the words to all our favorite Christmas carols and hymns. I knew the first verses to most of them, but my husband and children didn’t. Since it’s sometimes difficult to hear all of the words in songs just by listening, especially when the language is formal or old-fashioned, I thought it would help everyone to have the words in print to refer to. I didn’t realize that I was starting a new family Christmas tradition.

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Is Your Christmas Tethered & Anchored? #christmas #christmastraditions #advent #holiday

I don’t remember the exact night in December that we started singing together as a family from our Christmas songbooks, but we did, and soon after, it became something that we did every night. Before singing, I’d read aloud from an Advent book and the kids would take turns hanging up an ornament on our Jesse Tree. The only light in the room would be coming from the Christmas tree and a few candles on the bookshelves. The kids would be in their pajamas, as it was the last thing we’d do before heading upstairs for bedtime. In the beginning, the kids sometimes struggled to follow along with the words, but they kept trying and learning. By the end of the season, they knew all the words to every carol and hymn that we sang.

When we had lots of time, we’d take turns choosing many songs to sing, while other nights, our time was limited and we'd just sang each person’s favorite.

We didn’t have any instruments. The only music was our voices.

We aren’t skilled singers. But, we sang heartily anyway.

It was humble. It was reverent. It was from the heart. It was our family’s own little worship, our offerings to the newborn King.

For us, it brought into our living room a tangible feeling of holiness…of Emmanuel, God with us…of the hope that was there that first Christmas night.

And for all of us, it quickly became a favorite Christmas tradition.

Is Your Christmas Tethered & Anchored? #christmas #christmastraditions #advent #holiday

Traditions as Tethers for the Heart

In Cindy Rollins’ book, Mere Motherhood, she wrote about family traditions and likened them to tethers, or anchors, on the hearts of our children:

“I know how to handle this cultural tide against which I cannot stand. I do not have to stand against it. I have to make sure we are rooted in real things…Every single time I do something that anchors our family to the past and our heritage, I am helping to preserve the hearts of my children. I am giving them a lifeline to the good life. We don’t have our children for long. We don’t have a whole lot of control over their lives or their futures…Love and heritage are good…If my children are tied to our family by love, then all will be well…Education is tethering our children to the past so that they are not adrift in the universe.” (Cindy Rollins, Mere Motherhood).

The tradition of singing Christmas carols and hymns together around the Christmas tree is one more tether, one more anchor I can give my children.

The Legacy of Meaningful Childhood Christmases

I was fortunate to grow up experiencing Christmases rich with meaningful traditions. My parents worked hard to create beautiful, memorable, and joyful Christmas seasons for my brothers and me. It still makes me feel happy and peaceful inside to remember those times.

There are so many things that stand out:

…Helping my mom to make Christmas cookies with Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby playing in the background…the way she’d display the Nativity sets my brothers and I made in nursery school, as if they were extra special, every year… my dad bringing in the Christmas tree from outside…favorite ornaments and decorations unboxed that I was excited to see each year…

…Taking turns hanging ornaments on our fabric Advent calendar…the wooden deer my dad made for our front yard and the beautiful grapevine baskets that he made and filled with greenery, hanging from our big front porch…pretty arrangements of greenery that he’d create for my mom to adorn the inside of our house…my mom getting us all dressed-up special on Christmas Eve…

…The wreath-shaped pastry my mom would make for Christmas morning and the big breakfast that she and my dad would make together…the smell of the delicious German Christmas dinner my mom always made…and so many memorable Christmas gifts! There was always something extra-special, big, or unexpected; and sometimes, lovingly handmade by one or both of them.

I am so grateful for the gift of those childhood Christmases that my parents gave me.

Those traditions, too, were tethers.

Is Your Christmas Tethered & Anchored? #christmas #christmastraditions #advent #holiday

Christmas Traditions for Our Children

As parents, my husband and I put the same kind of intentional thought and care into the Christmases that we have with our own children, marrying traditions that I grew up with to traditions that he grew up with, while also adding in our own. We, too, try to make the entire season meaningful and special:

…giving each child a Christmas ornament, reflective of their interests, early in December so that someday when they’re all grown up, they’ll have ornaments to hang on their own trees

…telling the kids the stories behind all their ornaments as they hang them up, allowing them to take turns each year putting the angel on the top of the tree once it’s all decorated

…displaying our Nativity set in a prominent place and letting the children interact with it as much as they want to

…helping the kids decorate gingerbread houses and make homemade Christmas ornaments with their names, ages, and the date on them

counting down to Christmas with storybooks

hanging ornaments on our Jesse Tree

using Advent calendars, one for each child to countdown with

…lighting candles on our Advent wreath and listening to an Advent devotional read aloud

…having my parents over early in December so my mom can help my girl and I bake the first batch of Christmas cookies, and my Dad can help my husband and boys cut fresh greenery from the woods with which to make homemade garlands and a wreath to hang up outside

…going to watch a Live Nativity or to see the Christmas lights together

…and more.

Is Your Christmas Tethered & Anchored? #christmas #christmastraditions #advent #holiday

Anchored to What Matters Most

These traditions are the things that I want my children to remember most about their childhood Christmases. These are the things that, I hope, will guide their hearts long into the future.

At Christmas, it strikes me how very much our American culture is changing and how secular the celebration has become. Increasingly appropriated, Christmas is now so far removed from that first one long ago in Bethlehem. Elf on the Shelf. Santa Claus. The Nightmare Before Christmas. The ugly Christmas-sweater contests. Inflatable cartoon characters on lawns. So much commercialism. So little of Christ.

I can lament these things and the way times are changing, or I can create Christmas goodness and beauty in my own home. I can pass on family traditions and make memories with my children. I can point them to the One who does not change. I can give them tethers – anchors – to hold onto.

When my children go forth from our home, someday, I hope that they will take with them the very happiest of memories of their childhood Christmases, just as I have of mine. I pray that they will not lose sight of the Greatest Gift and all the ways we honored Him together. I know that they will remember us singing together by the light of the Christmas tree, and maybe even the words we sang too, and how it was one of our favorite things.

I already have our songbooks ready and waiting for this year.

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