When my Dad and Step-mom got married we were initiated into her family and all of their Christmas traditions. I had never been a part of a family that did Christmas quite like hers and seriously they DID Christmas. We had a big decorating of the tree time where we pulled out each ornament and talked about it because each one had sentimental value. We had a special night where we went to look at Christmas lights. There were certain movies that we watched while eating a big bowl of popcorn and drinking homemade hot cocoa. On the 22nd we got together with another family and exchanged gifts, we then got together as a family and exchanged gifts while eating Mexican food on Christmas Eve. Then there was all of the fun of opening gifts and spending time together reading Luke 2 on Christmas Day. We had a lot of other traditions including pictures with Santa, puzzles, games, etc that we did during the month of December and it all seemed so special and sacred. However, the biggest thing that stood out to me was that it was a time of focusing on Christ and His birth. My Dad made sure that we focused on Advent as a family and that we talked about the importance of Christ's birth.
This year I have struggled with keeping Christmas special as a family. We don't have a tree, I haven't pulled out any decorations, and we haven't baked any cookies. No, I'm not a Grinch...our family is still in the process of closing on our house in Austin and we are moving literally a day or two after Christmas. However, this stripped down Christmas has somehow become very special to me. We have literally stripped it down to the bare bones and it's beautiful. The kids understand that we are giving them very little this year and yet they are receiving so much more than Mary and Joseph had when Jesus was born in that manger so long ago.
I was afraid that by not decorating our house like I have in the past would deprive my kids of the joy of Christmas but in reality it has made all of us enjoy the real meaning of Christmas so much more. It is more poignant and beautiful than ever this year, and I am so glad that I am finally learning that bigger and elaborate doesn't always mean better.