Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Traditions-Mathews Style...

Now that December is a few hours away, I thought it fitting to start reflecting (and comparing notes, I know, I'm shameless) on the family traditions we enjoy while waiting for Jesus' birthday.

Since we've lived in different states since 2001 from California, I found that some traditions just didn't really fit us. But these seem to be timeless and more meaningful to our little family of 5.
Ok, ready? Do you have your own list for comparison? Make sure to let me know because I think that's half the fun, don't you?

Alright... This is not Top 10 list or anything, just a list of all that we've been doing to initiate our own countdown.
1) Christmas book- it's full of stories and scripture chase challenges about the season and what it really means. We turn off all the lights, but one, light a candle, read a scripture then three short stories or one long one to end our day on a grateful note.

2)Advent Calendar- Charlie had his own felt kind, so we use that (I love how it's older than the children). Each ornament has a "to do" idea on the back. From its numbered pocket, we pull out an ornament, read the idea, and place it on the tree. Then, we do the idea, for example, "walk around and thank God". By the time we reach the ornament #24, we are told to read the scriptures about His birth and read Mary's Dream, my favorite story out of our book.

3)Christmas Eve One- people call it differently, but we exchange one gift of anything bedtime related to wear for the next day. We take pictures; the kids act like models and we send them off to bed with something new.

4)Personal Themes- each of our children have their own Christmas decor that they've latched on to and alternate each year. This year, it's Jasmine's turn so our colors will be burgundy and gold, with a burgundy angel topper. We take our family portraits according to the color scheme of our Christmas decor. Ian's is the Disney theme where Mickey as the bandleader is his topper. Lisa loves anything Asian, so we put together a Poinsettia & Stars theme for her with a poinsettia topper made in the Philippines. In the Philippines, we celebrate with stars to commemorate the star that the three wise men followed to find the baby Jesus.

(Last year, we couldn't do any of their theme, because we couldn't access the decors except for the tree skirt for Jasmine's theme! ;P )

5)Family Gifts- we started this last year; since we have not much space in our apartment, and that we no longer want too much gifts under the tree where we take hours just opening them, we've decided to choose three family gifts from a list we make of those that we can use all year. Of course, grandma and grandpa are exempted from that, but since we've told them, they have respected it by sending us giftcards instead which we don't use until after New Year's day. The kids actually love it; they combine it with the other giftcards from their birthdays and get to have a shopping spree!

6)Filipino Christmas- since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, Christmas is devoted to how the Filipinos celebrate it. In the Philippines, we love to tell stories, visit and share, poinsettias, small trees, bamboo and cellophane stars with frilly tails, caroling and lots and lots of desserts. We also cook all that we have as our way of thanking God for bringing us Jesus and we offer Him our all as our gift for his birth. So, for my family, this is how we celebrate each year...

7)Cake and present- On Christmas Day afternoons, we find the best chocolate cake (easy to do)recipe that we can find that year and make it as our cake for Jesus. We place a picture of him next to it, his baby image from our Nativity set and we sing "Happy Birthday" to Him. Then, we slice it and share His cake. We put together this box back in 1998 of all the things that our family can work on to be better followers like paying tithing, honesty, sharing, etc. and we pick one from the stash inside the box. Whatever it is, we discuss how we can do it and we place the card on the picture of Christ we have in the living room, the one from last Christmas, we discuss if we did well on it or we could've have done better and we put it back in the box. It's a great memory jogger.

8)Real Tree- the kids love hunting down that perfect tree, but sometimes, we make do with what's available. Last year, for some odd reason, by mid-December, there were no trees around to purchase. We finally found one in Wal-Mart, the last one, so we got really excited, surrounded the tree and called an associate. The manager came out, pulled the tree up, just to show why it was the last one there, there was not much on the back! I'm talking bare branches! He asked if we really wanted it, but I told him frankly that we want it though it would be amiss of him if he didn't give us a significant discount. So he did! He gave it us for $5.oo! It was perfect; our apartment had just enough room for it. And the paper snowflakes we decorated it with made it look so festive and grand.

9)Carrollton Nativity Display- this is new since last year also. We participated in the display of hundreds of Nativity sets from around the world held in our Stake Center's cultural hall. It's done the second week of December and we lend out our set. This year, we're lending our set again and the 4 small fake trees we got for really cheap! This is why I want to stay here...

10)Candles- every year I make sure that we have candles- all kinds, scented, taper and colored ones. We like to start the evening with low lights to invite the spirit and respect the modesty of Jesus' beginning.

11)Movies and books- we love to read about Christmas and watch about it, too! During the break, we read all day or pick one movie to watch as a family.

12)Aunt Kate & Mommy- both of us have December birthdays so my kids have a fun time thinking up of good presents for me and their aunt Kate even though we can't afford it. At the end of this great imaginary list, they face reality and say, "well, we definitely can afford to give you both lots of hugs!" I love those the best.

13)Cookies- we do test runs on what desserts should be on the dessert table, so one day a week, I test out a new recipe from Food Network or my cookbooks to see if it's good enough. Of course, the tried and true always make the list.

14)Family Portraits- we love doing this! Charlie gets out his tripod and do "test shots" pretending that he's adjusting his camera aim, focus and so on. We get lots of goofy pictures of the kids dancing, posing, talking and playing. He even got me looking up at the ceiling looking frustrated. :)

15)Pizza for lunch- since we eat a lot at night on our Christmas Eve dinner, we don't like to cook anything for lunch, so we just pop a pizza in the oven and we have that for lunch. No muss, no fuss!

16) Christmas breakfast- we munch all day until bedtime, so we make sure that we eat a good breakfast after we open up all the presents! How else could I justify all the chocolate I put away on this day?

17)Newsletter- every year, since 1997, we update our friends and loved ones of our yearly adventures and source of gratitude.

18) Coin Toss- this is another Filipino tradition; we collect coins throughout the year and on Christmas Eve, after dinner and story, we toss the coins up in the air and the kids collect them and place them in their piggy banks. It's our way of teaching the kids to be grateful for the blessings of loving Jesus and greeting his birth by sharing and loving each other. We find that this tradition helps the kids not be in the mode of "gimmes" and they actually count it carefully so they don't miscalculate their first tithings for the New Year.

I know this is a long list, but I love Christmas and the traditions we enjoy now. I didn't have the privilege of experiencing them as a kid. I love to see how beautiful these traditions are through my children and my wonderful husband who grew up with many traditions in his family.

I hope we had a lot in common from your own list because I know we're not that strange... ;D


MnM said...

These are awesome traditions! Good for you for doing so much neat stuff, one day your kids will really appreciate it. I know I really love how my mom did such neat stuff for Christmas to make it really special for us.

Hansonpatch said...

I love advent calendars and love to open each new door with the kids. One of my favorite traditions during the holidays is new this past two years. We usually invite the missionaries for either Christmas eve or day, and another new one is volunteering as hosts at the temple. It is just Ryan and I so it is like a date night, and it is so rewarding and fun! I love meeting the people from all around the world and of all different faiths so silenced by the displays of lights and it is always amazing to see them grow silent around the large nativity scene! The truth of the saviors birth and divinity are difficult for the most ardent atheist to deny when listening to Luke 2 being read in front of the manger scene. It is beautiful.

CC said...

I miss the Mesa Temple lights, too! We beeline for the big Nativity and try to capture the brightness of the star that lead the three kings to Him. Also the Nativity Exhibit there. I think that's why I love the Nativity Exhibit here.