We've all seen the commercials and made-for-tv movies. Snow gently falling outside, happy children running towards the windows to watch their world turn white, as mom and dad put the finishing touches on a holiday feast. Then the doorbell rings! The children fling the door open and fall into the loving arms of their loving grandparents. The holiday celebration can now begin.
Then you shut off the tv and sigh. There will be no knocks at your door. Perhaps, like me, that's a hard pill for you to swallow when you remember family filled holidays from your childhood. Whether it's due to distance, a loss, or relational difficulties, making the holiday special when it's just your family around the table (as usual) can be difficult. As mothers, we have the sometimes daunting task of creating special and meaningful family traditions that can make a holiday one our children will remember for years to come. You may be thinking, I can't do that! Where do I even start?! Trust me, I understand. There are three things that have helped me, during our long season of being alone on the holidays:
Sounds trite, right? It's November, after all. Everyone is thankful. I'm talking about going deeper than a month-long commitment. I love a good Pinterest Thanksgiving project as much as the next girl, but this is about your heart. It's time for you to really dig deep and see the gifts around you. Maybe you struggle with resentment when you hear about family gatherings your friends are having or perhaps it's still a season of grieving for you, after a loss. Those hurts are real and The Lord wants to heal them. But He also wants us to be thankful for the good things around us. If this is an area that you struggle in, I would really encourage you to get out a notebook and start recording at least three things each day that you're thankful for. The more that you're thankful, the easier it is to see God's goodness and blessing in your life. And when you see how richly He has blessed you, it will make your celebrations of the upcoming holidays so much more enjoyable for you and your family.
Here is where you can really let your ideas go wild! What a fun privilege we have as mothers to be able to introduce our children to the traditions we loved as children, but also incorporate new traditions that we want to start. Just remember – when you start a tradition, your children won't forget it! Be sure that you have an idea as to what you want your traditions to be before introducing it to your little ones. Take some time with your husband to think through your family schedule, budget, and interests. What traditions do you both want to bring into your family? What traditions are you ready to lay aside? Do you want to do any community service together? New recipes you've always wanted to try? Something you'd rather never eat again?! Take an honest look at your calendar for the holiday months. Maybe you don't have time to attend every community or church event. Which events are the most important to you? Now that you have a general outline of the traditions you want to incorporate into your family, it's time to get rolling!
You have a thankful heart. You have a plan. Now it's time to be intentional with your plans. Don't get swept up in every idea that floats past your Facebook feed or every event that you hear about on the radio. With your newly-planned your mix of new and old family traditions, it's time to decide who needs you. Needs me?! I'm the MOM. Everyone needs me! Very true. But when you look around your church or community, are there other individuals or families that could use some of your family's holiday traditions? A young woman with a strained family life, that would find the chaotic mess of decorating cookies with small children to be therapeutic. A widower that would love nothing more that to see the sheer excitement on a child's face on Christmas Eve. Maybe another family, just like yours, that's ready to start some new family traditions. Some of the ideas on your list will be special and set aside for your family alone – of course! – but what an honor to be able to bring the joy of thankfulness and Christmas to someone else.
I know it can seem overwhelming, but the privilege of steering your family through the holidays is such a blessing! Even with a bit of somberness in your heart or on the most modest budget, you can make small and meaningful additions to your celebrations that your children will grow to cherish. What kind of traditions have you started with your family that you will continue? Are you going to change anything this year?