There is no other season more jam packed full of family tradition than the holiday season. When my husband and I were raising our three daughters, any new family activity we did during this time of the year became a tradition to be repeated, at least in the minds of our girls. “But it’s a TRADITION!”, they’d say, if we said we weren’t going to be doing something we’d done the previous year. Soon, we had more “traditions” than we could keep track of or had time for.
When Jesus walked on planet earth, He was born into the Jewish religious system that was full of religious tradition. Through the centuries the religious leaders had taken the law of God and added thousands of manmade traditions to it. When Jesus came along, He upset their religious apple cart by telling them that they were actually disregarding and disrespecting the law of God by clinging to their manmade traditions more than to the truth.
As we age and our life circumstances change, it’s all too easy to want to cling tightly to our family traditions. We long for things that are permanent and unchanging as our lives go zooming by and we see our children becoming grown and independent. But, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we have to be careful that our traditions don’t become more burdensome than life-giving. You may have heard of the famous book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. It’s all about decluttering your house and only keeping those items that still bring you joy. Sometimes, we may need to declutter our holiday schedule and decide which traditions are no longer working for us and have become burdensome instead of bringing us joy.
When our girls were small, holidays were spent at either my mama’s or my in-law’s. But seasons in life change and with it, some of our traditions had to change, too. In subsequent years, our own home became the center for holiday celebrations. This year, there’s another generational shift. Thanksgiving is at our middle daughter’s home, where her southern-born husband is going to deep fry the turkey. That’s a big departure from our usual Thanksgiving tradition! Christmas Day will be spent at our oldest daughter’s new to them farmhouse. All of our daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren will be there. This year, the location of our celebration may be different, but we will still have family traditions that we will honor. We will still eat our favorite Christmas breakfast together, eggs, sausage balls, cheese grits and my homemade cinnamon cranberry bread. My husband will still read his Christmas blessing. A blessing he writes every year to be spoken aloud over our children and their descendants. We’ll still open gifts one by one. Starting with the youngest going to the oldest until the room is filled with wrapping paper and ribbon and the space under the tree is bare. We’ll still make lamb and roasted potatoes for Christmas dinner. But this time I’ll show my girls how to marinate the lamb and how to roast it just right. There will come a day when it will be their turn to carry on that tradition, and I need to be gracious enough to let go and let them.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day lost sight of the love, grace, and mercy of God because they were so bound up in keeping their man-made rules and traditions. As we age and our family grows and changes, it’s important to keep the main thing the main thing in regards to our family traditions. We may need to ask ourselves if this tradition is helping or hindering the flow of God’s love and peace in our family. If our traditions are hindering that flow of love and peace, we need to be flexible enough to loosen our grasp on that tradition and let it go. Trust me, when the grandchildren come along, there will be plenty of fun new traditions to take its place!
What are some of your family traditions? Have your traditions changed over the years?
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Latest posts by Elizabeth Stewart (see all)
- The Power of Purpose - April 5, 2017
- Traditions and How They Change as We Age - December 6, 2016
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thanks, for this Elizabeth. Traditions can surely tie families together, but as they grow and change, traditions can also drive them apart. You’ve given good food for thought here. The idea of “because that’s how we’ve always done it,” doesn’t allow room for the beauty of growth. But to abandon all traditions doesn’t ground us to our past. You’re just saying to be flexible and discerning. This year, quite spontaneously, I did something at our Thanksgiving dinner, which I hope will become a tradition… it sounds similar to your husband’s Christmas blessing. I wrote a blessing of two sentences for each person present and why I was thankful for him or her. There were about 30 present, and I read each blessing aloud and acknowledge that person around the circle. (Normally each person says a thing or two for which he’s grateful). It was a special twist on a tradition. I’m glad I felt the spontaneity to try it.
May you and your family have a joyous Christmas. thank you for sharing.
Blessings to you this season, Lynn! I hope you are feeling better. I do think that discerning which traditions from our past that we want to carry on for future generations is key.
We’re beginning that season of sifting ourselves, Elizabeth, as one by one, the boys leave the nest, new family members join the celebration with us, and we have to be circumspect in determining which traditions meet the qualification of enhancing our appreciation of Jesus.
I had never thought of it in relation to the Kondo method, but you’re so right! (No surprise there!)
Thanks for your wisdom, and for the beauty of your words.
Navigating these family changes takes a lot of grace and flexibility! God bless you and yours in this exciting and challenging season of becoming an empty nester.
Beautiful Elizabeth! I understand the changing traditions now that both of my sons are married. Change feels hard but the joy on the other side is worth it.
There really is joy on the other side of these changes. We just have to be adaptable! It’s okay, however, to let ourselves feel the loss that comes when our nest becomes empty. The key is to not stay stuck in that place, to be able to see the joy in the season God has us in now.
Elizabeth, thank you for these wise words. I wrote a long commment that disappeared as I logged in. So I’ll simply say that aging itself helps us let go of some of the traditions we’ve clung to through the years. I know I will be doing less baking myself this year. The energy level just isn’t the same.
But we will definitely maintain our Advent wreath to keep our eyes focused on Jesus as the center of our celebration.
Have a Blessed Christmas,