NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–All most parents want for Christmas is two more weeks to prepare for the holiday. If you have been near the mall, you know the race is on. Stores are decorated to the hilt, and opportunities to spend money abound -— money financial counselors say people do not have -— creating debt they will be paying off until next Christmas and beyond. For weeks, you shop, clean, decorate, cook and add tasks to your to-do list, wanting to create the perfect Christmas for your child and family.
But what really matters? How can you experience family togetherness at Christmas and receive the gracious gifts God wants to give you? You may try to make your child happy by driving all over town to get everything he wants. But when holiday memories were studied at universities and students were surveyed about what they remembered the best, not one person mentioned Christmas presents. Being with grandparents was one of the top holiday memories. Students also rated their best memories as being with their families, decorating their trees, eating special meals and singing carols.
When children are asked, “What makes a happy family?” they do not tend to say designer jeans or the newest video games. The number one response invariably is “doing things together.” That is because for any family, big or small, two-parent or single-parent, doing things together builds memories.
You may not realize that something is a tradition until your child says, “What do you mean we are not going to make sprinkle cookies this year?” or “No time to drive and see the lights at Ski Island? It won’t be Christmas without that!” Traditions are formed delicately, sometimes without being realized. An experience that brings so much joy that you want to repeat it in the same way soon becomes a family tradition.
MEMORIES THAT LAST
On a cold December night in Maine, the temperature was falling as thick, white snowflakes swirled outside the windows of our house. Inside, a pot of hot chili simmered on the stove. The sounds of “Joy to the World” rang out as we opened boxes of our memory ornaments and began decorating the tree we cut down earlier that day. We enjoyed popcorn and gingerbread cookies afterward.
My husband, children and I recently had moved 2,000 miles away from family, friends and the usual December happenings in our church and community. We missed them, of course, but the traditions we had shared in the past and enjoyed again that season helped us draw together in a bond of warmth and security.
Children have a deep need to belong, and if they do not find fulfillment of that need in the right places -— such as at home in the midst of a loving family -— then they will look for it in other places. Holiday traditions can help provide a sense of belonging. At the same time, traditions help develop a healthy self-worth as your child becomes aware of his own family’s unique heritage and customs. Holiday traditions also are a way you transfer and teach values such as unselfishness, gratefulness and caring for others and the true meaning of Christmas. You have the opportunity to convey the importance of Christ’s coming and His love for each person.
In times of stress (moving, loss and inevitable changes you will experience from time to time), you will find that Christmas treasures of the heart create memories that last a lifetime and are like glue that binds your family together.
Cheri Fuller is the author of “A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer: Forget the Guilt and Find the Gift”; “Raising Motivated Kids”; “Talkers, Watchers, and Doers: Unlocking Your Child’s Learning Style” and more than 30 books, including “Christmas Treasures of the Heart” from which this article is adapted. Her website, www.cherifuller.com, has Bible studies and resources on praying with children, information on her speaking ministry and a free monthly column, “Mothering by Heart.” Reprinted by permission of ParentLife, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.