Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Tradition of the Christmas Letter

The season of giving is here! Tomorrow families around the world will celebrate the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ. The way we celebrate may be different, but the feelings of love and reverence are felt globally. This is also the time of year when traditions are very important and seem to reign over the way we do everything.  Some traditions are a melding of two families blended into one or are created because of an accidental occurrence, fluke or a "one time thing" that stuck. Others are just great stories that have become a loved piece of a family's history. 

 In our household we have a variety of traditions, which have crept their way into our lives. Some have been created or born because of our military lifestyle, necessity or our own beliefs, and some come from our own childhoods traditions.  

Tradition list:

1. Christmas tree goes up on Thanksgiving while watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The second year we were married I wanted to set up our tree on Thanksgiving. We were a military family and all on our own.  Gavin did not want to deal with lugging the heavy tree out of the basement yet, so he said "only if you get the tree up here all by yourself." Evidently, he did not know me that well yet. The tree weighed more than I did, so he figured it would be impossible. Yet, I am pretty determined, and strong for my size. After an hour of balancing the tree on my back, while going up the stairs backwards, one step at a time, and my arms holding onto the walls of the stairwell for support, I had reached the top. Gavin's only reply was, "Oh crap." (One time thing that stuck) 

2. Each child is given a Christmas ornament that represents who they are or what they are interested in that year. It is opened on Christmas Eve before Christmas Eve service at church. (Gavin's family tradition) 

3. Santa leaves a set of new pajamas at the end of each child's bed, and we wear those the entire day. We do not go anywhere and spend the day celebrating with each other in the comfort of our home. (Gavin's family tradition) 

4. Egg Casserole- We get this ready the night before and bake it Christmas morning. We eat this and then read the Christmas story before opening presents. (Gavin's family tradition with Allie's bacon twist) 

5. Each kid is given three gifts just as Christ was given. (Allie) 

6. When the kids go to bed the Christmas tree goes down and decorations are put away. (Gavin's requirement for the tree going up on Thanksgiving). 

No matter how you celebrate I know you will appreciate the love of a good story at Christmas. So, PLEASE read about the tradition of the Christmas Letter. 

A young couple was preparing for Christmas day. They had three small children, and wanted to provide them with gifts underneath the tree. However, they were in a rough spot financially, and it seemed impossible. The debt was looming over their heads was crushing their spirit and their hopes of being able to purchase anything extra this year. They slashed all they could from the budget and had tried saving.  They limited the gifts for their kids, but soon realized they had nothing left over to give each other a gift. They each thought about how to bring it up to the other. They wanted to give a gift to the one they loved the most in the world, but knew it was impossible. 

So, instead they each sat down to write a letter. They started out writing an apology letter for not being able to provide a gift for the other. However, the letters began to evolve and the true spirit of Christmas seemed to take shape from their heart to the paper.  Their letters began to explain that there was not enough money in the world to show their appreciation for the other.  That the true gift, and the only one that mattered, was the gift of love and friendship. A gift that they had all year long, in the marriage that bound them together and the love that brought them to their knees daily. The letters were a reflection of the year, and the wonderful things they had experienced as a couple, and the heartaches they had suffered. They shared their most heartfelt appreciation for the support of the other, and the joy that came with waking up each day next to their best friend. The letters were wrapped in a pretty bow and on Christmas morning they were placed on the tree. 

After the children had opened their three gifts, and were off playing with their new toys, the husband and wife looked at each other in silence. There was a gleam in their eye that spoke volumes as they exchanged their letters to each other. They sat next to one another on the couch and read the loving words that were carefully written on the page. Words that brought laughter, tears, and a realization that this was the greatest gift they had ever received. These handwritten notes were a true reflection of what love really means and what matters most in life.  Just as 1 Corinthians states, "these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 

These handwritten letters have become a tradition that marks their place in the hearts of this couple. Now, they can afford gifts for one another, but have chosen since the "year of the letter," that the letter will be the only gift they exchange.  So, every year they cuddle up on the couch together, open their letter, and reread the letters from Christmas' gone by. They spend time talking about the changes they have seen in each other, and laugh through tears over the moments in their lives that have brought them closer together.  These letters are prized possessions that can be seen as part of their Christmas tree decorations.  They are lovingly placed on the tree with the kids' ornaments for the year. Then when the kids leave home and take their ornaments with them, the tree will not be bare. Instead it will be a tree full of letters. Letters that are filled with a lifetime of words and dreams shared between a husband and wife.

7.  A tree full of faith, hope and love. (Allie and Gavin) 

May you all find the faith to believe in something greater than yourselves, hope to look forward to a new year, and the love of your best friend to stand by your side for the rest of your life.  Merry Christmas and God Bless you all!