Friday, December 02, 2005

A New Christmas Tradition

If you have a baby or a young child in the house, you may want to consider starting a new Christmas tradition this year. We've been doing this in our family for years now, and the benefits have been enormous, considering how little time and energy goes into it. There aren't too many quick, easy and cheap activities that provide such a high return for your investment. It's simple! Make a tradition of getting a brand new Christmas ornament for each child every season.

When the babies were born, we started their personal ornament collections with the special ornament that had the year of their birth and said "Baby's First Christmas." That one is always hung in a place of honor. Each and every year thereafter, each child has been allowed to choose and purchase one new ornament to add to the collection. We've also added some homemade treasures made with loving hands by grandparents, family and friends. Many of the ornaments are souvenirs from special trips or commemorations of other moments. Each child also has a few ornaments that celebrate her special talents and hobbies. There's a tennis ornament and a math ornament, several soccer ornaments and a number of different musical instruments. Decorations that the kids have made in school and in Sunday School, as well as presents from teachers and Scout leaders round out the collection.

The ornaments are kept in special boxes, one for each child. Each year, at tree-decorating time, they are lovingly trotted out, cataloged, and hung on the tree. Each one brings a special memory or fondness, and the simple ritual of unpacking them and hanging them up is very warm and heartfelt. The kids reminisce about their early years and the fun they've had. The ornaments made by grandma have a special place in their hearts and on the tree.

One wonderful benefit of this tradition is happening before my very eyes, now that my first child is getting ready to launch her own life. She has a box of meaningful ornaments to take with her when she goes. She will take a small piece of her childhood with her and put it up on her own tree someday. She's ever so happy that we've done this with her, and thinks that it will help smooth the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Each year, the personal boxes of ornaments get trotted out from their basement home. Each child has always known exactly which box is hers. They open the lids at the same time, and ooh and aah over their treasures once more. They all hang their own ornaments on the tree before they start on the "family" collection, getting to place them just so. Sometimes there's a bit of a disagreement about who gets the "good" branches, but usually it all works out just fine. Then at the end of the holiday season, the collections are lovingly packed up once more, with a great deal of newspaper and Kleenex padding, so that they will be ready for the following year.

Traditions like this one are very important. They build the warmth and memories that make holiday seasons so wonderful. Happy memories with family and friends will keep your child's spirits warm and provide strength and support during difficult times. They can insulate your child from some of life's rough spots, and I feel they are very important. I really feel that we owe it to our children to stoke those fires just as much as we possibly can.

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