Christmas Daddies: Building Traditions

Christmas is a couple weeks away. That probably fills some of you with glee. And others with dread.

Me, I’m somewhere in between.

I’m learning to enjoy Christmas as a daddy. It’s a lot of fun to see my daughter get excited about everything that’s going on (most of which she doesn’t understand yet). And it’s a privilege to try to help my lovely wife overcome her Christmas anxiety (long story).

But something that’s been a bit difficult for me: Starting family Christmas traditions.

As far as I recall, we didn’t really have any traditions in our family growing up, although by the time I got into my teens, it became common for us to have lasagne instead of turkey for our Christmas meal.

One of the things I really want to do as my children get older is start reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol together, as well as other appropriate Christmas stories. But I suspect that’s still a few years off.

So this year, we’re going to try to start two new traditions: Building a gingerbread house and reading the birth of Christ from Luke 2.

I suspect the gingerbread house will be fun because:

  1. My daughter loves gingerbread
  2. I love gingerbread
  3. My wife loves chocolate candy
  4. There is an icing pack for Abigail to squeeze

Reading Luke 2 as a family will be beneficial because it’s a reminder of who and what we’re celebrating at this time of year.

So, my fellow dads (and moms, too), what traditions are you building into your family?

Let’s share some ideas.

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  • Keystone

    Our manger was always set up BEFORE the Christmas tree, usually the weekend Advent began. The new born Christ child was never set in the manger though. That would come later…..on Christmas morning, before opening any gifts, Christ was added to the manger scene.

    Given your reading time on Christmas Eve, it may be an even better time to add the Christ Child on “O Holy Night”.

    When the manger was taken down, I advised my daughters that we put away the manger, but not the Christ child. Emmanuel is with us, not for the day, but always.

    “Where will we put him dad?” asked my older child.

    “In the bread drawer in the kitchen”, I replied. “We go to that drawer every day for bread, and Christ is the Bread of Life.”

    My younger daughter turned three in summer, when she had a cousin come for play and dinner. Cousin Donna went to the bread drawer, opened it, saw the manger Jesus, and exclaimed in absolute surprise; “HEY! There’s a baby doll in here”.
    My three year old daughter saw Christ every day in that drawer and knew WHY he was there, and immediately responded to her cousin:

    “THAT’S not a baby doll! That’s the Bread of Life!”
    During dinner, my three year old explained manger, Christmas, and Christ to her cousin.

    The Bread of Life figurine remains in that drawer all year, observed every day, and comes out each Christmas morning to be “born” and remembered as “God With Us” anew. The manger is glad to have him back for a few weeks. He returns to the bread drawer anew after Christmas and we put things away. HE is our daily bread.

    We spend time at Epiphany explaining why the Wise Men were wise too, and why they chose the gifts they chose. It helps the children choose wise gifts for others themselves.

    A family was created. We discuss family.
    In Christ’ case, a step dad would teach God’s Son. I asked the kids to ponder what God thought Joseph could teach Jesus.

    Gold comes in handy when Herod is after your kid, and you are on the run to Egypt. It is hard to run a carpenter’s shop when you are protecting a baby fugitive from the law, so gold could be useful to sell for food and living spots.

    Make your traditions make Christ come alive every day for your children.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Good stuff, Keystone – your point at the end is particularly poignant; any tradition me build should ultimately help point our children to Jesus.

      I look at the ones we’re starting this year and will be starting in the coming years and I hope they will even in just really practical ways.

      A friend on Facebook suggested this idea:

      this is our first year doing a “jesse tree” …kind of like advent, but instead of just on sundays, you’re reading a bible story every day from dec 1-25. it’s pretty cool because every story has something in it that points to Christ and i never … See Morenoticed this before. after neil (he’s the dad!) reads each day, claire hangs an ornament on the little jesse tree that has a picture representing the story for that day (i found my own online and printed them off). i’m loving it and it’s seems to be keeping our focus on what really matters this time of year. i think it’s a bit of an orthodox tradition. i highly recommend it.

      Kind of a neat idea.