Is it possible to have family traditions and have *flexibility* in observing those traditions? Or does having flexible holiday activities mean our family doesn't really have traditions at all? Maybe we have untraditional traditions??
Here are some things that are part of our usual and customary Christmas observance, along with the ways in which they've flexed from time to time:
1. Scripture. Some years we've gone the whole Advent Candle route, with weekly readings and candle lightings. This was something we thought would be particularly meaningful, but it turned out not to make much of an impact on the kids and was hard for us to implement. It works better for us to incorporate "advent" readings into our regular Bible reading time in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We also take time to read the Christmas narrative from Luke or Matthew or both on either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning...or both.
2. Music. We like to sing Christmas carols, and we usually have at least one family singing time in which we croak along a capella with many changes of key between verses to try to accomadate 4 different, yet all limited, ranges. Our church is a SINGING church, and we sing LOTS of advent hymns, so that's another opportunity to worship the Lord with beautiful Christmas music.
3. Performances/Concerts. The local symphony orchestra puts on a "free" concert every year; the price of admission is a bag of canned goods for the Salvation Army. We try to get to this concert every year. It's a combination of beautiful instrumental pieces, classic arias, fun sing-alongs, choral numbers, and whatever else the symphony director comes up with. The medical school where Tom works also has Christmas concerts in the hospital chapel. We try to fit in a visit to one of those, but that did not work out this year. Several years we've also attended the holiday extravaganza at the local Super Big Baptist Church. But after last year we decided to take that off our list; they just try too hard to be trendy, relevant, hip, and "fun 4 the Uth". And they always have to have a number where the adult choir dresses up in 1950s styles and dances...and they dance like Baptists, if you know what I mean. :)
4. Christmas decor. We like to get our tree from Lowes (cheaper!) the weekend of Thanksgiving and get it into a bucket of water on the patio to keep it fresher. Then we put it up the next weekend, along with a bunch of poinsettias, the nativity scene, and a modest outdoor light display. Here's where we have to get more flexible. I think Colin and I are having allergy problems from the real tree and poinsettias. Of course he's also having the Year of Many Colds...but I still think his allergies are flaring in between the colds. Next year we need to consider going to artificial decorations. Certain factions in this house are not going to be happy about that at all...including the "Drinking Out of the Big Piney Holiday Waterbowl" faction. But some of us are tired of having to be half-sick for a month just to be festive!
5. Gifts. We don't do Santa, so around here the number of gifts given every year may vary. This year money was tighter than some years, plus nobody needed anything! It's hard to buy for people who don't need ANYTHING! We thought we were buying very conservatively, just purchasing three things for each kid...things they didn't NEED, but things they could use and/or add to a current interest. For instance, Natalie got a new hairdryer to replace her ancient one that doesn't work well, and Colin got a nice big box of Legos to add to his building obsession. This year Tom and I bought each other a handful of little things that we needed or wanted. Like cell phone chargers for the car, and ice cream scoops, and a carving knife...exciting romantic stuff. :)
So, that's what I can think of right now. My brain is failing me today...thanks to Colin...see Natalie's post for details. :)