Holiday Traditions

This has been our first really cold week here in Idaho, and the Boise foothills are gorgeous right now.  Perfect for hiking around with a snow-loving dog.  It’s amazing how much drama a little bit of white adds to a landscape.  The snow makes home feel cozier too.  I love seeing all that frozen stuff from the comfort of a temperature-controlled room.

In short, I’m in a holiday mood.  J has hung Christmas lights from our windows, and we had a friend over the other day to help us decorate a gingerbread village.  The village was a kit that came from WinCo, and we had fun rummaging through the store’s bulk bins to find a better selection of candies to trim it with.  The final product of our creative efforts was typical of previous gingerbread creations J and I have had a hand in.  I’ll let you judge for yourself:

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(I’m guessing we won’t be winning any architectural design awards for this)

It’s weird to think that this will be our last Christmas without kids.  The thought of all that future chaos is daunting to me, but mostly I’m excited.  My parents did so many fun things with my sister and I when we were young, and I’m looking forward to experiencing that again from the other side.

J and I talk occasionally about the kinds of holiday traditions we want to introduce to our children.  Baking will certainly be on the list.  I love holiday baking, and it’s way easier to send food-based care packages to most people than it is to pry wish-lists from them.

One of my family’s best holiday trad’s, one I want to continue, was the Christmas book box.  It was a plastic storage bin we pulled out each year along with the tree ornaments, and there were dozens of holiday-themed children’s books inside.  As a kid I loved to sit in the light of the Christmas tree and sift through those books, revisiting old stories and looking at the illustrations.

The one thing I did not do while growing up was go Christmas tree hunting.  We probably did it once or twice, but mostly my parents stuck to fake trees.  Every year after Thanksgiving the plastic tree would come out from under the stairs.  My dad would assemble it, and then we would all work together to put the decorations up.  The tree looked nice, but J and I have always operated with limited storage space.  When he and I spend Christmas at home we like to get a permit from the Forest Service, drive out into the hills somewhere, and cut our own tree down.  The trees we bring home are never as nice-looking as the ones you can find on a proper Christmas tree farm, but I think it’s more exciting when you have to look a little harder to find the right one.  The tree-hunting trips are extra fun when combined with a day of hiking, snowshoeing, or sledding.

It’s hard for me to talk about Christmas without talking about church.  As a kid I always went to the Christmas Eve service with my parents.  I have good memories of those services, and when we are visiting family over the holidays, we will undoubtedly continue to go.  But the truth is, I’m an atheist, and J is not religious.  So when we’re at home, there will be no church.  I’m sure we’ll have to explain the why’s of this to our future kid(s), but the mixture of traditions between home and family visits is, I think, a good thing.  The way I see it is, religion has two purposes:  1) to encourage people to live decent lives, and 2) to help people come to terms with death.  The latter is a really tricky task, and I want my kids to understand that there are many belief systems in this world.  I want them to know that they are free to decide which belief system works for them, and I want them to learn how to be respectful of other people who do not share their beliefs.  As to leading decent lives, I believe we can do this whether we attend church or not.   My sister-in-law probably has the best approach here.  She likes to volunteer, and wants to get into the habit of involving her daughter in volunteer work during the holiday season.  I think that’s a great idea, and something J and I might be able to do in leu of church with our own small family.  There are so many good causes, from animal shelters to food drives, and volunteering would be a way to keep Christmas from becoming entirely about the presents.

What holiday traditions do you have in your families?

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