For most of us, Christmastime is a season ripe with family traditions and nostalgia. Not for me, though. My parents didn’t impart most of the kinds of Christmas memories other people have. So when my kids were young, I made an effort to create Christmas traditions in our home. We’ve done the annual portraits for Christmas giving, photos with Santa, and we periodically indulge in baking cookies.
One of the traditions I tried to carry on from my husband’s childhood was the creation of handmade ornaments. We inherited a collection of beautiful beaded and sequined handmade ornaments that he and his mother made when he was growing up. When my sons were 18 months and five years old, I took them to a nearby ceramic studio and started the tradition of annual hand-painted ornaments. My oldest son gave up that tradition a few years ago, but hopefully my youngest son will humor me for his 15th year.
We also started going to a tree farm to cut down a real tree for Christmas. Alas, that tradition didn’t stick. Then this year when the pre-lit Christmas tree was beyond repairing, I decided to give the real tree another try. With the help of a friend and her teenage son, my 15-year-old son and I trekked to a nearby tree farm and cut down a tree. (Only time will tell if this will be a new continuing tradition or just a treasured memory.)
The next day, my girlfriend returned to help decorate the tree. When I pulled out the angel to top the tree, that is when it hit me—the mom factor. The angel had been a gift from my mother! In that moment I saw my mother’s love for me anew.
That angel has graced my Christmas tree, fake or real, for many years. My mother hoarded things and had many financial problems over the years. She would shower me with gifts—despite my requests not to. Since my mother’s passing last year, this angel is now very precious to me—with its shimmering white linen and lace skirt, silver wings and porcelain face and hands. She sits on top of my tree as a symbol of the angels heralding Jesus birth—and of my mother’s love.
Seeing that angel reminded me that my mother did instill a Christmas tradition in my life. She would make the holiday special by decorating our home. As a child I had helped my mother decorate the tree and house for the holidays. It was something I always looked forward to.
As my girlfriend and I unwrapped each ornament and hung it on the tree, she humored me as I recounted the story behind each one. When it came time to place the angel on the tree, it reminded me of how mothers shape the feelings, traditions, and memories of Christmas.
We can impart memories of the hustle and bustle of the season, or we can impart some life-giving nuggets that our children will treasure for years to come. Of course, Jesus is the reason for the season. That is first and foremost in what I want my children to remember about Christmas. In addition to that, though, as the pulse of home life, mothers can shape how their children remember Christmas in other ways.
Consider the traditions and memories you are imparting to your children this holiday season. Be deliberate in what you want them to remember. Most of all be sure to decorate your celebration with the love of Christ!
~ Ardis A. Nelson