“Traditions are the key to everything. These are the recurring activities that can be anticipated and enjoyed throughout the year. The great value of traditions comes as they give a family a sense of identity, a belongingness. All of us desperately need to feel that we’re not just a cluster of people living together in a house, but we’re a family that’s conscious of its uniqueness, its personality, character, and heritage, and that our special relationships of love and companionship make us a unity with identify and personality.”
                               James and Shirley Dobson

Two years ago our oldest daughter moved from Indiana to Texas to get her biblical studies degree (to complement the nursing degree she had already gotten while living at home and attending college locally). Our Christmas decorating family night came around, and Kayla was across the country going to school five days a week and working twelve hour shifts as a nurse at Baylor Hospital on the weekends. I planned the family night as usual—but struggled to get excited about it knowing that we would be one child short that year.

Everyone arrived and we all gathered in the living room when Cami and Joseph (newly married) said they had an early Christmas present for Mom and that I should close my eyes while they bring it in. I was sure they were bringing in a poinsettia plant—something to cheer me up with Kayla away. When they had me open my eyes, I screamed, cried, and laughed all at the same time as Kayla stood before me—home for the family decorating night. Kayla had spent an entire weekend of work’s income to give me one of the best Christmas presents I could ever ask for—a Christmas decorating family night with all of my children at home. She flew in for thirty-six hours, a frivolity, some might say. But it was no frivolity. It confirmed that we had placed within our kids a light of family unity—a warmth that says that the Reish family is a great family to be in—and if you can help it, you don’t want to miss any of the special times we share.

Of course, now with our five oldest kids ages 28, 24, 22, 20, and 18, our traditions are lessening—and we are holding onto the most important ones. (And encouraging our olders to develop their own traditions.) But the memories remain—nothing, not even time, can erase family memories.

We recently had another decorating family night—an evening filled with appetizers, homemade cookies, tree decorating, nativity set up, siblings name drawing, caroling, story read alouds, reminiscing, lively discussions, and games. Christmas decorating night is a special one for our entire family. It makes us, as the Dobsons share in the quote above, feel that we are not just a cluster of people living together in a house, but a family that’s conscious of our special relationships of love and companionship.

Start your Christmas traditions today. Make a list of three, five, or ten things that will be your family’s “things” during the holiday season. Traditions that make your family unique. And the Christmas holiday even more special.

Next blog post: A picture journal of our family decorating night! This year we got photographs!

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