It has been our family tradition to have calico bean chili the night we decorate our Christmas tree. It began 14 years ago when all we had in the kitchen that night was kidney beans, hamburger, and bacon. My wife, Suzanne, decided to improvise because neither of us wanted to go out into the wintry weather again. Her tasty recipe stuck as tradition—until a few years ago. Our daughter Brooke and I brought home a beautiful fir. And I noticed Suzanne fixing dinner.
"Calico beans?" I assumed.
"No, I thought we'd take a break," said Suzanne. "I don't like beans. Besides, Brooke doesn't like them either."
Then our other daughter, Nicole, entered the kitchen: "Calico beans, Mom?" She looked at the stove.
"No, I thought we'd try something different. I don't feel like calico beans."
"But it's . . a tradition. We always have calico beans the night we decorate the tree," she said.
Here was our tall 16-year-old begging for beans. Suzanne had underestimated the power of tradition. (We finished decorating the tree the next day—after a meal of calico beans!)
Besides creating memories, traditions are also the avenue of walking and talking spiritual truths. We need to evaluate our holiday traditions to see if they affirm our children and help them grow in their relationships with Christ. Here are some ideas you might try this season:
Purchase a simple nativity scene for little ones to play with. Tell the Christmas story the night you get it out, illustrating with the animals and figures.
A Holiday Activity Plan
In the late fall, ask each family member to write (on a 3x5 card) a few events, activities, or ideas they would like to do during the season. Call a family meeting. Say, "We want to plan Christmas to be an enjoyable and peaceful time. We want to do some special things, but we can't do everything. So let's decide, as a family, on a Christmas plan."
Go through all the cards and place a cross next to ideas that focus on Christ--after all, it is His birthday. Make sure each person has at least one idea selected. Say, "We want to have our minds on Christ at Christmas. Here are the ideas that seem to do that best." Include them on a master list on green construction paper cut to look like a Christmas tree.
Christmas Card Prayer Box
Have your children decorate a shoebox. Place it on your dining table. As you receive Christmas cards, place them in the box. Before meals, take out one card and pray for the family who sent it.
The Love Gift
Open one gift each on Christmas Eve. It could be a low- or no-cost gift like a special photo in a handmade frame; a coupon for a free back rub, chore, popcorn date; or a promise of a shared activity. It might be a fishing day, bike ride, or three hours in the mall for after-Christmas sales. Be creative. The point is to communicate love in a way that is meaningful to the recipient. This might be a good time to pass along family heirlooms—those with real or sentimental value. It could be a rite-ofpassage occasion when an older sibling passes on to a younger sibling something he has outgrown.