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Traditions that’ll last a lifetime

Even weeks before Thanksgiving, you could see it coming. Department store “halls” were already being “decked” for Christmas. And if you’re like most people, you had by then already begun making holiday plans and purchasing presents for those you love.

The holidays are generally seen as a time when families are together. But with all the hustle and bustle of the season, you can easily take care of planning Christmas dinner and getting every gift on your family’s list without giving them the greatest gift of all — the gift of time spent with each other.

One of the best ways to ensure your family is truly together and making lifelong memories at Christmas is by establishing family traditions. These special times not only provide a good alternative to the commercialism associated with the holidays, but they allow you to specifically set aside time for a family activity that is unique to you. And it will create a legacy of love and togetherness your children will pass on to their kids.

Here are five tradition ideas you can start with your family:

1. Decorate a “Jesse Tree.” A Jesse Tree is a smaller version of your family Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments associated with Old Testament events from creation to the birth of Jesus. As each ornament, handmade by family members, is placed on the tree, take a few minutes to tell the story it is depicting: the parting of the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, etc. A Jesse Tree can also be used to collect clothing for the poor and is decorated with hats, scarves, mittens, socks — any small item of warm clothing.

2. Most families feature at least one Nativity scene in their home decorations. Instead of putting it out before Dec. 25, wait until Christmas Eve to set out your Nativity. Save a special place of honor for it. Then, as you read the story of Jesus’ birth, have each member of your family take turns putting together the Nativity scene, adding characters to the display as they are mentioned in the story. When the story is done and the scene is complete, discuss the true meaning of Christmas.

3. How about a Christmas picnic? The weather outside may indeed be frightful, so set up your blanket on the floor by the tree. Cook burgers and hot dogs, throw in some potato chips and soda, then top of your non-traditional meal with a birthday cake for Jesus. Sing “Happy Birthday,” blow out the candles, and have each family member talk about why Christ is important to them.

4. Give Jesus a Christmas present from your family. In the days leading up to Dec. 25, wrap up an empty box and put a slit in the top of it. When anyone in your family does something nice for someone else during the holidays, have them write it down and place it in the box. By Christmas Day, the box will hopefully be full of “good deeds” Jesus would love for His birthday. Your kids will enjoy shaking the box to see how big Jesus’ present is getting.

5. Pick a favorite local charity, or less fortunate member of your church family, and go shopping for them. Have each member spend $10-15. Use this time to teach your family how blessed you are, and how you are celebrating the gift God gave to you in Christ by giving to others. It’s something you and your children will always remember!

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