When my two children were growing up, we had a series of traditions that make Christmas special for the Irvin family in those years when we were unable to travel to be with our extended family. We started on Christmas Eve making cut-out sugar cookies and frosting them. I made small dishes of frosting in red, green, blue, and white, and provided half a dozen kinds of sprinkles to add as well. In the early years, more frosting got eaten than lavished on the cookies, but with time they learned how put their special touches on the cookies. The house smelled of cookies baking and the kids loved picking out an angel or a Santa or a reindeer from the pile of cookie cutters. In the evening, we went to the candlelight Christmas service at church. I have vivid memories of Nicholas falling asleep in the pew; he was so tuckered out from the excitement. I also remember worrying about one of them accidently starting a fire in their excitement of holding a lighted candle. Fortunately, no incidents occurred!
Afterwards, we each opened one present while watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” or another Christmas movie. Then we read “The Night Before Christmas.” and put cookies and milk for Santa on the coffee table. Off they went to bed, too excited to sleep, but anxious to go to bed so Santa could come.
Of course, that’s when my husband and rushed around putting out the gifts and filling the stockings. If toys had to be assembled, Tim got busy. Invariably we stayed up too late and ate too much candy. The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed so he could throw on his robe, tromp down to the living room, and turn on the silly Christmas music like Alvin and the Chipmunks and “All I want for Christmas are my Two Front Teeth.” He turned up the volume and the kids would race down the stairs.
Paper and ribbon flew. Ohs and Ahs resounded. When it was all said and done, Tim and I turned to the traditional Christmas breakfast of pancakes with chocolate chips. We always had movies under the tree so we slipped those into the machine and enjoyed lounging in our PJs and watching movies together while the kids played with new toys. Because Christmas in South Texas can be balmy, I remember standing out on the cul de sac, watching and encouraging as both kids learned how to roller blade in their new skates. Other Christmases, it was remote control cars zooming along the sidewalk, and once, a remote control airplane. Times to remember and cherish.
I never thought too much about these traditions or even thought of them as traditions until my children were grown. Now my daughter is in Norfolk with her husband, who is a sailor in the U.S. Navy. They have two children of their own. This is Brooklyn’s second Christmas and Carson’s first. They are coming home for the holidays, and my daughter has specifically mentioned a number of these traditions. She wants to make sure we’ll decorate cookies on Christmas Eve Day and go to the church service in the evening. She’s talking about the movies we’ll watch and the pancakes we’ll eat. It seems that she has lovely memories of these Christmas traditions, and she can’t wait to share them with her children.
Those family times are truly in the spirit of Christmas. It must make God smile to see us laughing and talking together. It makes me happy to think that my daughter has good memories of those special family occasions. They’re the true gifts of the season. That we get the chance to share those traditions with another generation is even a greater gift. Celebrating the birth of Christ with family is the best gift of all. I wish a happy and blessed Christmas and New Year to each and every one of you.
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Kelly Irvin is the author of the critically acclaimed The Beekeeper’s Son, called “a beautifully woven masterpiece” by Publishers Weekly. The book is the first of three in The Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. Kelly also penned the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House Publishing. She has also authored two inspirational romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She wrote nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter, mostly in Texas-Mexico border towns. She has worked in public relations for the City of San Antonio for twenty-one years. She is a member ofAmerican Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and serves as secretary of the local chapter, Alamo Christian Fiction Writers.