The Christmas season has arrived, and I find myself thinking about my most cherished memories from every Christmas prior. As a mom, I find it important to pass along as many of these treasured traditions to my children as possible.
As I was thinking about this, I was wondering if I had successfully passed down these traditions to my children. I decided to ask all of them a couple of questions to see if I had, in fact, done so.
But… before doing so, I asked myself, “What is most important to me at Christmas? What are my most cherished memories at Christmastime?” I then purposely texted my daughter, instead of calling her, to allow her a moment of unhindered thought before answering my questions since, in her mind, it was going to be out of the blue, “What do you think are the most important aspects of Christmas for dad and myself? What are your most cherished memories of Christmas as a child?”
Later that evening, I also asked my boys these same two questions as we were eating dinner. I think in hindsight, I would have asked the boys while each of them were alone – only because I think they purposely gave us differing answers from each other and I’d like to see if any of them came up with the same answers.
Where are our priorities for the days and weeks leading up to the Nativity of Christ? Do we get caught up in the decorations, gifts, and activities of this time of year, or do we focus on the birth of our Savior? Are we telling our children one thing, Christ is most important during Christmas, but really saying something entirely different with our actions?
The traditions we pass down to our children will stay with them for a lifetime. It presents a sense of staying connected with family who have passed away. It’s a way of keeping alive our cherished memories as we also teach our children about their faith and heritage.
Growing up, my parents primarily taught us through their actions. One of the traditions my parents did at Christmas was to attend Liturgy before opening any presents. In this, they taught us that the focus was on Christ, not on the gifts under our tree. They also taught us that emulating Saint Nicholas’ giving was far more important than receiving nice gifts for ourselves. My brother has memories of taking a Christmas meal and gifts to a family with zero food in their home. I have fond memories of going to the grocery store and picking out food for a family I often babysat for who had lost their baby a few days after a full-term birth. These actions have a way of softening your heart and filling you with a desire to continue helping others into your adult life.
When we think about where we place our priorities at Christmas, did we find that our children showed us that we place them somewhere other than on Christ, or did we successfully lead by example? Have we taught our children to blindly give a small donation or gift to an abstract “poor person” each year, or are we letting them see for themselves the beaming faces of those we helped?
Let us continue on our journey to the feast day of the Nativity of Christ by leading our children through example. Let our children learn through our actions where the emphasis should be placed during this Christmas season, instead of from the commercials on TV and the displays at the stores.
By Jennifer Hock