Family Traditions

Country music fans are probably familiar with the song titled “Family Traditions.” It plays quite frequently on the radio.

This weekend, that song went through my mind as I remembered my family's tradition of putting up Christmas decorations during Thanksgiving weekend. Back in my childhood days, my father, brother, and I would head out to the woods to look (for what seemed like hours) for the perfect Christmas tree. Finally, once we had found the perfect tree, my dad would take the axe and cut it down. Then, we’d head home and get the tree ready to be decorated. For the next few hours, we’d pull out old decorations, lights, and even that long, stringy, silver tinsel that wound up everywhere but on the tree.

I’ve continued that Christmas tradition with my family. Every Black Friday or Saturday, we pull out the decorations and start the process of transitioning our home from fall and Thanksgiving to Christmas. Each year, as the tree is being decorated, I reflect on the ornaments that adorn our tree. Some decorations were made by my son when he was in preschool. Others were gifts from family and friends. A few ornaments were “won” at “Dirty Santa” Christmas parties with office staff, church members, or family. Each ornament brings back a memory. Maybe that’s why it takes me so long to decorate the tree—I’m thinking of the people who gave us the ornament or where we purchased it.

One set of decorations is especially meaningful to my wife and me. My wife worked for Kentucky WMU when we met. After I proposed and we set a wedding date, we both realized that she’d have to give up the job she loved dearly and make the move from Kentucky to Alabama, where I live and work. The Kentucky WMU staff and their executive board threw a wedding shower for Tonya and me. The ladies took an unusual approach to the shower. They divided the year into the 4 seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Then, they each selected one of the seasons and bought gifts that were appropriate to that particular season. We received Easter decorations and Fourth of July decorations, and oh, the Thanksgiving decorations have added so much to our home over the years. But my personal favorites are the Christmas decorations. I know the reason they are the most special—because of the family traditions I had as a child. Those WMU ladies gave us Christmas ornaments and plates and table runners—you name it. They blessed us with so many wonderful Christmas decorations. And each Christmas, as we pull the decorations out, we remember their generosity and their love for Tonya and her time of service in their state.

This Christmas, what family traditions will you enjoy? Will it be a trip to Grandma’s house? How about hearing your favorite Christmas song on the radio? Or what about a Christmas meal with your siblings and their families, friends in your neighborhood, or your church family?

I am also reminded that it’s not too late to begin a new tradition this Christmas season! New traditions could include attending a community presentation of Handel’s Messiah, going to a Christmas Eve service, focusing as a family on the Week of Prayer for International Missions, or giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It’s never really too late to begin a new memory that will become a family tradition as the years go by.

I pray that this holiday season will be a blessed one for you and your family. And may God bless the memories you will make before 2017 comes to an end.

M. Steve Heartsill loves his wife, his children, and, sometimes, even his dog.

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