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Christmas is a most magical time of year! And every family has its own Christmas traditions.

Sometimes you don’t even realize that they’re traditions–they’re just things you DO that you assume that everyone else does, too!

Well, this year I’ve been rethinking all my Christmas traditions because we have a new member of the family–my son-in-law.

Rebecca Connor Wedding

And so for the last month or so I’ve been thinking, “Oh, won’t it be fun when we do this with Connor!”, or “Oh, I wonder what Connor will think of that!”

Today, then, I thought I’d share with you 10 things I can’t live without on Christmas, because they say, “Christmas as our family.”

Christmas Traditions: 10 Things I Can't Live without at Christmas

1. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

This little 80-page book is the best Christmas book ever. And it makes you see Christmas in a whole new way!

My aunt read it out loud for several Christmases in a row to my cousins and me when I was a child. I still remember rolling on the floor laughing. My cousin Danielle had to reread it as a teenager, because she always claimed that her mother was laughing so hard at the funny parts that she missed half of the jokes.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

When my girls were 7 and 5 we read it out loud for the first time, and it became a Christmas Eve tradition.

Here’s the back cover:

The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale — the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating — has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

The book is narrated by a normal girl from a normal family who has always done Christmas pageants at her normal church. But when this “horrible” family of “horrible” kids decides it wants to be part of the pageant (because they heard there were free donuts), suddenly everyone gets a new vision of the drama and amazement of Christmas. And it’s great.

It takes about an hour and a half to read out loud (longer if you just can’t stop laughing), and we’re going to do that on Christmas Eve again, with everyone sipping hot chocolate.

Check out the book here.

2. The Church Service

After reading the book out loud, we’ll head to church for a candlelight service. Usually someone in my family (or all of my family) is involved in some way, either with singing or with a skit. One year I led worship; several years Katie did a solo. The girls have both done skits. This year none of us is scheduled for anything, so we don’t have to be there early and we don’t have to practice. We just get to show up, hold our candle, and sing. I’m looking forward to it!

Christmas Traditions: The Church Service

3. Christmas Stockings

A few years ago I knit Christmas stockings for every member of our family. I just love them! And so this year I have to get busy and knit another one for Connor.

Christmas Traditions: Knitting Christmas Stockings

I do stockings often bigger than actual presents. I love filling stockings–and if you’re looking for some stocking stuffer ideas for your husband, I have a ton of them (it’s actually my most viral post ever). And I’ve even got some sexy stocking stuffer ideas (though you’ll have to open that in private.) 🙂

4. Board Games

Boxing Day and December 27 are family days–and we mostly play board games all day. Especially now that I only get my girls (and my son-in-law) home at holidays, those family days are even more important.

I’ve written about my favourite board games for 2 players, and many of them work for more than 2 players, too. Here are three of our current favourites:

Dominion

It’s kind of a card game–but you can learn the game super fast, it takes about 30 minutes, and the best thing is that there is an umpteen number of combinations you can play. You have more card types than you actually need, so you can switch different cards in and out to give the game a whole lot of different scenarios. We love it–here we are learning the game for the first time about 5 years ago.

Christmas Traditions: Playing Board Games

Seven Wonders

7 Wonders

It’s based on the seven wonders of the world, but you can play with 4-7 players, and the game changes with the number of players. I really do love this one, too!

Bohnanza

Bohnanza

When the girls were smaller and strategy games were harder, we started with Bohnanza, a fun game where you collect “beans”. I know it’s weird, but you can barter, and some beans (like cocoa beans) are worth more than others (like blue beans). And there are also stink beans in there, too!

It’s easy for kids to understand, and adults love it, too.

Then, of course, there’s Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, all of which we also enjoy.

Christmas Traditions: Playing Settlers of Catan

My girls have three ACTUAL cousins from Keith’s side of the family (as opposed to all the “cousins” they have from my best friend), and this year they’ve all decided that instead of buying Christmas presents for each other, since they’re all broke students, they’re going to create an annual Christmas memory. So on December 23 they’re getting together for a 10 am-10 pm board game tournament. I love it!

10 Family Traditions That Make Christmas Real to Us. What are Yours? Click To Tweet

5. The Bible Story

At Christmas dinner we read the Bible story from Luke 2:1-20.

I like to start Christmas dinner with candlelight and the story.

Christmas traditions: Candlelight at Christmas

6. My Cousin’s Chocolate Cake

One thing I’ve never really done at Christmas was a lot of baking. I enjoy baking–but maybe it’s just because I’m always so busy before Christmas I don’t have a lot of time to bake. Besides, my mother-in-law will anyway!

And there’s always someone who’s trying to lose weight (or at least not gain a ton), so I don’t like having a ton of sweets on hand.

But my cousin’s chocolate cake is amazing. And I can’t live without it.

Thankfully, many members of my family like pumpkin pie, and my aunt is bringing her pumpkin pie to Christmas dinner. I’m all for that, because it means there’s more chocolate cake for me! (honestly, who would choose pumpkin pie when chocolate is available? I’m embarrassed that they’re my family.)

7. Our “Second” and “Third” Family

Because we live in the same town as both my in-laws and my mom, we have two family Christmas dinners. But we also get together with my best friend and her family for Boxing Day breakfast. Here are her kids probably eight years ago–we’ve been doing this a long time:

07ChristmasDouglas

The best part is that she’s also a foster parent, so each year there are different kids at Christmas breakfast. It seems perfectly natural to us, but I don’t know how Connor is going to keep it all straight.

And sometimes she adopts one so they stick around–and become flower girls.

Flower Girl

But Christmas dinner with my side of the family has usually involved various “extras”, too–friends who don’t have family in town and who would otherwise be alone on Christmas. It makes dinner more interesting! So Connor’s in for a whole lot of family–and a whole lot of meeting people that we aren’t, technically, related to.

Speaking of family that we’re not technically related to, my best friend’s oldest daughter, Mickaula (the same one from above), is now almost 16, and she was one of Rebecca’s bridesmaids. I still think this is one of my favourite pics from the wedding. Katie captioned it, “I protect my cousins. #ewwww #cooties”:

Protect My Cousins

8. The Hallelujah Chorus

I love the Hallelujah Chorus. I can’t listen to it without tears in my eyes and wanting to jump up and down all at the same time.

It was said that when King George II heard the music for the first time, he was so moved he stood to his feet, and ever since then it’s been tradition that when the Hallelujah Chorus is played as part of the Messiah, people will stand.

But as wonderful as it is and as majestic as it is, this is still one of my favourite versions of it–so clever and amazing! So we usually watch this every Christmas, and then, of course, have the music playing in the background at other times:

9. Something Cute and Flirty and Santa Like

Okay, maybe this is TMI, but I do like flirty Santa lingerie for Christmas Eve! It’s nice to keep Christmas memorable in your marriage, too. But you’ll have to read more about that here. I’m trying to keep this one family friendly. 🙂

10. Harvest of Hope Catalogue

One thing that isn’t a big part of our Christmas is presents. Oh, sure, I give presents, and I have a system, too. I call it my Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh gifts: Something they need, something they want, and something to nurture their spiritual side. Everybody gets three things, and sometimes those gifts aren’t huge. But I like the emphasis on something for their spirit, too.

But when I think “Christmas”, my mind doesn’t immediately go to presents. My mind goes to spending time together as a family and to all our family traditions.

One of our big ones is the Harvest of Hope catalogue put out by Partners International. It’s one of those catalogues where you can buy chickens for a family in the Third World, or a bicycle for a missionary in Cambodia, or a sewing machine for a woman heading up a family in Laos. You can pay for a girl who is at risk of being sold into the sex trade to go to school. And you can build wells for villages, too.

Harvest of Hope Christmas Catalogue

My husband and I like to pore over the catalogue on the 29th or 30th, before the end of the year, so that we can make some last minute donations.

One year we bought a well for a village in Liberia and promptly forgot about it, because you don’t expect to ever hear back.

Then, in late November of the following year, I received a phone call from Partners International. A bishop from Liberia was visiting Canada and wanted to meet with us. I picked a day that my husband wasn’t too busy and we took the girls, who were about 12 and 10 at the time, to Swiss Chalet for lunch with the bishop and the guy from Partners. And we learned the rest of the story.

At the time Liberia had been in a civil war for 16 years. There was no infrastructure. People had fled to the jungles. The war was now over, but the country was decimated.

The team came in and built the well, and when it was done the whole village came out for a ceremony.

The bishop said,

I told them, ‘A family from Canada, we don’t know who they are, built this well for you. They don’t know who you are, either. But God does. And God told that family to build this well because God cares desperately about you. He wants you to have clean water, but He wants you to have clean hearts, too.’

I shared the gospel with them, and everyone in that village accepted Christ that day.

The well was built six months ago. Usually in that village 10 children die every year from dysentery. So far this year, no one has died.

I listened to that story in Swiss Chalet, and Rebecca was bawling, and I started crying, too. Because I thought, if I do nothing else in this life, I have built that well. And that matters.

You can find out more about the Harvest of Hope catalogue here.

I find it amazing that today, when news has broken that ISIS has ordered the suffocation of children with Down Syndrome, that Harvest of Hope gives you the opportunity to give therapy to someone with Down Syndrome. What a difference Jesus makes!

And to me, that’s why Christmas matters. We have a chance to take a step back and remember how wonderful family is. We can rejoice anew in the Christmas story and see it with fresh eyes. And we can share the joy of Christmas with those we don’t even know.

So I am excited, and I hope Connor knows what he’s in for.

What about you? What are some of your Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments!

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