Making the Season Mean a Little More

One Christmas season, many years ago, my mom decided to try something new with our Advent calendar. Ours was shaped like a chimney, and each “brick” in the chimney was a numbered box that held a piece of candy for the lucky one whose turn it was to open it. With six children, you can imagine how we argued about whose turn was next, and counted to see if we would be the one to open the last box, the one that held the tiny baby Jesus, on Christmas Eve.

This season, though, when we opened the boxes, instead of candy, we found slips of paper with chores written on them. You can probably imagine the waning of our enthusiasm and how we fought about how it wasn’t our turn!

Sadly, I have no heartwarming tale of how I came to love chores more than candy. And as a parent, I don’t think I will repeat this experiment. I do, however, want the same thing my mom did--to find a way to make the season mean a little more than just the outer trappings of evergreens and carols, as wonderful as those things are.

When Advent and Christmas roll around, I find myself thinking back to what we used to do as a family, searching for things that I can do with mine to keep the traditions going. We pull out the decorations, set up the tree, throw on the carols, and light the Advent candle, marking each day as Christmas draws near.

Whether we were doing chores or eating a quickly-vanished-and-forgotten piece of candy, nothing could diminish the night that we opened the calendar to find Jesus. Together, we sang “O Come, O Come Emanuel,” and then “Joy to the World” as we laid Jesus in the empty manger.

I don’t remember the last time my siblings and I did this as a family. Perhaps it was the last Christmas before I left for basic training. Perhaps it was the last time I went home for the holidays before my sister passed. But the memory of love and anticipation remains.

As my two girls get old enough to start remembering Christmas from year to year, I find myself searching my memories for family traditions to pass on. Whether it’s opening the Advent calendar, going caroling, watching our favorite Christmas movies, or attending Christmas Eve service, these are times and experiences that will remain long after the last bit of brightly-colored wrapping paper is vacuumed up off the floor. This is where we find the faith and family that makes the season mean a little more.