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Holiday traditions are the priceless gifts of Christmas

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Something happens every holiday season at my house and probably yours, too. My mailbox fills up dramatically with retail mail enticing me to buy holiday gifts, at discount prices, as stores promise endless sales.

I am not criticizing the advertising process and the support we give the retail industry.

But I also hear the criticism, year after year, that Christmas is too commercialized. I have helped raise five daughters, full-time, in a blended family, with three now college graduates and two still attending college.

Today, as they progress into adulthood, I don’t shop for many Christmas gifts. However, just a few years ago, I would spend days and days in the malls, over a two-month period, getting everything on their wish list.

Then, I would go above and beyond the list with several special surprise gifts for each of them. It brings us joy to give to others, but I admit that I have gone overboard, getting caught up in the commercialization of the holiday and trying to make everyone happy.

When I look at what matters most during Christmas, it is the family traditions we create – the moments and the memories – not the gifts we receive. I don’t remember many of the gifts that were under the tree as a child.

Times were lean for my divorced, single mother of six.

We always had a nice holiday but Mom couldn’t afford an overload of gifts. That seemed inconsequential, then, and it still does today. What I remember most is time spent with family at church and hearing wonderful Christmas church concerts. I remember joining church members, as we headed into neighborhoods and sang Christmas carols, focusing on the elderly who couldn’t leave their homes as often. Oh, the smiles and tears we sometimes witnessed as those, to whom we sang, savored the moment and knew they weren’t forgotten.

And, today, I remember Christmas night each year, when I head to Ohio to have a special Christmas dinner with all of my siblings, my Mom and countless nieces and nephews.

During that gathering, it has been a long-standing custom for us to take our annual family pictures with all of the family groupings – our kids and spouses, our siblings and Mom, all of the grandkids and more.

And, the “icing on the cake?” We always buy a birthday cake decorated with the words, “Happy Birthday Jesus.” It is in that moment that we truly celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.

And, all of the adults in our family hope that we are planting the seeds for our children to create their own family holiday traditions. What matters most for us, during the holiday season, is our family and our faith.

Whatever it is, I hope that you slow down and experience those special moments.

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