Why do we use Grandma’s china plates for Thanksgiving dinner? Why do we make a Gingerbread house every Christmas? Why do we visit the cemetery on Memorial day?
A couple of Sundays ago, Vista parents of 5 -year -olds got together to discuss family holiday traditions along with developmental changes. This resulted in some great conversation regarding Advent, Thanksgiving, Halloween and Santa. No one condemned or supported any one outlook for holiday seasons; the Parent Equipping team’s purpose was to encourage parents to intentionally think through the “why” of family traditions.
In her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper defines an heirloom as “something of special value handed down from generation to generation.” Her premise is that since children generally learn through repeated experiences, family traditions become the heirlooms that define value in their lives. She writes that traditions are a “vital way of displaying our greatest treasure.”
These are the questions we discussed in class:
- What is my greatest treasure?
- What is most precious to me?
- How do I reflect and express that treasure in my life?
- How can I pass that treasure on to my children and others within my circle?
Noel Piper states: “We do not know exactly what our children’s strongest, lasting memories will be. But we do want to make sure that our daily, weekly, yearly activities occur in a God-filled context-that we recognize him in all of our life and show him everywhere to our children.” In Exodus 12:26-27 Moses tells the Israelites to prepare for “when their children ask why” they celebrate Passover. Moses knew that children watch and question why we do things or why things are important. He says “when” not “if”. If we are not intentional about processing what we treasure, then we cannot establish traditions that pass our treasure to our children. We will not know what to say when they ask “why.”
My daughter Elisabeth helped the Parent Equipping team teach the 5’s class. She showed the families all of the traditions we have used for major holidays. I did not have to prep her for this – she knew why we did these things. She may or may not choose to hand theses things down to her family, but she has caught what we treasure through these heirlooms and traditions.
So what does that Advent calendar, that Easter Egg hunt, that visit to the cemetery mean to your kids? What heirloom are you passing on by the traditions you set up? Have you thought about what was passed on to you and what you desire to pass on to the next generation? Whether old or new traditions, we need to be prepared for the “why” that will come.
Family App: Thriving Family has an app download for Advent activities for the whole family this season and other activities for holidays throughout the year.
Tradition ideas from Vista Families: Veterans Day, Birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving or any holiday dinner, Christmas: birthday cake for Jesus, Jesus Stocking, Operation Christmas Child, Family gift for the World, Three gifts