"Always Remember: The greatest gift you will ever own is not found in shops or under your Christmas tree. It is found in the hearts of your family and true friends."
~ Author Unknown
When my daughter was born, I decided I wanted to start our own family Christmas traditions. Traditions that she would remember fondly when she will eventually leave the bosom of what is now our little family.
I originally started our tradition with an old Catholic tradition of lighting four advent candles (one candle is lit every week) on a Christmas wreath, which represents the four weeks of advent. The last few years I've been so busy and exhausted by the time Christmas rolls around, that I haven't done this. But this year I realised that through my exhaustion, through our first lean Christmas and my father who is in hospital unwell, that I want to reintroduce that tradition, among other things.
Life takes on a different perspective and meaning when Christmas is less about the material things and more about our family, loved ones and experiences. Especially as your parents get older and their time in this life grows shorter, the significance of Christmas and your own traditions become even more significant.
Also, every year the Christmas Tree comes out and my daughter and I begin decorating it. Our first songs of Christmas we play are 'The Nutcracker', the ballet by Tchaikovsky. The two discs of this ballet are played continuously as we decorate the tree.
The other music we play as a tradition of Christmas is 'Handel's Messiah' and I do love to play traditional Christmas music by Australian soprano, Yvonne Kenny, which includes a selection of Australian Christmas carols.
Our Christmas decorations are a mixture of hand-painted wooden decorations that I've collected, based on old, traditional types of decorations; Christmas baubles we've collected from the Clock shop in Montville each year since Philomena's birth when we've been on our traditional yearly beach holiday, and old, traditional Swedish decorations passed down from Philomena's grandfather. We also have a beautiful hand-painted pottery set of the Nativity scene that I bought many years back at the Brisbane Cathedral's Catholic shop. These are things that can't be bought at the local shop down the road, and all these little pieces together form part of our collective family history.
This year, because I have been so busy, my daughter announced she would put up the tree and start the decorating. And so she did. It was beautiful to watch her pull out the tree and decorations and begin our yearly tradition all on her own. So this year I mostly watched as she just about single-handedly put up the tree, and I played 'The Nutcracker' to help her along.
What was so special to me, was that she remembered our tradition and was eager to pick up the baton that I have carried every year, knowing how tired and busy I was. And her eagerness pulled me out of my stupor and drew me back in, and so I helped her spruce up the tree a little more, balanced out the decorations and lay the Christmas lights on the tree for her.
The tree isn't as grand as it has been in past years and there are only a few gifts under the tree, but this year of all years has strangely been the most memorable. Miss Phil and I have been baking shortbread cookies and making Rocky Road as gifts. This year I've also made the effort to reconnect with friends I haven't seen for some time and just helping out friends in small ways. For me, since I'm always so busy in my business, giving my time to my family and friends is the ultimate gift.
So what are some traditions that you enjoy at Christmas time? I'd love to know about them. And if you currently don't have any traditions, why not start creating your own? You will be amazed at how much more meaning Christmas will have for you and your family, and especially for children.
And you know what? When your children have grown, the first things they'll remember and cherish are those traditions that you all enjoyed and shared as a family.