One of my favorite things about being a parent is introducing my daughters to our family traditions and no other time of year can compare to Christmas when it comes to traditions. As I was unpacking what felt like a housefull of decorations the other night, I was mulling over all of the things that I’d like to do over the next 3+ weeks and couldn’t help but imagine, with motherly optimism, how our traditions would be passed down and manipulated to fit into their lives just as our parents’ traditions have been molded into ours. Traditions define us in a unique way…This is who We are…This is what We do…when we participate in traditions, we’re staking our claim as part of this family. Good – heart warming stuff!

So, what are our traditions and where did they come from?

Advent – The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important – in this case, of course, Christ. I’m not sure how old I was when my parents started our Advent tradition – perhaps it was my entire life, but I remember our nightly gatherings starting somewhere around 4th grade. We would start by lighting the Advent wreath. One candle for each week before Christmas. Then we would do two readings – one that tied scripture to the our sense of anticipation and another that depicted the family tree of Jesus. Both readings had questions that would often lead to memorable discussion. After the readings, we would open the advent calendar, which we would memorize  – by Christmas Eve this was the longest part of each night. Finally, we would stand as far away as possible and blow the candles out. It was really an exercise in getting as close as possible to hyperventilating without passing out and potentially explains my incredible lung capacity.

In our little family, we still light the Advent candles, we still do a couple of readings (Reese even reads to us about Puppy), and we still blow the candles out – sort of, but we’ve added a very special twist – thanks to Jeff’s mom, Char. Every year, Char comes up with a new theme for Advent and proceeds to fill our Advent Calendar with heartfelt words and fun activities for the girls. This year, each message has been delivered via a puzzle. In addition to it being a complete labor of love on Char’s part, it certainly adds to the fun, festive and anticipatory feeling of Advent.

Christmas Stroll- Last weekend was the Red Lodge Christmas Stroll. A local tradition for something like 23 years now. The Carroll Family has fully adopted this local festivity and we can’t think of a better way to spend the first weekend in December than perusing through the shops of Red Lodge, eating treats around every corner, spreading holiday cheer with everyone we know, and sometimes getting to share our Christmas wants with Jolly Old St. Nick. This year we spent the first night with the Fitzgerald Family. Reese and Kate were so eager to see Santa that they spilled their guts to the Santa on the street, which was good because the Elk’s Santa bailed early – ha! Saturday, it was just the four of us and still so much fun. Our girlies were troopers for going two nights in a row – it’ll only get better from here!

Candles – Another of my favorite traditions, one that we owe to Jeff’s family, is that of Christmas Candles for the important people in our lives who’ve passed away. We choose one evening during Advent, light a representative candle for each person and then share stories about each person. It is always a moving experience and it truly feels like we’re welcoming the individuals to share in our Christmas experience. Now that we have kids, it’s also a great way for us to share our memories of each person with Reese and soon, Sylvia.

There are certainly more traditions that we try to stick to, but those are the biggies – the ones that I see the girls holding close to their hearts.

Christmas Cards – This one is funny. I’ve caved and have opted to create Valentine Cards instead – don’t hold your breath for your Carroll Christmas Card. Christmas traditions need to be enjoyable and to bring you closer to those that you love – and this one just wasn’t doing it for me anymore – maybe it will happen again in the future…maybe! Don’t get me wrong – I still want you to send me yours because I have another tradition of creating a scrapbook page with all of the Christmas pictures from the previous year. Double standard, yes, but oh well.

Whatever traditions you partake in during the holiday season, may they bring you great joy and happiness.

Cheers ~ Ginny

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