Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Reason for the Season

Isn't this picture just precious?  Those cute faces just make my heart melt! I have photos like this of my kids when they were preschoolers.  Now that I am teaching preschoolers, I thought other parents would enjoy them as well. So, each year in preschool we have the kids take turns dressing up as Mary and Joseph and take photos of them holding "Baby Jesus" (I'm kicking myself that I didn't use one of our dark-skinned baby dolls to be Jesus, but it's still an adorable picture). 

Christmas festivities are in full swing in the Owens house.  We've got the tree, some lights, and many other decorations throughout the house.  I grew up in a home that looked like something out of a Hallmark catalog during the holiday season.  Decorations and traditions are important to me.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas without them.  These traditions are a mix of ones we've been doing since the kids were little and others that we've added through the years. Some of our Christmas traditions are just for the sake of fun, like hiding "Pickles the Elf" around the house for other family members to find, doing fun Christmas activities together each day in December, and having friends over to decorate Christmas cookies. Other traditions in our home are intended to draw our hearts and minds back to the real reason for the season; the birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel. The one I most enjoy is advent.  Advent is not something what was a part of my Christmas traditions as a child, but I'm glad that it is for my children.  This year we're reading through an advent story called Bartholomew's Passage it's one of a series of advent stories written by Arnold Ytreeide.  Some friends of ours introduced us to these books last year while we were in the US.  The book is set up so that you read a few pages each day ending with a short devotional thought.  Our kids have enjoyed the engaging story and look forward each night to hearing what happens next.   

Another tradition we have been doing since we came to PNG is hunting for our Christmas tree.  You see, back in the US we had a tradition of going every year, the day after Thanksgiving, to pick out our tree.  Usually, we did this as a big family event with Chad's side of the family.  It's hard being away from family during the holidays especially when you have such fun traditions that involve them.  So, our first Christmas in PNG we decided to make our own Christmas tree tradition.  Each year, the weekend after American Thanksgiving, Chad takes our little artificial Christmas tree and hides it somewhere (usually in a neighbor's yard).  He also puts a sign out in the yard of the house where it's hidden that says "Christmas Tree Farm"  Then, we load up in our car with Christmas music and hot cocoa (even though it's really too hot for hot cocoa) and we drive around searching for our tree.  It's a silly tradition, but we have fun with it.  This year, we decided to let Dad join in on the fun a bit more by having some friends hide the tree.  That way, Dad didn't even know where it was! 

Last year, we loved being with family for Christmas, but we also love celebrating Christmas here in PNG.  Even here, the Christmas season is busy, but rather than the busyness of going here and there and the pressure to spend money, it's filled with activities centered around "family" and friends and remembering the reason we celebrate.  There's no commercialism here and gift giving is much simpler and creative.  In many ways, it feels the way I think Christmas should be (except for the obvious fact that none of our family is around-- that part never really gets easy, but we do have some close friendships here that are as close as family). 

I pray that as you celebrate this season in your own family that you take time to remember the reason we celebrate, enjoy some quality time with your loved ones, and take part in some traditions, both new and old.