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With little boys (ages 5 and 7), the holidays can be such a magical time. We’re seeing Santa everywhere we go and making sure he knows exactly what we want. The boys are reading about gingerbread men and talking about reindeer and pondering how Santa manages to read letters in every language. They are already worrying about having enough cookies for Santa and are looking forward to spending their own money that they saved during the year to purchase a special present for each other.

But along with all the fun of Christmas comes a pressure to create special holiday traditions and do everything to perfection: decorations, parties, gifts, wrapping, food… Our friends were telling us recently that they cut down their own tree this year. I envision them making a blissful family trip to a beautiful, snow-covered pine forest where they easily slip their saw through the trunk of the tree and then decorate it to magazine photo spread perfection. In my house, someone would end up in time-out or bleeding within the first 30 minutes and the tree would slide off the car on the interstate while we all argued about what to listen to on the radio.

I read an article the other day about a family who selected a special ornament for each of their children every year. When the children got married, the mother presented a box containing their ornaments to them at their wedding shower. Everyone cried and the mother encouraged readers to start a special tradition with ornaments. I have one from the baby shower I was given before the birth of my oldest son. That is where my collection began. And ended. I do have an assortment of ornaments stating the year and showing an empty slot for a photograph. I have good intentions, but I would have to find the perfect photo, get it printed and cut it neatly to size. Somehow it just doesn’t happen for me.

So I find myself pondering each year what holiday traditions and legacy our boys will take with them into adulthood. I know I want charity to be a piece of it. I want them to think outside of themselves and find joy in giving. We have donated to food pantries and bought presents for those who are struggling. But I’m not sure it sinks in with them; there are no faces to attach it to. A friend of mine recently told me how someone involved with the local homeless shelter suggested they bring coats for the people serviced there. So they loaded up their trunk with coats and went out with their kids in search of someone needing one, hoping to help while also teaching their children the importance of giving. They came to the homeless shelter expecting to see people without coats, but they couldn’t find anyone who wanted one. I’m glad to hear that, but I remain perplexed at how to help in a local, meaningful way.

So I ask all of you, have you created a Christmas legacy for your children? What traditions does your family share at the holidays? How about a special recipe that everyone begs you to make each year? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

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