I wanted to share some more family traditions. Years ago, my sister made a 24 Days of Christmas book for our family. It contains a scripture, a song, and a story for each of the twenty-four days before Christmas. As a family, we use this book every year to prepare us for Christmas. I love the story, Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. It illustrates such unselfish love. Both the husband and the wife give of themselves for the other one. We also read about an unselfish girl who finds a treasure in a loaf of bread, a small tree that gives its last leaf to keep a bird warm, and a young Thomas S. Monson who learns the true meaning of Christmas.
I think my favorite story, though, is The Other Wiseman. It always brings tears to my eyes when I think about how this man so desperately wanted to see the Savior. He gave everything he had and lived his life with the single purpose of meeting the Redeemer of the world, but unfortunately, barely missed him before he was crucified. As the man is dying, he’s distraught that he never got to see Christ, but the Savior appears to him and tells him that because of his selfless service to those around him, he has served God. This story reminds me that when I serve others, including my own children, I am serving God.
Another tradition we have is choosing a family in our community that we can “Secret Santa.” We encourage our children to participate as much as possible while keeping the family’s identity a secret. We choose a different family each year. Over the years, we’ve included food, homemade items, toys, clothes, and toiletries. It’s always fun to find a sneaky way to leave a box filled with gifts and it helps our kids to see beyond themselves and realize that others are in need of a little extra Christmas cheer.
As a youth, I remember going to a widow’s house and delivering a tree. We decorated it and spent time with her. I also remember taking food to a lonely neighbor and visiting with her. My grandmother was so selfless when it came to serving others. One year, we even learned a song in our neighbor’s native language and sang it to her on Christmas Eve. Now, with my family, we try to remember our neighbors by delivering goodies and caroling to them each year. No one will mistake us for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir because our songs are delivered with more love than melody. :)
Traditions anchored in service, especially during a time of year that’s become so commercialized and filled with selfish desires, will help unite and strengthen a family. Children that participate in service-oriented activities during Christmas learn valuable lessons about what’s really important and that Christmas is about far more than toys and trinkets.
Return to the neighborhood.
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