By Carolyn Tomlin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

family, Christmas, dinner, tradition, culture, eating, dining, dinner, celebration, grandfatherShops overflow with holiday gifts. Carols ring out from every street corner. Bell ringers collect monetary contributions for needy families. For Christians, this season reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas — to focus on the birth of the Christ Child born in a manager over 2,000 years ago. If you’re like many families at Christmas, you continue the same traditions handed down by parents and grandparents. Could your clan honor their history while starting a few new customs? Perhaps these suggestions will work for you.

•    Collect small Christmas tree ornaments from other countries. As family members travel outside the U.S., ask them to purchase a locally made ornament to hang on the tree. Inexpensive and requiring minimum luggage space, they will be symbolic of your vacation or mission trip. During a holiday get-together, share something about the country you visited and the people you met.

•    Video creating a favorite family recipe. My mother was known for her chicken and dressing. She knew the exact amount of sage, black pepper, onions, and stock to make it delicious. The problem: she never wrote it down. Like many great cooks of this generation, she cooked by taste. Today, with Smartphones and other technology, we can make a short video and e-mail it to others. The auditory and visual presentation will provide the knowledge of keeping those favorite holiday recipes around.

•    Adopt a family project each year. Correspond by phone or e-mail with family members and make a checklist of available service projects in your area. Ask each person to vote on their choice. The project with the highest number of votes will be the winner. Suggestions could include “Adopting a Family” for Christmas, scheduling a “Make-a-Difference Day” in December for the entire family; or preparing and serving a holiday dinner to a homeless center. Children can request extra chores and donate part of their allowance for a month. Adults can save change and forgo restaurant meals. Celebrate the spirit of giving back to those less fortunate. Claim Matthew 25:40 as your family’s verse.

•    Attend a Christmas service of Scripture and Carols. Churches and Christian colleges present free community concerts during the Christmas season. Sit together as a family and support those who have spent hours in preparation. Afterward, meet for light dessert and coffee. Plan to make this an annual event.

•    Donate to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Does grandfather really need a necktie with blue toadstools? Or does Aunt Sally have space for another wall hanging? Instead of all the relatives exchanging gifts, donate to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This offering goes to support international mission work that includes presenting the gospel, education, supporting missionaries who serve and other expenses.

As you celebrate the birth of Jesus, think of new traditions your family can enjoy. Adapt some of the older customs with these fresh ones. Thank God for making families part of His plan.

— Tomlin lives in Jackson and writes for the Christian market and teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers.