Photo by Carey Nieuwhof

We’ve developed some Christmas traditions over the years.  My wife Toni makes a gingerbread house with the kids and bakes candy cane cookies.  I always read the Christmas story with the kids before we open any gifts Christmas morning.  Plus we eat gourmet chocolate covered apples for Christmas morning breakfast.

Great traditions are important because you only get a few Christmases until your child is grown up.   About eighteen to be exact.  The way we “do” Christmas becomes Christmas to our children.

The challenge is that its easy for adults and kids to mark time differently.  As an adult, Christmas can be something that happens in the middle of a stressful season at the end of a busy year.  It’s easy for us to want to rush past Christmas or not engage it deeply, because, well, there will be another one next year.

And while as a parent this may be one of 30, 45 or 55 Christmases you’ve experienced, for your six year old it’s only her sixth.

What if we started to count Christmases the way our kids tend to count them?

This is personal for me because as the dad of an 18 and 14 year old, I’m amazed that I’ve already shaped what Christmas has become for my sons.  It’s a great celebration in our home, but I’m also aware that I’ve added a bit of cloud to the silver lined memories.  For example, my slightly obsessive tendencies have made setting up the tree more chore than joy more than a few times. My personality tenses when things don’t go according to plan….and if the lights weren’t going up the way I’d hoped, I’d get upset.  My behaviour added a strain to our home that didn’t need to be there.

It was easy for me to justify it as having a bad day (because I count time differently than my kids do around something like Christmas) but in reality, I was shaping at least a portion of  my sons’ Christmas memories with a mood that was less than ideal.  While I’ve gotten better at this lately, it stinks to me that this is part of their memory bank.  Wish I had that back!

We’re just a few weeks away…why not stop to think through Christmas through the eyes of your child?  It might only be number three.  Even if its number 17, it’s not too late to make positive changes that will shape the legacy of what Christmas will become for your kids.  You can decide to remove tension, add ways to mark the holiday spiritually and add positive experiences.  And if we counted Christmas the ways our kids do, we might.

What changes would you make?  What are some Christmas traditions you’ve established that have made the holiday rewarding?

careyCarey is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church, a growing multi-campus church near Toronto and strategic partner of North Point Ministries. Prior to starting Connexus in 2007, Carey served for 12 years in a mainline church, transitioning three congregations into a single, rapidly growing congregation. Carey writes one of the most widely read Christian leadership blogs today. He is the author of “Leading Change Without Losing It” and co-author of “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity” with Reggie Joiner. He and his family live in Ontario, Canada. Find Carey on his blog or follow him on Twitter @Cnieuwhof.