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True Meaning of Christmas: Family Traditions, Giving, and Children

Dan is a family man, having raised two children, and has long been interested in the cultural, political, and social roots of our society.

What's the True Meaning of Christmas?

What's the True Meaning of Christmas?

I don't think there is any one True Meaning of Christmas—rather, there are as many meanings as there are people. Yes, Christmas has a history, and that history affects us all, but each family has their own Christmas traditions and meaning. Children find yet a different meaning, and theirs is one that changes as they grow and develop.

As a secular family, we don't assign much meaning to the traditional role of religion in Christmas, but we have our own Christmas traditions. This article is dedicated to my family as they experience and amplify the wonder of Christmas through their traditions, through giving, and especially through the children.

As you read, keep in mind that I certainly don't propose that all of our traditions and activities will fit every home, but also keep an open eye for those things that look enticing and fun—they might end up being part of your True Meaning of Christmas.

Family Traditions

Our family has, over the years, developed many traditions just for Christmas. Although the world and stores begin "celebrating" Christmas around Halloween, we don't. Everything waits until after Thanksgiving (although gift purchases may start as early as the day after Christmas for the next year).

The Christmas Tree

For several years, it was a yearly event to find and cut a Christmas tree. Waiting for a snowy day, with the family bundled up and warm, we searched through a nearby field that was thick (too thick) with small pine trees. We usually ended up with a "Charlie Brown" tree that wasn't perfect by any means but was a wonderful start to the Christmas season. Those days are gone, the field no longer available, and we now use a (shudder) fake tree, but it is still a big day when the tree comes out for decoration and our home begins to look like Christmas.

It's a big day when the tree comes out for decoration and our home begins to look like Christmas.

It's a big day when the tree comes out for decoration and our home begins to look like Christmas.

Our Tree Ornaments Include the Whole Family

Before our children were ever born, my wife made a few Christmas tree ornaments by hand. Ceramic figures of various kinds, with our names on them, and she also made a good number for future use but without names. As children, spouses of children, and grandchildren came into our lives, names magically appeared on those old ornaments, and it is always with wonder when grandchildren find an ornament on our tree with their name on it.

Those ornaments are now 30 years old and more, but they still go up every year. Children always help decorate the tree and are encouraged to add their own handmade ornaments (some of those, too, are decades old). When finished, our tree is not the prettiest or neatest around, but it carries memories that are irreplaceable. It is not only a symbol of all that makes up Christmas but of the good times from years ago. Our tree is special to us, and something that always reminds us of what the True Meaning of Christmas really is: the love and sharing of Christmas.

Our handmade ornaments have been on the tree for many many years.

Our handmade ornaments have been on the tree for many many years.

Traditions Remind Us of What's Truly Important

Some of our traditions are just that; traditions for no other reason than to remind us it is Christmas Day. It wouldn't be Christmas without a ham for dinner, or without rotten egg pie for dessert. These are just fun little things that mean Christmas is here. There is nothing special or meaningful about them; they just are after so many years of observing them.

Christmas Movies

Christmas movies are a staple through December, watching as a family with the young ones. A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, The Polar Express; all are staples to be watched and discussed every year.

Festive Home Decorations

Decorating our home is again a family tradition. Children are enlisted to help put window decorations up while Dad puts a few lights on the house. Our feeling on outside decorations is that we need not make the most lavish display around, but that we do need to participate in the neighborhood decoration. It adds to the enjoyment of all, friends and neighbors, acquaintances and strangers, as the magic of Christmas blooms everywhere.

Decorations add to the enjoyment of all as the magic of Christmas blooms everywhere.

Decorations add to the enjoyment of all as the magic of Christmas blooms everywhere.

Santa Is for the Secular, Too

Santa Claus plays a part in our Christmas; we find no harm in the idea of Santa Claus and feel that it adds to the magic and wonder of Christmas for the children. For us, Santa fills the stockings put up on Christmas Eve; he drinks the milk and eats the cookies left for him. He leaves many of the gifts that magically appear late on Christmas Eve, long after the children are in bed. Other gifts come from Mom and Dad, brother and sister, but Santa always brings some, too.

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Read More From Holidappy

Everyone Can Participate in Christmas Cooking

Christmas Eve is always a time of family, singing carols, hanging stockings, and remembering past years' Christmases. Cooking begins for Christmas Day, with children helping to make cookies and candies—that evening or the next day, they get to offer everyone some of their own work.

Children can help make Christmas cookies and share their work with everyone.

Children can help make Christmas cookies and share their work with everyone.