Friday, January 8, 2010
Christmas and Tradition. Those two words just seem to go together, don't they?
Both John and I were raised in families that were rich in Christmas traditions. Maybe our families planned it that way, and maybe they didn't. I don't know, but John and I realized pretty quickly after Carey was born that living so far away from our families and our home culture was going to make it very important for us to establish Christmas traditions with our family.
We started off by blending the traditions our own families had.
John's family always put up the Christmas tree either on Thanksgiving or the day after. So now we do, too!
Christmas was about the only time of year we had to do much baking in my house, so we did all kinds of special treats for the holidays.
This is now a big tradition for us, especially as the girls have gotten older.
We save money and stock up on all kinds of things found at odd times and places, just so we can have lots of special things to eat at Christmas!
Some years they all turn out beautifully, and some years.......they don't.
Like this year. I think my husband jinxed me, but that's another story for another day!
Since we both grew up in the North, snow and playing in it were both a huge part of our traditions. Ummmm, usually we don't have snow here. Like never!!!! So, last year, we took an idea from an old Family Fun magazine.
We made our first no-snow man.
He's just cotton batting and cardboard boxes, but we really enjoy this new tradition.
My best friend's family always made graham cracker houses each year. Once I was a teenager, I often joined them. On John and I's first Christmas, we introduced the idea to our families. Then we came to Ghana, and there were no graham crackers. In fact, I don't think that I've seen a graham cracker here yet! We both really liked the idea of the graham cracker houses, so we decided to get really creative -- we would use....gingerbread.
The first time I did it, I was scared to death, but it wasn't actually too hard! Surprise!
We all have a blast decorating it, and then on the night of our Christmas party, we put it out for all the kids to eat!
This year we added a new tradition. During Christmas time our schedule goes nuts, and as I read about this idea, I thought it might help the girls focus on the real reason we have Christmas. We made a simple manger out of a box and brown paper. We then put a bowl of hay (local broom straws) next to it. We told the girls that for the month of December they were going to be watched very closely. As they were caught being good and performing acts of kindness, they would get to add a piece of straw to the manger. We were hoping to have a very soft bed for baby Jesus on Christmas morning! When they were selfish, disobedient, and unkind, we reminded them that we wanted a nice, soft bed for Jesus, not a hard, cold one! The girls actually did quite well with this - a few times I overheard one reminding the other that baby Jesus needed a soft bed! On Christmas morning they were thrilled to see one of their babies wrapped in "swaddling" clothes and laying there in the manger!
And last, but not least, is our Christmas hut. A few years ago, we began asking our Ghanaian friends if they had any Christmas traditions that we were unaware of. Truth be told, Christmas here is a borrowed holiday, and it is nothing like celebrating Christmas in another Western country, but we thought we might find something from Ghana to incorporate into our family traditions. We were not disappointed. Quite a few people told us about the Bronya Fie or Christmas Hut. On the 24th of December the children will cut down Neem tree and Palm branches. They place four large branches in the ground to act as support beams. After the support beams are up, branches are placed on top for rafters and the children begin to weave the palm fronds together to make the walls. Many children will spend hours decorating their huts. They use flowers, feathers and other beautiful things to complete their housees. In many villages the people decide which house is the most beautiful and praise the children that work the hardest. The belief is that Mary and Joseph will visit the village on their way to Bethelehem and will pick the nicest Christmas Hut to stay in. On Christmas Eve, the children are even allowed to sleep in their huts!
We live on a concrete compound, so there is no way for us to dig holes for the support beams, and we have no Neem trees near our house, but we do have plenty of Palm trees. So, we improvise.
We all gather Palm branches and build our Christmas Hut, but we build it Indian-tepee-style! The kids love it! Athough we don't allow them to sleep in it, they do play in it most of the day!
Traditions. What a wonderful blessing they can be! They bind us to our families, our homes, and our memories.
I hope you all enjoyed celebrating some wonderful traditions as a family this year! I'd love to hear about them!