Family Christmas Traditions

Family Christmas Traditions

When our four children were small, the most cherished Jeremiah family Christmas story of all time was born. Like all mothers of young children, my wife, Donna, took great delight in picking out perfect gifts for each of our four. Every present was beautifully wrapped, and a neatly printed tag had the name of the child to whom the present would belong on Christmas morning. But there was a problem, familiar to all mothers: How to keep those presents from little prying eyes until Christmas Day?

Determined to outwit her own precocious progeny, Donna had a brainstorm one Christmas. Instead of putting a child’s name on the tag of each present, she would put a number. The children had no idea which present belonged to whom. And it worked like a charm. Until “the year” she lost her code—her key to Christmas.

But guess what? Something totally unanticipated happened. The sense of anticipation and wonder and suspense was heightened beyond all expectation. Because now nobody—including Donna—knew what was going to appear when the wrapping came off a present. Fortunately, once she saw each gift, Donna knew who it was for!

David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, Calif.

On Christmas Eve, my father would read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke in the evening. We lived in a suburban neighborhood just outside of Lynchburg, and my mom had also grown up in Lynchburg, in a working class family. When she was young, the only time that they received any gifts was at Christmas. Because of that, it was a very, very special holiday to her, and she really went the extra mile to make sure it was special for all of us. So there were always lots of toys Christmas morning.

When I got married and went out on my own, I ended up living on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains, and our traditions changed a little bit because of that fact. We still read the Christmas story to remind everyone of the birth of Christ, of what Christmas is all about. But my two boys, who are now 23 and 19 (our daughter is 12), would always insist on going out Christmas Eve with a 12-gauge shotgun and shooting mistletoe out of a tree on the farm. We still do that. The real prize was when they’d get mistletoe that had little white berries on it. That’s what they’d hope for every year.
Jerry Falwell Jr., president and chancellor of Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va., and son of Liberty’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr.

While many families would gather around the Christmas tree and exchange gifts with one another, the holidays were another thing altogether for me growing up. Being raised in a divorced home (my mom married and divorced seven times) made Christmas problematic, to say the least. In addition to this, my mother was a raging alcoholic.

I remember one year, I got up to see what was under the tree for me on Christmas morning only to find my mom passed out on the floor after a night of hard drinking. As I sat there looking at my mother and watching the lights of our artificial tree twinkle on and off, I thought to myself, “It’s got to get better than this!”

And it did get better—when I became a Christian at age 17. After getting married and having children, I determined that I would provide a different Christmas experience for my two boys than I had growing up. On Christmas Eve we would have a wonderful dinner that my wife had made, and then we were off to the Christmas Eve service at our church, where I would speak. After we arrived home later in the evening, I would read the Christmas story to my boys. I would also allow them to open one present on Christmas Eve, as sort of a “teaser” for what was to come.

On Christmas morning, I don’t know who was more excited, them or me! We loved watching our boys rip open those packages and enjoy what we gave them.

Did I overdo it at times? No question.

Do I regret that? Not one bit.

Christopher and Jonathan both married and made Christmas very special for their children as well. Now, our Christmases are more chaotic, with four granddaughters and one grandson. That means a lot of pink wrapping paper!

We always remind them why we are remembering this day, and we read Scripture and pray. Then we have a great meal together and a lot of fun.

Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, Calif.

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