He was only four, but my son was very concerned as we carefully placed the nativity under the Christmas tree. “If this is Jesus’ birthday, why doesn’t He get a cake?” I looked at him, my mind racing to come up with some great theological statement about God in flesh not really caring that much for buttercream and sprinkles. But in that moment, the Lord reminded me that Ian’s real question wasn’t about the cake at all—it was about inviting Jesus into the full experience of Christmas.
So that year, a Funfetti cake was made for Him. Now, more than two decades later, Ian’s kids are helping with the Happy Birthday Jesus cake. The cake has been different shapes and sizes, but three things remain: It always has to be Funfetti (because Jesus brings us joy), there always has to be a LOT of candles (because Jesus is the light of the world), and we always have to sing (because He loves our voices).
Reggie Joiner reminds us of four great benefits of celebrating family traditions:
– They give kids a sense of security.
– They build bonds between family members.
– They remind us that we are part of a bigger story.
– They are a great way to communicate the value of family.
Watching my son and grandchildren bake and decorate the “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake, I see all four of those benefits come to life. As parents, we have great opportunity to connect with our children by sharing the power of tradition.
But I think the list is missing one important benefit that comes from when we allow children to not only celebrate but to CREATE new family traditions.
When we allow children to have a creative voice in how we celebrate the holidays, we let them exercise the gifts and talents given to them by our precious Abba God. And we let them actively participate in the very heritage of faith and love they will then pass on to their children.
New holiday traditions have become part of our family as we’ve grown older and larger. Thanksgiving now includes a tribute to my mom as we continue to figure out her secret recipe for Southern cornbread dressing. At Christmas, by special request, a large inflatable snowman named Burl Ives adorns the backyard, and Christmas Eve always includes Italian food. They’ve joined the traditions passed down for generations, and they await the traditions yet to come.
As you make the list of all the ways you’ll celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I encourage you to do something new.
Give a piece of paper and a pencil to your child. Ask them, “What simple thing would you love for us to do as a family to celebrate the season?” Let them dream. Teach them about the ways we can show Christ’s love to others. Read the list, and let your own childlike wonder imagine the possibilities.
Then let your child create a new family tradition for you.
This article originally appeared here.