One of the reasons I love Christmas is because of its traditions. As kids, my brothers and I always baked special nutmeg cookie passed down from our Italian great grandmother and we enjoyed a Christmas dinner of homemade stuffed shells and meatballs. To this day, our families eat stuffed shells and meatballs on Christmas day! On Christmas Eve we would eat pierogis and keilbasa from recipes representing the Polish side of the family. I have fond memories of my grandfather singing “Who stole the kishka” while we joined together around the dinner table. These memories, full in tradition, are long-staying.
Starting new traditions has become a wonderful blessing for our own children. When they become adults they can look back with fondness at the lineage of hearts that molded new traditions for their Christmas holidays. Several years ago, our family piloted a new Christmas tradition. We call it “Under the Tree Prayers”. On December 1st we take out 4 tin (gift card) boxes and meet in my bedroom. On the back of each box is the name of the family member who will open it on Christmas Eve. We then take pieces of paper and write an individualized prayer on it, specific to the person whose name is on the back of the box. Once folded, the person who writes the prayer then writes his/her name on the outside of the folded paper before placing it inside the box. Then every night until Christmas Eve we pray those individualized prayers over each member of our family. On Christmas Eve, each person in the family opens his/her prayer gift box. The prayers are revealed along with the name of who prayed that specific prayer for them during the month of December.
Opening these boxes on Christmas Eve has become one of my favorite holiday moments. Discovering what a 10-year old girl and a 13-year old boy each have prayed for me during the month of December is nothing short of heart-melting. I love this tradition because it has nothing to do with money; it has everything to do with intention, commitment and thoughtfulness. It is a gift that speaks equally to the ones praying and the ones prayed for. I hope in years to come this tradition will be passed down to our future family generations. And I hope one day our children will ask their young ones every chilly December night if they have remembered to say their “Under the Tree Prayers”.