Day 25 Jesus's Disciples Followed Him and So Can We

Day 25 Jesus's Disciples Followed Him and So Can We

25 Ways in 25 Days – Karen Shirley – Langley, British Columbia

My Christmas Starts at Thanksgiving

We are the parents of three wonderful daughters, all married, and they and their husbands have given us seven adorable grandchildren. Over the years as each of our three daughters identified their prospective husbands, they and their fiancés all chose summer wedding dates. With the great excitement surrounding each summer wedding, the furthest thing from our minds then was what to do about Christmases.
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However, six months after our first daughter married and as Christmas approached, I struggled with my disappointment that she was not going to be spending as much of her time with us over the holidays as I could have expected when she was single.  I grappled with these feelings yet again as each daughter in her turn married, bonded with her husband, and incorporated some of his family's Christmas traditions and some of ours into their union.

I quickly came to appreciate that it is neither possible nor fair for me to expect that the parents of grown children are going to be the hub of Christmas activities. I was thankful that our daughters spent a generous amount of their time with us as they grew from children to single adulthood.  Their marriages changed things.  Now there are other families to consider - our daughters' new twosomes, as well as our sons-in-laws' families.  If a daughter and her family settled in a distant area or if her husband's family lived in a distant area, then I might expect not to see that daughter, her husband and those grandchildren at all during the Christmas holidays. It was a hard nut to swallow when I came to realize that any attempts I might make to manipulate or monopolize were pure selfishness in me.
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Over the years, my friends and colleagues at work used to talk freely with me about how wives, husbands, former spouses, children, and all the relations in their own families struggled to decide how to divide their time fairly at Christmas. They commonly experienced Christmas tug-of-wars.  I often heard that tensions, dissensions, recriminations, gnashing of teeth, and sometimes tears were the result.  

After some thought, several years ago I proposed to my husband that he and I might try something very different in our family as a service to our own family members. I hoped we could avoid any bickering there might be over 'who was going to whose house' for Christmas. He agreed. My husband and I then gave our daughters to understand that if they needed or wanted to be elsewhere other than in our home at any time over the Christmas holidays, be it Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve, or any other time over the holidays, they should do it. We promised not to mind at all!

Yes, we cook a meal every Christmas Eve. We make our traditional 'Bethlehem Dinner' foods that Jesus might have found familiar. All are welcome but no one is required to attend. We have always had people show up who are happy to dine with us. The same applies to Christmas Day when we roast a big turkey with all the trimmings. As it has worked out, we have never had a quiet meal tête-à-tête on Christmas Day. Then, during the Christmas week, family members and others drop in and out of our home at will. My husband and I try to make sure no one feels guilty or chastised for spending time elsewhere than at our home during the Christmas holidays.

However, I do make a huge deal out of Canadian Thanksgiving, when we invite our family members and friends to gather in our home for a Thanksgiving feast!  We seat everyone, and cozy up to two long tables in our big kitchen. The children sit on stools around the island. Together, we enjoy the repast and we acknowledge aloud that great Thanksgiving spirit of gratitude we feel for the many, many blessings the Lord has given us in the year preceding.  I wallow in the 'togetherness' of it all.

For me, Canadian Thanksgiving is the big kick-off to the Christmas season. It triggers the wonderful, kind, warm, calm, peaceful and loving feelings I feel in such abundance for the whole season from Thanksgiving to the New Year.  Getting into this special 'Christmas-y' mood helps me focus on what is the most important thing about Christmas: remembering and celebrating the birth of the sweet little baby Jesus and the perfect life He grew up to live. For me, every Christmas starts at Thanksgiving.
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