The other day I was talking to one of my former students about American holidays. He is from Mexico. He explained how foreign Thanksgiving and our style of Christmas are to him. In Mexico they don’t really have a holiday like Thanksgiving, and the way they celebrate Christmas is very different from the traditional American Christmas. As I talked to him, it became clear that he has some awesome traditions from Mexico that I would like to adopt, and his family has already adopted some of our more traditional American traditions because they liked them.
So I got thinking, what if we could all share our own Christmas holiday traditions? What ideas could I incorporate into our Christmas, and what ideas of ours would others appreciate? I love hearing about traditions of others, and as foster parents, we have really tried hard to incorporate some of the traditions that our foster kids bring with them from their own families.
Building traditions is important, and when you include your foster kids in this, they build strong relationships and ties with you and your family. Here are a few traditions that we have built throughout the years with our foster kids.
The Christmas Village
When I was a young boy my family went to visit my aunt and uncle. They had a huge Christmas village. I remember thinking that it was awesome. And, somewhere in their Christmas village they hid a small figure of Yoda. It was kind of a game to find and re-hide the little Yoda.
Now that I have a family of my own, I have started a Christmas village of my own. When we started doing foster care, our foster youth often wanted to help me set up the Christmas village. In my home setting up the Christmas village is a big task. I steal books from the bookshelf, boxes from closets, and I set up a village landscape with hills, valleys, and lakes. At first I was hesitant to let my foster kids help me; I like things to be just right. But, I gave in. it was fun, for all of us. It helped build relationships, and it gave them something to show off to their friends.
Not all of our foster kids believe in Jesus Christ, and not all of them celebrate Christmas, but the Christmas village was a fun way to let them feel involved without pushing religion on them.
The Lamb in the Village
My aunt and uncle hide a figure of Yoda in their village. We couldn’t find a figure of Yoda, but we did have a small (and I mean small) lamb. So, rather than hide Yoda, we hide a lamb. This has become important to us. We believe in Jesus Christ and his birth. We hide the lamb in our village to remind us all that all you have to do is look to find the Lamb of God in Christmas.
This has been a fun tradition in our home. Over the years, as our village has grown, it has gotten harder and harder to find the lamb. It isn’t uncommon to find people standing, silently staring at the village for long periods of time. Even our foster kids who do not believe the same as us find it fun to find and hide the lamb. For those of our foster who do believe in Christ, this little tradition has helped them contemplate the true meaning of Christmas. Either way, this tradition has been a fun activity that we can all do together.
The Christmas Tree Hunt
Each year, well almost every year, we go Christmas tree hunting. We buy a permit to chop down our own tree, and we take a day to drive as high in the mountains as the snow will let us, find the perfect tree and bring it home with us. We bring hot chocolate, sleds, and have snowball fights. This activity has been a fun family activity that we look forward to for the whole year. Some of our foster kids want to help us look for Christmas trees, while others would rather sled and play in the snow. Either way, we are having fun as a family.
It has been fun to watch our foster kids help us find the perfect tree and then to watch them be so proud (all season long) of the fact that they helped us find the tree. It has been fun to watch new foster kids who are a little reserved completely open up and help in the family goal of finding the perfect tree. One of my favorite tree hunting memories is of one of our foster sons, about age 15, pulling my young biological kids around on a snow shovel like it was a sled. It was fun to watch him remember what it was like to be a kid and to have fun with our little kids.
Christmas Caroling by Horse Wagon
Last year we started yet another family tradition. We went Christmas caroling i n one of my dad’s horse drawn wagons. It was so much fun. We made wassail and rode around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols. It was something that was a dream of some of the younger foster, but they would not regularly get to try something like this. We figured that it would be a fun memorable experience, and since my family has horses we decided to go for it.
This Christmas tradition was fun, but like all of the others, it took planning. We recommend that you give your foster kids, especially teenagers, a chance to help plan and carry out the activity. Don’t leave it all up to them because it will never happen the way that you want it to, but give them a voice and let them help. We find that the easiest way to get them involved with the activities is to hold a family meeting and let everybody come up with a way that they can be involved. Get your Free Family Meeting Outline Here!
Tell us about Your Holiday Traditions
Like I said earlier, I love hearing about new and different family traditions. Every family has something unique and different. We’d love to hear from you. What family traditions do you have? How have you been able to bring in traditions from your foster kids and incorporate them into your own family? Please leave us a comment; we’d love to hear from you.