This article was originally published in the December issue of HomeLife.
I know you’ve read countless articles, memes, and social media posts about the need to put down our phones and interact with each other, but folks, that’s exactly what we need to do this holiday season. We—or is it just me—have become a TV-watching, house-cocooning, social media-addicted-loners-on-our-sofas kind of a people. We need to spend more quality time together, talk more, listen even more, and extravagantly love those whom we…well…love.
Remember when we used to go visit? Maybe it’s a Southern thing but I remember when people came over to visit that my mom would bake a cake and put the coffee pot on. It was a big deal. If I heard we were going to go visit someone, I had my shoes on and I was in the car! Once we arrived at our destination, the adults would do whatever adults do, the kids would play, someone would tell stories, and everyone would laugh. I’ve always enjoyed visiting and being visited, and I plan to invite people over to visit this Christmas season.
This past summer at children’s camp, I was reminded how much human interaction—just talking about life—we miss by not making time to be still and listen. It was the second afternoon of camp and to be honest I just wanted to walk back to the cabin, catch up on a few emails, and take a quick nap. A little boy named Wyatt came over to me right after I plopped down on the camp couch. He begged me to play Farkle, and I rather grudgingly agreed. Before I knew it, we had been playing for 30 minutes and I knew all about his life. We visited. I won that Farkle game—he said that God let me win because I was so nice for playing a game with him. And, more importantly, I won a new friend.
Continue a Tradition
I get a bit sentimental around the holidays. When I was a kid my parents would buy puzzles and we would work on them when the weather was bad. We would usually work a big holiday puzzle during Christmas break. We would get the folding table out of the closet (you know, the kid’s table at holiday meals) and set up the puzzle. What I didn’t realize was that it was my dad’s plot to talk to us. We would sit for a few hours and work the puzzle thinking we were simply working a puzzle, but in reality it was his scheme for us to open up and talk about what was going on in our lives. We would share our dreams and become a captive audience for him to tell silly dad jokes. My dad has gone on to be with Jesus, but this holiday season I will set out a table and put a puzzle on it. I’ll be ready for the grandkids. I have some big puzzles for the bigs, and some 24-piece puzzles for the littles, and, yes, some silly jokes up my sleeve to continue a holiday tradition.
I think our family traditions at Christmas are truly what cause us to have that feeling we call the “Christmas spirit.” What makes you feel the spirit? Is it the bloated feeling after dinner or the never-ending commercials that make it a December to remember? Or is it that dusty smell when you bring the box of Christmas decorations down from the attic, untangle the lights, and gently dust the nativity before you place it on the piano in the same place you’ve set it for the past 18 years? From baking cookies to hanging stockings, from stringing lights to celebrating Advent, Christmas traditions bond our families together from generation to generation.
Create a Story
I always cherish going through old decorations and remembering when I first got them and who gave them to me. I love the thrill of finding some vintage décor in a junk shop (another Christmas tradition I’ve created), and hopefully creating some new traditions with our families. Speaking of sentimental, I was out junking recently and came across an old quilt that had many people’s names embroidered across the center of each square. Whether it was for a wedding or a quilting guild of some sort, I don’t know the story behind it. It made me a little sad that this wonderful piece of artwork contained the story of many people’s lives, yet ended up in a junk store. But it gave me a wonderful idea for a pretty simple holiday craft that you can do with your entire family. It might even become a family keepsake: a handprint Christmas tree skirt. Imagine 20 years from now when you bring this out of the box and reminisce. The small handprints of the now grown man who is a daddy himself, and the handprints of dear loved ones who have passed on, side-by-side on the skirt. Be sure to leave some space for the new handprints who may join your family along the way.
The supplies needed for this project are simple. The tree skirt pictured was purchased online for about $10. Something with a flat surface such as felt, cotton, or a tightly-woven burlap would work well. If you need to make this on a budget, purchase the plain felt skirt at your local craft store. If you want to be fancy, you can pick out a fabric and trim and sew one to your liking. When you make this tree skirt, you just can’t help but bake a cake, fix some coffee, and enjoy being together.
HANDPRINT CHRISTMAS TREE SKIRT
Christmas tree skirts from a hobby store
Acrylic paints, both pourable and the ones in the writing tubes
Newspaper or drop cloth
Nearby sink of water
Before you begin painting, take a few minutes to decide how you want your tree skirt to look. Be creative and think about the different ways your family can make your keepsake tree skirt. Here are a few possibilities.
• Capture each child’s handprint every year and label with their name and year.
• Have each family member—from the youngest grandchild to the oldest great grandparent—strategically place their handprints from the center to the outside edge, leaving space for future family members to place their handprints.
• Make several tree skirts—one for each member of the family. Little ones will grow up and one day have their own trees.
Once you’ve decided what you want your tree skirt to look like, you can get started.
1. Pour some paint on a paper plate.
2. Using a fat paintbrush, paint the palm side of each person’s hand and have them stamp their handprint on the tree skirt. (You’ll need extra help with little hands so you can quickly whisk them off to the sink before paint gets all over the place.)
3. Use the paint in writing tubes to write the name of the person’s handprint and perhaps their age and the year. After the paint dries, wrap the bottom of the tree with your new Christmas heirloom.
Enjoy your tree skirt for years to come…then pass it on.
Debra Stephens is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Central Baptist Church in Owasso, Oklahoma. She’s a writer for Mr. Mark’s Classroom and loves junking, VBS, children’s camp, and making memories with her four children and three grandboys.