Inside: Karis, children’s pastor and mom to four boys, shares how a simple but powerful Christmas tradition adds meaning to holiday decorating year after year.
I love a good story. I love listening to my kids tell the stories of their dreams from the night before as we eat breakfast or the stories of their school days as we drive home. I relish stories from my parents about their growing up or my growing up. I eat up story podcasts and the stories of strangers on social media. I adore books, lyrics, and the Big God Story. I’m here for all the stories.
To me, what sets apart a good story from a GREAT story are the details. The tiny moments that represent a plot twist or a new direction or even just a fresh start. And friends, let me tell you, I never get tired of hearing the story of Joy, Hope, and Love coming into this weary world through a tiny baby. It’s one of the reasons I love this season so much: this Story changes EVERYTHING.
And it’s in the details that the beauty comes. Mary, a frightened teenager, full of surrender and trust. Joseph, refusing to idolize his reputation, for the love of God. The innkeeper’s last ditch efforts to show bare minimum hospitality. The star that acted as a spotlight on center stage. A small family birthed in a stinky stable that would forever change the conversation. It’s beautiful.
Celebrate each Child’s Story
In the same way I appreciate the details in the stories of others. I collect details from the story I get to be a part of: the story of my own family. And from that, my favorite Christmas tradition was born. Each year, we gift our kids a new ornament to hang on the tree. But it’s not just any ornament. It represents a detail from their year: a new hobby, an area of growth, a new talent discovered, a new habit formed, an adventure we took, or a hurt we struggled through. Then each year when we put up the tree, we get to relive these details and celebrate all that our kids have done!
These details are shaping their story and creating their character. Reliving these memories is life-giving and reminds us all about the many truths we fought for since we last gathered around the Christmas tree. We put our “story ornaments” on the tree one at a time, reflecting together about the memories they represent. It’s one of the ways we intentionally celebrate each of the kids in our home.
And it’s a special way to hold onto the little things. For instance, I never would have remembered that Man of Logic was obsessed with elephants as a two-year-old, if his 2010 ornament wasn’t an elephant. Or I would have easily forgotten that Man of Passion’s love of cooking started all the way back in 2015, if his ornament didn’t remind us.
Celebrate Your Family’s Story
We also have a family ornament that we place on the tree. Sometimes these ornaments are ones we can buy; perhaps from a trip we took or a favorite summer activity. But other times, these special ornaments need to be created! So I’ve included our favorite salt dough recipe that we use to make and paint our own ornaments.
The year my husband’s mother passed, we needed to symbolize her absence around the tree with an ornament on the tree. Since she collected butterflies, we knew that would be the perfect ornament. But I could never really find “the one.” So the kids and I made salt dough, cut out a butterfly, let it harden, and then painted it before presenting it to Daddy. It’s a precious memory that we celebrate each year. When “Grammy’s ornament” comes out of the box, my husband will tell a story about her or share a detail from her life. It keeps her memory alive for all of us!
This year, as we prepared our story ornaments for all the boys, we knew we wanted to add a special touch for 2020, so we used the year’s hottest item–toilet paper–as our garland! The tree tells our story! It’s in the tiny details of the ornaments on its limbs that you get to see lives well lived, celebrated, and ever growing.
A Christmas Blessing For You
Christmas can be such a hectic time. Without intentional rituals that help you pull in close with your people and remember, the details of your life can easily get hurried past without fully acknowledging all you have accomplished.
No matter what family traditions you embrace this year, I leave you today with this blessing:
May the details of your life remind you of who you are and who you were created to be! May the story your everyday moments tell point towards Goodness and Joy. And may Creator God shape you, like dough, and overwhelm your heart with gratitude for the Story we get to be a part of.
Be sure to check out the fun, playful holiday ideas in: 4 Jesus-Focused Christmas Activities for Kids.
Salt Dough Recipe for Ornaments
- 2 cups of flour, plus a little more for dusting
- 1 cup of salt
- Between ¾ cup and 1 cup of water
- Toothpick or kabob skewer
- Parchment paper
- RIbbon for hanging
- Preheat your oven to 200º F.
- Mix flour and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
- Pour water in while mixing until you get a good consistency that’s not too sticky. Start with ¾ cup of water and add more if needed.
- Put a little bit of flour on your countertop. Roll the dough out until about ¼ inch thick. If the dough is too thin, your ornaments will crack!
- Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out the shapes you want. Don’t forget to poke a hole in the top of your ornament before baking so you can hang them later.
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper, and pop your ornaments in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. You can skip this step and let the ornaments dry out in the open, but it will take several days. I’m way too impatient for this.
- Once the ornaments harden, you can paint them.
- When dry, tie on a cute ribbon or a piece of twine by looping through the hole you made.
What are some of the funniest or most meaningful ornaments you have given or received? I’d also love to hear about some of your favorite traditions! Add some holiday cheer and warm feels by commenting below.