Approaching the holidays with anticipation, we look forward to family gatherings and celebrations with friends. As you prepare for this season, Good News Wants to Know… What is your family’s most unique Christmas tradition?
Among our favorite Christmas traditions is to daily read the Palm Beach Atlantic University Advent Guide. For 22 years, the University faculty, students and alumni have been contributing daily devotionals for the Advent season. Once published only in print, the guide is now available online to a wider audience. Our Christmas prayer is this guide offers inspiration, hope and unity for our Christ-first community. We receive an abundant blessing of joy each day.
William Fleming, President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
We have a couple traditions that our now adult children continue to appreciate. The first is a “real” tree that goes up Thanksgiving weekend at the time when we begin decorating inside and out. The second, a restaging of coming down the steps (now as adults) with their children to see if Santa ate his cookies and what he left in their stockings hanging on the mantel before opening presents from under the tree.
William “Bill” C. Davell, Director, Tripp Scott Attorneys at Law
The Denisons’ most sacred Christmas tradition is fighting over whose in-laws most deserve the grandkids.
Bob Denison, President, Denison Yacht Sales
After waking and reading through the Christmas story from selected parts of each gospel and after going into the stockings and exchanging gifts, the kids have a silly string fight and throw our daughter, Amanda, kicking and screaming, into the pool.
Collins Forman, Jr., P.A.
Since many international students at Florida Atlantic University are in the States during the Christmas break – missing their families as well as their nations – I usually host several of them for a traditional dinner at my home. After they share about their family’s traditions, I take the opportunity to express what Christmas is all about and what it means to me.
Deborah Cusick, FAU Campus Volunteer, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship
Our family Christmas tradition that continues to stand out to us is three fold: attending an old-fashioned Candlelight Service with carols, attending a Christmas Eve Service, and shopping for a ‘live’ Christmas tree. Though these may seem common place to some, I am realizing the value of these traditions more and more as the years pass by and all of us grow older. I’m looking more and more forward to the promised reunion of loved ones who’ve ‘been promoted,’ the return of Jesus Christ our Savior, and possibly seeing my daughters carrying on these traditions with their families. Merry Christmas to all!
Dennis DeMarois, Director, The Gathering Palm Beach
For many years our entire family gathers for a special Christmas dinner that we call “the African Chop meal.” Since my parents were missionaries in Africa and we grew up there, this is the time we remember that time with rice, spicy curry, and at least 10 toppings to include coconut, pineapple, peppers, tomatoes, onions, okra, banana, etc. It is delicious, brings back memories and reminds the family of growing up together in a very rural village in a foreign land.
Don Campion, President, Banyan Air Service
Christmas morning starts with a Rich Mullins song “You Gotta Get Up” played loud enough for everyone in the house to hear. After the gifts are opened, we read the Luke 2 Christmas story and unwrap the final gift – a wrapped baby Jesus from our Nativity. We then sit outside on our patio, eating monkey bread and waiting for the traditional jump into the swimming pool (no matter the temperature).
Doug Sauder, Pastor, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
I am not sure how unique it is, but my wife and I and our four children for years attended the midnight service and sat in the balcony at Christ Church as a family. The view from the balcony to this day is a vision in my mind that brings me a little closer to God!
Fred Scarbrough, DVM, Founder, Scarbrough Animal Hospital and HOPE South Florida
I like to run these questions by my “adult children” to get their feedback. So… one said she remembers she and her sister and brother would sleep by the Christmas tree the night before Christmas Eve as they didn’t want Santa to catch them the following night as he made his rounds. My other daughter remembers the “world famous rum cake” that I have been baking for over 20 years (and still make) that they now make as a Christmas gift for their friends. I would read “Mary’s Dream” and we would all sing Happy Birthday Jesus Christmas morning. The reading of “Mary’s Dream” legacy lives on with our daughter and son-in-law who live in Chicago with our two granddaughters:
“I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this Year celebration, He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so full of cheer, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus not to be wanted at His own Birthday celebration. I’m glad it was only a dream. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real.”
Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!
Gita Santangelo, Community Prayer Partner
We had Elfie. He was an invisible, magical character (me) who would hide small presents around the house on Christmas Eve. When the gifts were all hidden, Elfie would ring a bell to let the children know it was time to hunt for the presents.
JoAnne Daudt, JoAnne Larson Daudt, P.A.
Oyster Stew! As a child I was forced to eat this traditional Norwegian simple stew made with oysters heated in a scalding hot mixture of flour-based cream and milk topped with cracker & paprika! My Grandpa would say “uff da feeda” (surprisingly disgusting!) Now I relish the stew and carry on the fatherhood tradition of making it every year. It is “veldig veldig bra” (very very good)!
John Offerdahl, former Miami Dolphins All-Pro Linebacker and founder, Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill
When my daughter was younger, we’d bake a cake together and decorate it to say, “Happy Birthday Jesus!” Then after dinner, we’d bring out the cake and sing Happy Birthday to Him!
Joyce Feldman, Founder, BiG Children’s Foundation, Inc.
We love serving our church family and the community for LOTS of Christmas services! So on December 26 we have a tradition called “Pajama Day.” We stay in our pj’s all day, eat leftovers, watch movies and celebrate all the amazing memories made during the Christmas season.
Julie Mullins, Pastor, Christ Fellowship
Every Christmas we had a tradition that my son Justin would put the first ornament on the tree and my daughter Lindsay would put the angel on the top of the tree. I remember one year as the kids were in their twenties I didn’t think they would want to continue with this tradition and set up the entire tree alone. A lesson learned…traditions must carry on. Oh yes, I took every ornament off the tree so Justin could put on the first ornament and Lindsay could put the angel on the tree.
Linda Giambattista, Executive Director, Taylor’s Closet
When our children were younger, my husband and I would make sure our children had all the presents and toys, but we also wanted to include special trips or events that would make the holidays extra special. As they grew into young men, we realized they did not always remember the presents they received, but they certainly remembered the memories we made and the places we went. Now that we are grandparents, we want to give our children and grandchildren memories, not gifts. So we go to special places and events such as the Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Pageant; cruises down the intracoastal waterway to see the Christmas lights; live productions of “Cinderella” at the Performing Arts Center; Disney on Ice; and a new one this year – the new Ft. Lauderdale train ride on the “Polar Express.”
Dr. Mary Drabik, President, South Florida Bible College
The McDonald Family’s unique Christmas tradition: We have been collecting Snow Village® for over 30 years, and November 1st we begin setting up the village. It helps us anticipate the season and adds the nostalgia of Christmases past, along with a little “snow,” as we remember the White Christmases we enjoyed growing up in Canada and Michigan.
Nancy McDonald, President/CEO, Hope Women’s Centers
Growing up in a Ukrainian community in Cleveland ,Ohio, we had a tradition of bundling up and going out caroling door-to-door, singing old Ukrainian carols and carrying a large Star of Bethlehem. People would enjoy hearing the old carols in their native tongues and would reward the carolers with cookies and chocolates. It was a blessed and joyous time for all involved.
Oksana Horton, Artistic Director, Revelation Ministries
Our family’s most unique Christmas tradition is making our rounds to both sides of the family to exchange Christmas gifts and share in the excitement of opening gifts and adding a few pounds by enjoying good old fashioned Christmas meals.
O’Neal Dozier, Pastor, The Worldwide Christian Center
Most of our traditions are the usual ones than many others do, Operation Christmas Child, Christmas Eve service, breakfast Christmas morning with the whole family, and so forth. This year, we are starting a new tradition that my son felt called to do. We are putting together Christmas Backpacks for the Homeless. In them, we are placing a Bible, personal care items, non-perishable healthy snacks, water and a Christmas Card, with a personalized message. We have decided to distribute them to those on the streets during the week of Christmas. We are hoping to build upon this yearly.
Patricia Colangelo, EdS, Director of Operations – Florida, Trinity International University
My family’s favorite Christmas tradition for the past 15 years is getting to do archery at God’s Little Acre’s (a ministry in Coconut Creek that serves children with special needs and their families) the Saturday before Christmas. We shoot the bow and arrow with these special children (most of whom are in wheelchairs). When I put my hand over their hand to help them pull back the string on the bow, I feel as if “my hand is on Jesus’ hand” (Matthew 25:40). Then they all receive a “Jesus Loves You” gold medal!
We thank God for the privilege to be a part of these precious children’s lives!!!
Coach Rick Andreassen, Founder, SAINTS of Florida Homeschool P.E. and SAINTS International Sports Ministry
Christmas morning when our children were young was all about trying to bring the real meaning of Christmas together with the joy and excitement of giving gifts and having some great family time. So before any gifts could be opened, we would read the Christmas story from Matthew. Then after the gifts were all opened our boys got to hunt for the “little green pickle.” The one who found it was rewarded with a special gift, and as German folklore would have it, good fortune for the rest of the year!
Romney C. Rogers, Managing Partner, Rogers, Morris & Ziegler LLP
Great Christmas Tradition: meeting on the west coast beach of northern Florida every other year for a week in three beach houses, with about 40 family members from my wife’s side of the family is a blast that we have been doing for years. Lots of food, activities, golfing, swimming, games, singing, dancing and acting silly while we’re doing it. Great memories. It used to be every year, but changed to every other year a few years ago.
Ron Bramos, Senior Pastor, Victory Life Church
In addition to my two children, we have three beagles. One of them, Snoopy, came from the pound when he was about six or seven and, as a result of his background, has some “problematic behaviors.” One such problem is that whenever he grabs wrapping paper he morphs from a sweet dog whom we saved from death, to a seed of the beast. Several of us have scars from not recognizing how quickly the transformation had taken place. For the last three years one person has been assigned “wrapping patrol” to make sure that Snoopy doesn’t get anywhere near the paper. We don’t have any new scars and Snoopy is happier, so it’s a win for everybody.
Samuel Lamerson, PhD, President/Professor of New Testament, Knox Theological Seminary
On the first of November, we decorate one tree and put the Polar Express train under it and drink hot chocolate. My boys look forward to this every year.
Scott Baugh, Pastor, Journey Church
Well, aside from watching Elf (and several other “can’t miss” Christmas movies together), our traditions have evolved as our kids have aged (they’re now 24, 19, 16 & 16). When they were younger, we used a 12-day devotional with little ornaments (or, “adorenaments”) that they would then hang on a wreath at the end of each day. As they’ve grown older, we’ve taken to reading and talking about different parts of the Christmas story together each night as Christmas approaches. And, after we open our presents at our house, we head down to my parents’ house in Miami, where they get Christmas a second time (which is pretty awesome).
Tom Hendrikse, Pastor, Rio Vista Community Church
One of our favorite Christmas traditions is our “silly family” Christmas picture. We like to make sure we get one picture each Christmas with us all making a silly face. This is a reminder for us all to enjoy each other, have fun, and ultimately thank Jesus for His gift to us on Christmas day.
Thomas L. Lukasik, Vice President Community Engagement, 4KIDS
Our family’s Christmas traditions have always started with a beautiful Silent Night Christmas Eve Church service and ended with a traditional turkey feast Christmas Day. We love to invite friends who might not have places to go, and recently I’ve been relishing the sight of my beautiful daughter-in-law and sons now taking the baton and doing the same. Thank you, Jen! …I’ll bring the stuffing!
Virlee “Vee” Stepelton, Ministry Advocate