This past week was COOKIE TIME! I have been meeting with 5 friends for 37 years at Christmas time for our annual COOKIE SWAP! We joke - but we're really not kidding - that no one else is allowed in and no one is allowed out! We make sure every year that we schedule the time so that no one misses this annual celebration. It has become a wonderful tradition that even our families - maybe I should say especially our families - love and enjoy. We all look forward to getting together. It's tradition!

So often our family traditions change or even are forgotten through the years. Sometimes that is a good thing. It is pretty special, however, when certain traditions continue. Traditions remind us where we come from. They remind us of our past and hopefully carry us into the future.

The Advent wreath has long been a tradition in many homes. It is a time to prepare for Christmas. Originally boughs were wreathed with the four candles of Advent - Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Now we often see Advent calendars that children either open or even hang small ornaments on a felt background. Always a reminder that this is a time of preparation for the celebration to come and for the Christian celebration of the Christ Child.

The tradition of the Christmas tree is certainly an example of something that has lasted throughout centuries. I grew up following the German tradition of Christmas. The tree was trimmed on Christmas Eve. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve and Stockings are hung. Santa visits that night and in the morning the stockings are bulging and Santa presents magically appear!

Our family also celebrates with a tradition of the "pickle" ornament. The person who spies the pickle ornament first gets an extra gift. Our first "pickle" was the size of a regular pickle. It continues to be the "pickle" ornament that is on the family tree that the children love. The little ones all have an equal chance of finding it. In our house, the extra gift is always a gift that is best when shared. It is often a game, a video or a craft that is most fun when it is experienced with a friend!

Our traditions can shape us and can bring us a sense of who we are and of our place in the world. Our small group of 6 continues to make cookies and share our joys and our heartaches along with our cookies and tea. Our family continues to prepare during Advent. We continue to gather around the Christmas tree and share the celebration of Christmas. We continue to share the hope, peace, joy and love of Christmas. What are your traditions of the holiday season? Share those traditions with someone else and experience the joy!


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