Written By: Mary Martinez

I can still remember the sweet yet earthy smell of that holiday candle that my mother displayed each Christmas. We never actually burned the candle, but I distinctly remember taking the decorative top off the tin and deeply breathing in the rich cinnamon smell.

Some of my favorite holiday memories are of my mom digging out her old Christmas records and putting them on while we unboxed our Christmas decorations. After the music was going we would set up our artificial Christmas tree one piece at a time, wrapping it with twinkling multicolored lights and topping it with a twinkling star. Then, we’d unbox our random ornaments, each with a story of its own to tell. Next, we would unwrap each character of our nativity set and place it ever so carefully in its designated spot within the stable. Lastly, we would place the rest of our holiday decorations throughout the house including that particular holiday candle. The smell still lingers in my mind.

For me, the holidays have always held a special place in my heart with positive memories of happiness and peace. My mother always made that time of year festive and fun. She definitely had a gift for making holidays memorable even on a tight budget. While there were always thoughtful gifts under the tree, the things that I remember the most are the traditions that our family had and the time we spent together. Those memories are what I truly cherish.

With Christmas quickly approaching there can be many emotions attached to this time of year. For some, the holidays are a joyful time filled with wonderful memories like mine. For others, the holiday season stirs up feelings of loneliness and sadness. Not all memories of the holidays are warm and cozy and I get that!

So let me ask, how are you feeling about this holiday season?

Maybe this season is going to be different or hard because of a loved one passing away, a job situation, financial hardship, or some other challenge. No matter how you feel about the holidays this year, what you’re facing, or the emotions that are attached to those past experiences, remember, this is a new season! We can’t change the past or even our current situation, but we can create new memories and focus on Jesus and the hope He brought on that Christmas day so long ago.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

How can you move forward this year and create positive memories, focusing on Jesus in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the year?

Here are a few traditions that my family has adopted over the years. None of them are huge productions or costly but they keep our family focused on Christ, giving, and family. Maybe these will spark some new ideas for you to incorporate.

After Thanksgiving is over, our family decorates for Christmas. When we set up our Nativity, instead of placing Baby Jesus in the stable, we wrap him up in a box and write “To the World! Love, God” on the package. We then place him under the tree as our first and most important present. On Christmas Eve we read Scripture about Jesus’ birth and unwrap our most precious present, Baby Jesus. He is then placed in the stable along with the rest of the Nativity. This helps us to remember why we give gifts and God’s most important gift.

John 3:16

Each year our family invites people from our community to share in our holiday meals. Through the years our guests have varied, from an elderly widow who couldn’t cook anymore, to a disabled vet, to a new family in town. We always have plenty of food to share, and we believe no one should have to spend the holidays alone. This helps us to focus on sharing and giving during the season.

Our community has an Angel Tree Program. Different businesses have trees with angel ornament tags, each with an age and need/want from a local child or nursing home resident. You take the tag, purchase a gift and then take it back to the business. This has been a practical way for my children to learn about giving and thinking of others during this time of year.

Hebrews 13:16

My mother had a tradition of baking wine cakes and taking them around to our neighbors and friends. I keep this tradition alive and bake wine cakes every year, sharing them with our neighbors. This helps me again to focus on giving and sharing as well as bringing joy to others.

Proverbs 11:25

We follow a 3 Gift Rule for our children, representing each gift brought to Jesus. The first is a gift they really want (with a set price limit). This is our “Gold” gift. Secondly, something they need. This is our “Frankincense” gift. Thirdly, a gift of growth (learning or spiritual). This is our “Myrrh” gift. This has helped our family to keep our presents to a minimum and again focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

Matthew 2:11

On Christmas Eve, we attend Christmas Eve service and afterward drive around and look at Christmas lights. This helps us to reflect on Jesus, the Light of the world.

John 8:12

I pray these examples will help to motivate you in a new, practical, and fun way to add positive memories of joy and blessings to your 2021 holiday season.

Written By: Mary Martinez