The Significance of Tradition

It seems that holidays overseas have a tendency to go one of two ways. Often they feel more sacred than before as we savor those special moments and traditions that are a part of our own personal history, and as we celebrate our God through meaningful tradition, often in a culture that does not love Him. There is something about remembering and giving thanks to God at Thanksgiving and celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus on Christmas in a place where it seems that nobody else is honoring Him… and as each of you faithful moms in the U.S. can certainly attest to, this reality of celebrating Jesus when nobody else does is just as true in America as it is in many countries overseas! This feeling of celebrating the Lord in the midst of a culture that does not love Him can be such a powerful reminder of the value of our work and the meaning of our existence as lights for Christ in this world. We can pray that the world around us would some day celebrate Jesus with us, and strive to make Him known as we celebrate Him through tradition. Tradition also bonds families together as we share these special moments in the midst of a culture that may be continuing on as always, or perhaps rather giving tribute to Santa Claus or someone or something else that is not at all the “reason for the season”. These days are special bonding moments for the missionary community as well as we come together in a foreign land and remember our own culture and traditions  and have the chance to be ourselves, something that we often shy away from as we seek to become more a part of the culture that we live in.

A second thing can happen too. Sometimes we begin to forget the meaning of our own traditions. Ministry and life are so busy and the culture doesn’t recognize our holidays, so it can be easy to give a quick half salute to the day and continue on with life as normal. Besides, decorations may be scarce or non-existent depending on where you are, not to mention that some of you may be welcoming hot summer weather rather than crisp snow and hot cocoa. There is also the loneliness that can set in that might make us want to be less sentimental about the holidays to spare ourselves added heartache. I know we have experienced several somewhat forgotten holidays since moving overseas. In theory we would have loved to have savored those holidays as we do at “home,” but in real life on the field we didn’t feel like we had the time or a festive feel around us to motivate us to make the effort. I’ve always felt a sense of loss when a holiday came and went in this way. I always realize in hindsight that we missed out on lasting moments that could have deepened our family bonds and gratefulness for our heritage, and we traded them for days that blended in with all of the rest. Not only that, but more importantly, we missed out on a special time to worship God as a family and time to create memories of honoring Him together.


If I could afford to send each of your a Christmas gift this year, I would send you this book. The great thing though is that it is free online at Desiring God Resources (click the icon above)! I’ve been thinking a lot about our family traditions as the holiday season approaches and decided to “pick up” (aka “download”) this book after remembering a dear friend having recommend it. It is such a wonderfully written book that goes into the heart of tradition, why they are meaningful, and how deeply they impact us and shape who we are. There is of course a great chapter devoted especially to Christmas that I have found very helpful as we seek to make sure we truly honor Jesus fully this season, and as we are in that young family stage where our traditions are still taking shape. It is a short book and a quick read, but it is something that you could refer back to many times and be encouraged by.

On which side of the spectrum do you feel like your traditions fall? Are they sacred and clung to? Do they have a tendency to be forgotten at times? What are some ways that you treasure God in your traditions?

(Post by: Ashley)


12 Responses to “The Significance of Tradition”

  1. 1 Phyllis December 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I love traditions! I love the Christmas season! And I love that book! Actually, I have taken many of our Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter traditions from that book.

    In our family, the way Christmas has worked out has been really neat. Before we had children, December 25th was just another work day, and it always felt weird. I understand what you mean about feeling a sense of loss after holidays like that. Now, though, like I said, Christmas is wonderful! On December 25th, we have a very special family day celebrating Jesus’ birthday. We do (a very few) presents for New Year, like everyone around us. Then, on January 7th, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday again, this time with our church family.

    If anyone is interested in more details of what we do for Christmas and Advent, come search around over on our blog. I’ve written a lot about it in past years.

  2. 2 Jen (The Things We Do) December 1, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I couldn’t figure out what icon to click on. Help.

  3. 3 Ashley L December 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Sorry about the link error! It’s fixed now!

  4. 4 Ana December 2, 2009 at 2:53 am

    I loved this post Ashley and it is kind of an answer for my latest thoughts and post, I want to start building traditions in our family, my husband and I want to find ways of honoring God in our house and acknowledging Him in ways that our children will remember…

    After traveling for so long, and not being able to start anything at all, this year is very special for us.. We’ve come a long way and the best part is that God has brought us here… I’m definitely reading the book.

    Thank you for the encouragement Ashley, a big hug for you♥


  5. 5 Addie December 2, 2009 at 5:12 am

    We are still establishing our traditions since our kids are little, and many of the traditions I grew up with weren’t Christian-centered as much as I’d like. I have a lot of ideas but it seems like the holidays sneak up and are gone before I notice. I think it’s because I try to do too much in general and forget about simply teaching and celebrating the reason for Christmas is Jesus. I’ll definitely look into that book, thanks for the awesome resource!

  6. 6 Patty Sommer December 2, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Thanks, Ashley! My husband and I have decided to try extra hard to build family traditions, because there is very little around us to signify the seasons.
    We try extra hard to make it “feel” like the holidays since we live in the tropics. The first few years were quite difficult, but as we’ve been here longer and kept trying, we’ve been able to develop some wonderful family traditions!
    Thanks for the great post! God’s blessings during this Christmas season!

  7. 7 Leslie B December 2, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Wow, i cant say how your blog about traditions has touched me. my husband, and i, with two small children, are stepping out in faith into missions in Mexico in Feb. coming up~ and all of this is becoming very real to me. any encouragement is a blessing!

  8. 8 Heather Moore December 3, 2009 at 2:23 am


    Thanks for such a great post! It has officially help jump start my holiday season. Being in ministry, the Christmas season is one of the most hectic times of the year for us. Plus being in FL, it never really “feels” like Christmas. Something about putting on a pair of shorts and flip flops on Christmas morning just doesn’t seem quite right!

    We have lots of great traditions, but my absolute favorite tradition involves gift giving. We donate to a favorite charity or ministry each year. The amount we donate is more than we spend on any one person. It is our way to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and His gospel message.

    Check out

    Merry Christmas,

  9. 9 RebeccaC December 4, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Great post, Ashley (as usual!!!)! 😉

    While Christmas is widely, and wildly, celebrated here in Mexico, two of our family’s favorite holidays are not: Thanksgiving and 4th of July.

    We’ve made it a point in the past to invite another family (a national family, that is) to celebrate these holidays with us. This year we invited a young family with 3 kids to come over for Thanksgiving dinner (which we did on Friday, instead of Thursday). We shared with them about “The First Thanksgiving” and then ended up talking until nearly midnight. It was such a blessed time! Pumpkin pie was something new for them and honestly I didn’t tell them what it was until after they had eaten it. Somehow “Squash pie” just doesn’t sound so yummy!

    Inviting this family to join us helped us to not get “stuck” in our little comfort zone and also reminded us of the original purpose of the holiday…and we feel like we’ve made new best friends!!!

    I have that link loading in another window. I love John Piper, so I’m sure that I’ll love that book, too! Que Dios les bendiga, hermanas!

  10. 10 Phyllis December 4, 2009 at 7:47 am

    RebeccaC, that’s exactly what I do with pumpkin pie! I call it “Secret Pie,” and then people eat it. Pumpkin seems to be the spinach or broccoli or something of most Russian childhoods; it’s the one thing everyone hated. If I tell them what I’m serving beforehand, they don’t want any. I tell them afterwards. 🙂

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