This Fall I have asked a couple of friends share some of their family holiday traditions with you. I hope you enjoy and I would love to hear some of your traditions as well!
We’re the Seay Family. I’m Susan, My hubby’s name is Ron and we have 7 children. 1 boy- Malek who’s 18 and 6, yes- 6!, girls. 16, 14, 11, 9, 6, & 4.
As I’ve thought about how to best describe a few of our favorite end-of-the-year traditions, I thought it would be best to describe how we approach the end of the year overall. For us the end of the year marks a time of reflection, gratitude, and celebration. We begin with Thanksgiving. With the daily hustle and bustle, I greatly appreciate an annual celebration that focuses solely on gratitude.
Each year, we fill our home with family and friends. As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re on the lookout for those who might be alone that day, and we invite them to join us. Our normal group size averages about 20 people. If you ever join us, come expecting lots of hugs, laughs, and tons of food!
Before the meal, we gather in a huge circle, join hands, and each person shares 1-2 things they are thankful for. There are usually some tears. And each year there’s at least one jokester who has to say they’re thankful to be last so we can get to the food. Hee-hee
After eating entirely too much food, we put on our shoes and take a walk around the neighborhood. Everybody goes on the walk, including our 90 year old grandma. With a crowd of 20 people walking down the street, it doesn’t look like a family walk, it looks more like a parade.
Over the years more and more of our neighbors have joined us in the “after-meal” walk. It’s so fun to see all the families walking off their Thanksgiving meal.
After the walk, we return home with just enough room to squeeze in a dessert. Or two. And then, it’s game time! Card games, board games, all games are welcome. There’s minimal to no TV during this time. I tell my kids there’s too much wisdom and experience in the room to give your attention to a TV. Not to mention it’s a great time to share what’s happening in your world and find out how someone else is doing.
In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we reflect on the past year month-by-month. During the year I keep a family calendar and take note of people we’ve met, places we’ve traveled, funny things said, milestones like teeth lost or who learned to read. It’s such an amazing experience to rewind the year and take in all that has happened in just 11 months. If anyone has additional notes I didn’t write down, I add it in, then we file the calendar away.
Next we celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa. For us, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. To honor that our immediate family does not participate in gift exchanging. The grandparents are not denied the opportunity to give gifts. But Ron and I decided early on to keep the focus on Jesus and not on the “I-wants” of the Christmas season. On the kids’ birthdays, we go all out! Tons of gifts, lots of love. And on Jesus’ birthday- we want the focus to remain on Him. No judgment on gift giving. We look for opportunities to give gifts and to be a gift to others during that season. We’re very excited to do that. It’s our small effort to avoid the slippery slope of Christmas becoming all about getiing gifts and less about the Ultimate Gift of Jesus.
Next up is Kwanzaa. This is a 7 day celebration of our African-American heritage during the holiday season. Each day we begin the day with this greeting- Habara Gani? Which means- what’s the news. You are supposed to respond to the greeting with the theme of the day. However in our family we still struggle to remember the theme for each day during Kwanzaa, so the response is usually- Hold on, let me check. Hahaha
Our table is set with a kinara (candle holder), mkeke (mat), Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup), Muhindi (ears of corn) one for each child.
Each night of Kwanzaa at dinner time, we light the candles, read a story that relates to the theme of the day, and then pray together. Simple.
The 5th day of Kwanzaa is Nia, which means purpose. On this day we start to shift our hearts from the ending of a year to beginning of a new year.
Ron will meet with the older children and have them each set goals for the New Year. They bring their previous goals to the table, review them, and then set new goals. It’s always a blessing to see how many of their goals have been achieve. It encourages them to dream even bigger each new year.
Overall, our life as a family is focused on simplicity. As the year comes to a close, our goal is simply to celebrate the goodness of God in the land of the living. Ps 27:13
If you want to meet a mom who’s been raising kids, cooking meals, & making plenty of mistakes, yet still has a smile on her face- I’m so happy to meet you! I’m Susan Seay, mom to 7 children who challenge and bless my soul on a daily basis.