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Starting Traditions, Changing Traditions

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Preserving a Legacy of Family, Faith, and Food – November 1 – December 31

Article Written by Beth Vogt

Some Christmas trees are topped with glittering stars or elaborate angels shimmering with gold and lace.  But my family’s annual Christmas tree is adorned with a handmade tin foil and cardboard star my husband and firstborn son made twenty-seven years ago.

The first few years Rob and I were married, preparing for Christmas was almost an afterthought. The holidays were squeezed in between Rob’s medical school exams and traveling to visit family. But after Josh was born, I wanted to develop special memories of Christmas for our family—memories that remained through the years.

“We really need a star for the top of the tree,” I told Rob as we wrapped multicolored lights around the tree trunk and unpacked our haphazard assortment of ornaments, careful to keep them out of reach of then two-year-old Joshua.

“Josh and I can do that,” Rob volunteered.

But instead of setting off to search store aisles, Rob and Josh retreated to the kitchen. With much whispering and laughter—and ample amounts of glue and tin foil and glitter—they constructed a star.

Later that night, after all the decorations were hung on the tree branches, Rob lifted our tow-headed son up high on his shoulders so Josh could lean forward and set the slightly lopsided, silvery star in place.

And so began our family tradition.

Each December our holiday decorating culminated with Rob helping Josh place the star on our tree. As our family expanded to include two daughters, the tree overflowed with their handmade ornaments. Their chubby-cheek toddler faces smiled out from photographs glued to construction paper. Their hands eagerly fashioned red and green beaded ornaments and painted glass balls.

And when the last ornaments were hung, Rob always helped Josh place the star on top of the branches. Even during Josh’s teen years, my husband pretended to hoist our growing son up high so he could put the star where it belonged. Josh’s smile of childish glee and pride changed to laughter.

But the tradition remained.

Then, a surprise late-in-life pregnancy altered our family. Our fourth child, Christa, was born on Christmas Eve 2000, creating new traditions for our family. Christmas became a time to celebrate two birthdays—the baby Jesus’ and our daughter’s.

The year Christa turned four, Rob once again brought the plastic boxes of decorations in from the garage. I sorted them out, separating the kids’ decorations so that they could find them easily when it came time to decorate the tree. Josh was away at college, so I put his box of ornaments to the side, the silver star on top.

“You know, Mom, I think Christa should put the star on top of the tree now,” my daughter Amy said.

Change a tradition that was then nineteen years old? No.

But throughout the rest of the day, I mulled over Amy’s suggestion. And I realized she was right.

In a few months, Josh would graduate from college. Except for summer vacations, he had not lived at home in almost four years. Who knew what the future held for our children? Josh, Katie Beth and Amy would most likely marry and start their own families, their own traditions. They might not even make it home for the holidays.

Would the tradition fade away as Christa’s older siblings transitioned into their own lives?

On Christmas Eve—Christa’s fourth birthday—we gathered in our living room. The tree twinkled with multi-colored lights and our beloved eclectic assortment of ornaments.

I gave the tattered cardboard and tin foil star to Josh. Josh gave it to then-eighteen-year-old Katie Beth who gave it to then-sixteen-year-old Amy. Amy passed the star to Christa. And as tradition dictated, Rob bent down and lifted Christa onto his shoulders so she could lean in to the tree and place the star on the top branch.

My eyes shimmered with tears as I watched the ending of one tradition.
And the beginning of a new one.

*Adapted from the book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood After 35 (Revell 2007) by Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt’s latest book is Wish You Were Here, her first novel. Beth believes happy endings aren’t limited to novels. She provides her readers with a happily ever after woven through with humor, reality, and God’s lavish grace. Married to her husband Rob for 31 years, as the mom of three adult children and one 10-year-old, Beth embraces her less-than-perfect life. Her degree in journalism helped establish her as a nonfiction writer.

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