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stockings and the christmas box

I've been wanting to blog about this for years. It's my favorite Christmas tradition, and one that I married into: The Groves family christmas box. 

Every Christmas, each person in the family writes on a smaller piece of stationary for about ten minutes. During that time we are to write two paragraphs. The first paragraph tells of the things you are thankful for from the past year. Or just thanksgivings in general. The second paragraph are hopes and prayers for the year ahead. What you pray might change, the parts of your life that may require extra grace and strength.

That's it: 1) what you're thankful for from this past year 2) what you're praying for in the year ahead.

Then the next year, we read those two paragraphs aloud to each other, each person taking their turn to read their own writing. It is so powerful. It is powerful to remember your own joys from a year ago and to remember burdens you were giving to the Lord. And even more amazing, to hear the hearts of every member of the family (everyone does this...I wrote Ivar's thankful list this year to be read next year) and the way God has moved in each of our lives in the 365 days since.

Last night, after we read aloud our paragraphs from last year, Lisa collected the papers and put them in The Christmas Box where they will be held with the previous 10+ year's worth of thanksgivings and prayers. Then she handed out new paper and we wrote our words that will be read next year. Those, too, were collected and put in the Christmas Box.

It's the coolest tradition, trumps presents by long shot (in my opinion) and one that I think every family should begin. 

The other part of this Groves family gathering is Stockings. Each person in the family has a stocking. The year before, each empty stocking is put in a paper bag and each person is secretly and randomly given another family member's stocking. And all year long we are to purchase things as we think of that person. For a long time it was to get something for your stocking person as you traveled, which meant as the stocking was unpacked, stories were told of where that object came from and why they chose that gift for you. This year we streamlined a bit (the stockings were coming with side bags, overflowing with gifts and a bit out of control...) and gave four gifts: something your stocking person would want, need, eat and read. It was good, but I guess I'm partial to the travel gifts. (Maybe with a set limit of gifts in the stocking.)

I adore this tradition too. The presentation of the stocking is always very dramatic, with the stocking giver walking around the room, faking each other out, pretending they're setting the stocking on someone's lap only to pivot to the other side of the circle. The surprise is so fun, especially because few remember what their particular stocking actually looks like (you never have it in your possession, except for when you're unpacking it...) The night is very person begins by handing out their stocking and then the person who last opened their own stocking is the next to give the stocking they've been filling all year. This year we added family clapping, applauding for gifts we were particularly impressed by. Which was hilarious and never got old (to me and Lisa.)

And for his first time, Ivar got to take home a stocking last night (he was too young to understand last year) and he is so excited. I told him we get to buy presents for this person all year and Ivar has all sorts of ideas. I'll bet we don't make it until Christmas before he leaks the surprise of his stocking person, but in the meantime, the boy is thrilled.

I wanted to share these two favorite traditions now, because I would guess there are some families out there who might adopt them. Now would be the time to shop clearance stockings, or to have a family member sew some up for the next year. And you don't need a fancy box for the Christmas Box. You just need someone to head it up each year, to collect pens, have some sort of paper and to get the family to begin this beautiful ritual.


Kristen said...

I love both of these traditions so much! I had never heard of either, but I have a feeling I'm going to be sharing these ideas with some people because they are so great! Looks like the Groves clan had a great Christmas!!

annika said...

Let's do The Christmas Box! xo