Christmas is a great time to pause and spend that extra time with family. For parents and dads in particular it is an opportunity to forge traditions and create memories that your children and family will remember forever. It may be the simple memories and traditions like spending the day in your pajamas or a special Christmas morning breakfast or the finale of the advent calendar you use each year. Simple or holy these traditions are the stuff that knits families together.
Is there anything special about adoptive families and traditions? For the most part I would say no. Adoptive families are just that – families. On the other hand, adoptive families are unique in that sometimes adopted children have entered the family after living for years in another country with very different traditions and memories. Further, adopted children often enter the family from another country with a whole other heritage.
Some adoptive families have chosen to just simply live and celebrate Christmas as they always have. Their children are integrated into those existing traditions and treated no differently. Their heritage and their traditions are now the traditions and heritage of their new family.
Other families have chosen to honor the heritage and traditions of their adopted children, regardless of the age they entered the family. For instance, I know many families who cook special ethnic dishes and have introduced some ethnic traditions from their child’s country of origin to supplement their existing traditions.
Our family takes a varied approach and is still trying to figure it all out. Our children were all fairly young when we adopted them so they didn’t enter our family with any established traditions. Yet, we do want to honor their heritage and the reality that we are no longer simply a white-American-Canadian family who happens to have children of other ethnicities. Through adoption, we are a multi-ethnic family made up of American, Canadian, Haitian, African-American, and Ugandan lineage.
We don’t cook a dish from each of these countries or adopt a tradition from each but we are eager to remember and learn about these lands and peoples and rejoice in God’s providence that brought us together. Because our children are all fairly young we have the opportunity to do this together. My hope is that our love for diversity and the ways we honor the nations from which our children came through prayer and stories our children will feel connected in a healthy way. I rest in the fact that their identity isn’t dependent on their past but on what Christ did for them.
If you visit my home during Christmas you will see that we are practicing some of the traditions that I grew up with in Canada and some that my wife grew up with in Texas. We’re doing some of the things we started when we got married and then adapted when we first adopted and had children. This year, we added our Ugandan ornaments to our Christmas tree and added another stocking to the mantle. We will eat French toast for Christmas morning breakfast with Canadian maple syrup and plenty of Brazillian coffee through the day. We’ll open presents slowly and play with gifts in our PJ’s all day, but the greatest tradition of all will be celebrating as a family the birth of our Savior!
That is why, through it all, we are doing all we can to focus on the glory and beauty of Christ who came into our world as a baby. Most of our traditions therefore center on reminding us that He was born of Mary and adopted by Joseph so that he would live and die in our place, so that we would be born again and adopted into God’s family. That is the story that must be preeminent in our home and shape our lives and traditions.
For the best book on family traditions both theologically and practically I recommend Noel Piper’s book Treasuring God in Our Traditions