A favorite Christmas tradition for my family is traveling. I know you may ask yourself, “Did she just say their favorite tradition is traveling?” The answer is yes. I was thinking of all the traditions we have created, held and loved over the years at Christmas time, such as . . .
My grandma Rene would hide an almond in the rice pudding at Christmas dinner and whoever got the almond got a special prize, such as a trinket or a two-dollar bill. This tradition came under protest if the person who received the almond didn’t like rice pudding. Did they have to eat the pudding in order to receive the prize?
A few years back, while on a road trip, our family of four heard “Dominic the Donkey,” a goofy secular song about an Italian Christmas donkey who traverses the mountains to help Santa deliver presents on impassable roads. Yes, we purchased a plastic donkey and named him Dominic, and we light him up each year and laugh as we retort in our best donkey sound, “EEAWW, EEAWW.”
I would never want to minimize the tradition that brings me palpable love and joy, the lighting of candles in the dark while singing “Silent Night” at church on Christmas Eve.
Traditions that you might miss because they don’t look like something you’d see in a Normal Rockwell painting. John and I decided this has to be the times we spend in the car while traveling on Christmas. Let me be clear, we have never had to fly on the holiday, toting a nap-deprived toddler through a baggage claim. I understand traveling on Christmas may not be something you would herald as a sweet, tender event.
My favorite place to be on Christmas Eve is with my whole family in Iowa, which is a three-hour car ride. Another place I love to be is at home in Omaha with my husband’s family on Christmas day. We have always struggled with how we can do both. One year we decided we would drive to Iowa for Christmas Eve, then get up on Christmas morning, drive back to Omaha and go to my in-laws for Christmas Day. To most this sounds like a terrible option—not be at home or stay put on Christmas morning? For us it is PERFECT—weather permitting, of course.
Here is why. When we are rolling down the highway, I get my first moment of peace of the holiday season. All the presents are wrapped, all the casseroles are made, all the hustle and bustle of the holiday is over for me, and if it didn’t get done, it isn’t getting done. When we stay home I leave a lot of these responsibilities for Christmas morning, which is less than peaceful, but in the car the kids are usually laughing together in the back (take heart, car rides do get easier when your kids get older). We play Christmas carols and my husband and I have some of the best (almost uninterrupted) conversations we’ve had in a while. We talk about anything and everything and reconnect as a family.
I am grateful my husband enjoys driving us. He especially likes driving on Christmas morning, since there is very little traffic on the road. We marvel at God’s blessings of the beauty of nature, safe and reliable transportation, and our quiet time together as we celebrate the birth of our Savior on miles of road. We also get the best of all worlds in seeing both sides of the family at Christmas.
Joseph and Mary had to take Jesus on a road trip. Joseph received a message after the Magi had visited Jesus.
Matthew 2:13-14: When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
I can’t imagine what it was like packing for this road trip. To us it may seem like taking a small child, probably a toddler, on foot or by donkey with no built-in DVD player to another country would be amazingly stressful. From our perspective, escaping to save our child’s life would be anything but settling. But maybe Joseph and Mary experienced unexpected peace when they set out on their travels; after all, they were traveling with God’s protection and the King of the World.
Maybe we would all find joy and peace in unexpected ways if we were to travel with the love and security that comes from knowing the One who came to save us all.
I’d love to hear what unique traditions you cherish most in the comments below!