My mother was like that. Even though she suffered from a debilitating disease, I rarely heard her complain. I learned well to make “spontaneous memories” from her example. So on New Year’s Eve, I like to make a holiday smorgasbord just like she used to do for us. Mom was well known among family and church friends for her gift of hospitality and her scrumptious holiday buffets. My four siblings and I look back at those gatherings as some of the most special times of our childhood. We didn’t live near extended family, but Mom knew the power of creating traditions for our own family, and her brothers and sisters in Christ as well.
Holiday buffets can be as simple or elaborate as you like. The possibilities are endless. It’s easy to make a festive buffet by just opening a few jars of pickles or relish preserved from your summer garden. Serve them with smoked turkey or ham and swiss sandwiches on rye. I also enjoy buying a variety of specialty food items from stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Aldi or Trader Joes. And of course it’s always fun for the girls to take over and make a lovely tablescape using candles, pretty serving dishes, and holiday-themed paper plates and napkins. Cleanup is quick and easy and we can then turn our attention to other activities while the night is still young.
In years past, we have sometimes gathered in the living room after dinner to act out a historical play. I make duplicate copies of the script, and assign family members their parts. Then everyone runs around the house searching high and low for all the props and costumes they need. This is always done spur-of-the-moment and with lots of laughter. The memories of our spontaneous plays are precious. We have also recited poetry or played charades which is a little less strenuous on everyone, but just as fun. You can find all kinds of plays and poetry online if you are interested in going that route.
Later, if we aren’t too tired from all of our acting escapades, we’ll roll up the living room rug and dance to all kinds of celebratory music such as: square dances, John Philip Sousa marches, the Best of Dixieland Band, the original Sons of the Pioneers, and whatever else tickles our fancy. We have an old Magnavox record player (it’s the only thing that plays 78’s), but I’m sure you can create a playlist online to suit your taste as well.
Finally around 11:00 p.m., I’ll bring out a special prayer box wrapped in gold paper and tied with a simple bow. We all settle down with pen and paper and write out our prayers for the following year (you have to transcribe the prayers of children who are too young to write their own).
After we’re done, we place our prayers in the box to be left unopened until the following New Year’s Eve, and then we read through the ones we penned the previous year. It’s an awe-inspiring experience to see how God has faithfully answered our requests and fulfilled some of the deepest desires of our hearts.
I remember two years ago how the Lord did a really spectacular thing for our youngest daughter, Anna. She had prayed for a dog, and the Lord answered her prayer in “The Eleventh Hour!”
We already have another dog, Vesper, who is a little high maintenance, so I told Anna we were not getting another dog unless the Lord provided one for her. Well, on December 16th, a litter of six puppies followed their mother – a stray – onto our property. They were a Great Pyrenees mix, and because of their unusual markings, one of them captured Anna’s heart! She begged and begged me to keep that little puppy, and I finally agreed. I didn’t remember her prayer until I read her prayer on New Year’s Eve. It was truly amazing what God had done for her!
“Puppy” as she is affectionately known is the best dog we’ve ever had, and she is a constant reminder that God hears and answers our prayers in His timing. And of course, He doesn’t always answer every prayer in the way we wish He would, but we have seen Him answer the majority far better than we could ever have imagined.
If you’re looking for a practical way to teach your children about the power of prayer and an opportunity to impress upon them how personal their heavenly Father is, I encourage you to start the New Year’s Eve Prayer Box tradition. It really takes the burden off of having expectations and goals that we have to fulfill for the New Year, and puts them in the heavenly court where God can work miracles. It just takes a little faith to wait on Him.But remember, the prayers cannot be read for a whole year . . . and you’re not allowed to peek!
And lastly, if you’re going through a rough time right now, remember, traditions serve us, we don’t serve them. If all you can do is ask the Lord to help you through another year, consider beginning a new tradition of remembrance. Begin by writing your prayers down and saving them in your New Year’s Eve Prayer Box! It will help you remember what you or your family have prayed for, and I promise you, it will build your faith as you see how actively God is involved in your life!
Have a Happy New Year, and please feel free to share some of your family traditions below!