Heartland staff’s Christmas traditions are all over the map; including Norwegian food and hymns sung in Spanish. The one thing all traditions have in common is that they are a big part of what makes the Christmas season special. They help us grow closer to our friends and family as we celebrate the birth of the Savior. Our Heartland staff family would love to share our favorite Christmas traditions with you!

Most of the traditions here occur on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Jared, our program director"s, family has one tradition that always made the buildup to the Christmas season special. Every year his Mom would wrap children’s Christmas stories and put them on the fireplace. Then each night the family would gather together, preferably around a fire, to unwrap and read one of the stories. “As a kid I loved that tradition, it never seemed to grow old. Unwrapping the book and reading it as a family is still one of my fondest Christmas memories”.

There are many different traditions that occur on Christmas Eve. Tyler, one of our program interns, and his family enjoy time together driving around the city and looking at Christmas lights. Shelby, our intern coordinator, also spends Christmas Eve with her family. Her grandma is Mexican American and they spend the night celebrating their culture. It includes hymns and Christmas carols in Spanish along with a dinner of homemade tamales. Shelby and her family go back to their house, her parents give her and her three siblings pajamas. They then all put on their pajamas and have a slumber party next to their Christmas tree. It is something that she always looks forward too each year! Finally, Erin and her family always go to a special late night Christmas Eve service. Her favorite part is the end of the service where everyone would light candles and sing Silent Night.

Those Christmas Eve traditions don’t take away from the day itself. Our staff has plenty of traditions on Christmas to draw closer to the Lord and the people He has blessed them with too. On Christmas morning both Debbie, our registrar, and Michael, our associate director, read the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke. Debbie’s family then follows that up with singing carols together, ending with the song God’s Family. "This song has always been a family tradition and it allows the family to feel connected," said Debbie. Our Executive Director's family, the Schenemans, each receive three gifts from Santa to represent the gifts of the Magi. A gold gift, is something that they really want, a special toy or game. A frankincense gift, is a spiritual gift to encourage and strengthen their relationship with the Lord like a Bible cover or Christian CD. A myrrh gift for adornment such as clothes or jewelry. Other family traditions are centered around food and being able to share a meal with the family. Michael and Lisa make buckwheat pancakes and have a big breakfast before opening any presents. Jared’s family always has appetizers for lunch, bacon wrapped little smokies being a highlight. Finally Erin and her family have a Christmas feast including turkey, mashed potatoes, and lefse which is a Norwegian bread.

These traditions, while unique and life giving, are only a support to the message of Christmas. To us the Savior was born. One who would live like us; at times tired, hungry, frustrated and scared. Doing this so that He would always be able to relate to our joys and pains because He had lived it. Jesus came to be Emmanuel, God with us. Know that God is with you this season, all seasons and may that truth give life, joy, and peace.

Merry Christmas,

Heartland Staff