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I have been excited to again celebrate the Christmas season by “Lighting the World”. I have copied the calendar. I have signed up to receive reminders each day. Then I was challenged by the Proctors here at Meridian to share my experiences as I have them this December. I decided I would share with you how we have tried throughout the years to make life better for friends and family and how we have striven to be Christ’s hands. It is my hope some of our traditions might inspire you as you “Light the World”.

Several years ago, our ward participated in a secret Santa activity. We were to doorbell ditch or otherwise surprise a family we were assigned with treats, messages, or small items to brighten their Christmas. Our family was gifted Christmas pillow cases with instructions to put them on each year the day after Thanksgiving and leave them on until New Year’s Day. Our children still have those pillow cases and as in-laws and grandchildren have joined the family, I have made cases for them as well. Several years ago we began gifting Christmas pillow cases to families. We wanted them to know they were loved and to have a reminder of that love each year as they used their pillow cases. We have gifted them to missionaries serving in our ward and those who were companions to our sons as they served. Each year I make a few more and tomorrow I will deliver them to two single moms and their children.

When I married my husband, his family did not seem to have many traditions, but they did have a special cookie his mom, grandma, and great grandmother made each year. I have carried on the tradition and passed the recipe along to my children. I made them every year for my father-in-law and when we celebrated his 90th birthday I made them, knowing they were his favorite. Extended family members who attended were surprised and pleased to see them and remember the Christmases they enjoyed those cookies. The recipe had been lost to others, but I was able to share the original with them. You never know when a tradition may be just the thing an extended family members need to feel joy.

Several years ago, we were not in a position financially to provide the Christmas our children were accustomed to. We asked them what one thing we needed to do or that they would like to have to make Christmas feel like Christmas. They counseled with each other and determined it would not feel like Christmas unless we doorbell ditched some families. Our children never forgot the fun of ditching when we did it as a ward, so we continued it on our own every Christmas following. This particular year we made cinnamon bread and went on our way. When we approached one home we decided we should ring the bell and sing Christmas carols. This was the home of a friend who had recently remarried. She told me later how much that meant to her husband who, although he was in his fifties, had never had anyone sing carols at his home.

We love breakfast and have a favorite breakfast casserole reserved for General Conference Sundays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have been known to leave Christmas breakfast on Christmas eve and run. Because we love breakfast when everyone is delivering casseroles to a family who has suffered a loss; we take muffins, fruit, cinnamon rolls, juice and milk to their home the morning of the funeral so they will have breakfast. So often families are too stressed to think of breakfast that day.

Our family has a special day plate–well really two–a dinner plate and a dessert plate. Our original one was a gift and just a yellow plastic plate. We have now purchased plates that are brightly colored and have a fun pattern. When a family member has a birthday, graduation, scores their first goal, is baptized, wins a scholarship, is accepted to their favorite college, the plates come out.

As a mom, it was fun to watch our children when I knew something fun had happened, but the kids hadn’t heard yet, like when our daughter was elected school secretary, and they came home from school to the table set with the special day plates. It was fun to watch them try to figure out who had had a special day. In this case my daughter didn’t even guess it was her! A special day plate would make a great gift for a family needing a boost, buy crazy plates with a fun design and explain the tradition. I give these for wedding gifts now and everyone has loved the idea. Even though our original plate is gone now I still think of the wonderful friend who gave me the first one and I feel loved.

For many years we delivered plates of cookies to friends and we always included a copy of the symbols of Christmas: the candy cane represents the shepherds as they worshipped the Savior and the crook bringing back lost sheep, the evergreen tree represents the eternal nature of the love of the Savior, etc. Teaching without preaching.

Each year we gave our children an ornament on Christmas Eve. The first Christmas we were married, I made ornaments out of colored paper and felt, we were broke! I determined then that our children would have ornaments for their first Christmas trees as married couples. When our oldest daughter decorated her first tree she had several comments from friends who were just a little jealous that she had a beautiful and meaningful tree. Start this tradition now with your nieces, nephews, kids in your YW or YM class, missionaries serving in your ward, college students or newlyweds.

Please don’t forget friends of other faiths, our heavenly parents and the Savior love them too.

A few years ago our granddaughters made pinecone shaped ornaments out of Christmas fabrics for their friends. One of their friends was Jewish so her ornament was blue and silver to just hang in her room not on a tree.

Finally do you have a favorite book in addition to the scripture you read as a family each Christmas Eve? Why not gift a copy to a family struggling or new to the gospel and establishing their own traditions?

We have many other traditions from favorite foods and music to movies and games, but I hope this will give you some ideas as you “Light the World” this Christmas season. Share your own traditions, or you can borrow one of ours.

Please share how you are “Lighting the World” on Carolyn’s facebook page and here.