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Christmas Traditions with the Johnson Family

Dale Johnson: I’m absolutely thrilled to be here with you this week on Christmas Eve. This week, we’re doing a special edition podcast talking about Christmas traditions, particularly Christmas traditions in the Johnson family household. I could not be more excited to have with me my wife, Summer, to talk a little bit about our Christmas traditions and favorite memories that we have. I think this will be a great way for you guys to be introduced to her and hear about some of the things that we think are special in our home during this time of year for both of us. What a fun time it is for us to enjoy Christmas together. We both love this time of year, when the days begin to get cool, fall rolls around, and we begin to celebrate this time of year.

Babe, I am so glad that you are here with me. It did take some talking to talk you into coming to join me today as this is typically not your thing, but I’m so glad that you’re here just having a conversation with me to talk about some of the things that we enjoy doing.

Summer Johnson: Thanks so much, babe.

Dale Johnson: We all do Christmas a little differently. Hopefully, we think about Christ as being the centerpiece of Christmas in this time of year, but let’s talk about some of the things that we may do distinctly, as we talk about Christmas traditions. What are some of the things that we do in the Johnson home as we lead up to the celebration of Christmas?

Summer Johnson: Typically, after Thanksgiving, we pretty much immediately like to go and find a real Christmas tree; the Fraser Fir has always been our favorite. At times in the past, we have gone to a Christmas tree farm and actually picked one out and cut them down if that was something that we could locate, and we like to go ahead and get decorated right after Thanksgiving. We also like to start to bake the fun things that we usually do, pumpkin bread, making sugar cookies with the kids, trying to attempt to recreate Aunt Patsy’s peanut butter balls, and things like that. 

Dale Johnson: Some of the things that Summer does with our kids that are really fun is letting them make a mess of the kitchen. One thing I love about Summer that she does is the whole time, she’s talking about the people who we’ll give some of these baked goods to, so it gets the kids excited about serving. It makes it fun to where they can look forward to the different people.

What we’ve done in the past is we think of the elderly folks in our church, people during this time of year who may find it to be a difficult time. Maybe they have lost somebody recently or maybe they spend Christmas alone. We like to pick and choose some folks in our church that we know we’d be a great service to, and Summer, as she’s baking and letting the kids help, she’s preparing them to talk to those folks. Then we’ll often take those baked goods to their house and the kids get to hang out with them for a little bit or sing them a carol or something like that. That’s what makes it always a lot of fun for us to do.

Those are some of the things that we like to do leading up to Christmas. Let’s talk about some of the favorite memories that we have of Christmas. These things go way back for you and I because we’ve known each other for quite some time. We grew up together and met each other at age 12. Some of you may have heard that story—so we’ve been together ever since. We have a lot of Christmas memories that we’ve shared together. Some just of you and I before kids came along, and some while kids were here. Share some of your favorite Christmas memories.

Summer Johnson: Going way back, some of my favorites would be in the kitchen with my mom, her teaching me how to make stuffing for the turkey. My grandpa, when he was alive, would be relaxing in a chair watching everything go on, even watching Christmas morning, the joy on his face as everyone opened the gifts that were from him. I miss his joy in that, in giving.

Dale Johnson: I used to love when we would watch him and he would break out in song. What a fun thing! We would sit around, and he loved to sing, and at random times he would just break out in song. I used to love that about him.

Summer Johnson: Another favorite, older memory of many years ago, Dale and I got married 18 years ago right here at Christmas time. We went on our honeymoon, and literally traveled back from our honeymoon and went straight to Dale’s dad’s side of the family’s Christmas party, and that turned out to be Grandma Sadie’s very last Christmas with us. That was super special to look back on, that we didn’t miss out on that time with her.

Dale Johnson: Yeah, those are special days. We love to do the family Christmas parties, they’re always a lot of fun, close-knit family, even some extended family. Those are really fun things. Any other Christmas memories you can think of?

Summer Johnson: Absolutely, some more recent ones. The last chunk of years we’ve gotten into the habit with my side of the family of getting together on Christmas Eve night for a super enjoyable meal of slimy oysters, of which I was happy to sacrifice every last one for your sake.

Dale Johnson: Thank you. 

Summer Johnson: We’d have a bonfire outside and lots of different snacks and treats and oysters. The men and some of the brave kids would crack the oysters, and we’d enjoy those around the bonfire. That was a lot of fun times with my side of the family.

Dale Johnson: For Christmas morning, typically, we spend our Christmas Day at our parents’ house, splitting time between your parents and my parents. One of the neat things that we used to do growing up, you joined in on that, you want to explain a little bit about that? 

Summer Johnson: It’s my understanding that Dale’s mom, her family growing up would have all ten brothers and sisters gather in their hallway with the hallway door closed, all in order of age, oldest to youngest. Christmas morning, no one was allowed in the living room near the Christmas tree until this happened. They would all line up, the door would be opened, and everyone had the surprised look on their faces as they saw the Christmas tree and all the gifts, and they would walk in one by one. That tradition spread down into Dale’s family growing up, and then, like I said earlier, we’ve been around each other a lot of years, so somewhere along the way, maybe high-school age, I started to get to join in on that tradition. We’d line up in the hallway and get ready to have the door opened and get to see the Christmas tree and all the gifts. We make a lot of fun out of it, and that’s continued as we got married and started to have kids, and it’s a fun little tradition.

Dale Johnson: Those are fun things. I want to finish by talking about some of the things that make Christmas meaningful to us. We’ve tried to implement several things, at least in our household, where we try to centralize focus on Christ during this time of year. Enjoyment of family enjoyment of serving others—let’s talk about a couple of those things—the way we do Advent, the way we think about Advent, and then even the way we think about Christmas and how we do Christmas with our kids. Can you talk just for a second about a couple of those things? 

Summer Johnson: Sure. Maybe around 10 years ago, give or take, we began to think a little bit more deeply about Christmas and understand that maybe there was another way that we could go about this celebration of Christmas in such a way that would honor Christ more, bring Him into it, and lift Him up. We felt like there was a lot of times that so much emphasis was on our gifts that we would give our kids, none of which were really a need for them. 

Dale Johnson: The focus became more consumeristic, where we were focused on buying things and spending a lot of money on different things. 

Summer Johnson: We began to look at that a little differently and think about, they’re celebrated once a year at their birthday and were given gifts, and we wanted to turn Christmas more into giving back to Christ where there are truly needs. We need to think differently about it that way and try to scale back on gifts for our kids and then turn that money that we would’ve spent on kids to somewhere else. We’ve done that in a number of different ways. In the beginning, we found a few different organizations that we would give the money to so that, through them, it would truly help some needs.

Dale Johnson: Those were fun times where we would get our kids together around the computer and we would choose different items that we could give to those who are in need, and they got to be a part of spending that money and enjoying that time as well. We’ve done some other things, like our church will find out about different families’ needs and we’ve been able to help out in those ways. This year, we’re looking at, with our church, a ministry need in China, and we’re looking at purchasing some water filters for a ministry that’s there in China. 

We were reading Matthew 24 and 25 where it talks about Jesus, and we tried to think about, “How do we give a gift to Jesus?” The Scriptures say, “If you’ve done these things unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” I began to think about, “There’s a way in which we can serve the Lord Jesus and give Him a gift when we celebrate His birthday, the time that we celebrate His coming. There’s a way that we can go about doing that.” We began to explore ways that we could spend our money that, during his birthday, we could focus on Him.

We definitely celebrate our kids and their birthday, and that’s a lot of fun. But at this time, we try to allow them to focus on, “What does it mean to serve Christ by serving other people?” That’s been a really important time. Quickly, we’ll talk about Advent. We do celebrate Advent. It’s one of our favorite things to do. Do you want to talk briefly in the time that we have left about that?

Summer Johnson: Sure. That’s something around that same time, maybe 10 years ago, that we began to learn what Advent is, and we pursued celebrating that ourselves as a family. We were able to locate some different resources online that we used to read each night of the month of December leading up to Christmas. In that time, we read a passage from the Scriptures and then read a bit of a commentary on that passage, all leading up to the coming of Christ. That’s been super helpful in remembering what this whole season is about. It’s so easy to get into all of the other things that go along with Christmas and forget Christ, that it’s about Him and His coming and what that means for all of humanity. That’s been a really helpful way for us to remember Him all throughout the month and not just on Christmas day. 

Dale Johnson: This is super fun for our kids. We don’t want you to get the picture that we do this perfectly. Sometimes on a Thursday night, we’re trying to catch up and read three different Advent devotionals. Life gets tough. We’re not legalistic about that, but it’s a fun thing that we do, and our kids beg for us to do that time. We’ve built what’s now a tradition to where they really enjoy, they hunger and think about, “How can we hear about Christ and learn of His first coming?”

One of the things that gives us confidence as we celebrate Advent and we set aside this time with our children is that it really solidifies the beauty of the promises of God. Our God is a covenant-keeping God, and as sure as He told us He would come the first time, and He did and we celebrate that, we long for His coming again and we look forward to the time when He will return. We’re confident because He promised that He would, and He’s kept His promises in the past. So, we get together and we read Advent, we’ve tried out different advent books, those are a lot of fun, several of which I could recommend to you at some point. We celebrate, we sing, we pray, and we read, and it’s a time for us to focus on Christmas.

Babe, I want to thank you for joining me today. It’s been really fun having a discussion and conversation, for us to reminisce about some of these things. We hope you enjoy this time of year as well and that you all would be sharing some wonderful traditions as we celebrate the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.