Traditions are Like Family Glue
About the Guest
Barbara Rainey and her daughter Laura Rainey Dries discuss fun ideas to help keep Christ at the center of your family celebrations. From hanging ornaments that beautifully reflect the names of Christ to beginning new Christmas traditions, Rainey and Dries tell what they do to keep the holidays meaningful.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Laura Rainey DriesLaura Rainey Dries is the daughter of Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
Barbara Rainey and her daughter Laura Rainey Dries discuss fun ideas to help keep Christ at the center of your family celebrations.
Traditions are Like Family Glue
Bob: Yes. We have been embargoed from talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving—
Laura: That’s right.
Bob: —leading up to Thanksgiving.
Dennis: And who might have given us that embargo?
Bob: Those instructions came down from—
Dennis: —a high throne! [Laughter]
Bob: —from above your pay-grade; right? [Laughter] They came from your wife, who said—
Dennis: Our engineer, Keith Lynch, just made a career-limiting move—he’s pointing at my wife! [Laughter]
Bob: And, Barbara, do you want to explain the embargo?—why you have had this?
Barbara: Yes; I do.
Dennis: And why you repented?
Barbara: Yes, I can explain both of those. [Laughter] I can answer both of those questions. The reason for the initial embargo was that I wanted people to focus on gratitude for the month of November. I wanted to encourage them to focus on that and not get Christmas mixed up with Thanksgiving: “Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving! Then, we move on to Christmas.”
Bob: And you were a little frustrated by the fact that Christmas started showing up in the stores back in August, and Thanksgiving just gets drowned out; right?
Barbara: Yes; it gets buried in the Christmas commercialism.
Bob: So, what happened?
Barbara: So, I have realized that people—
Dennis: Bob is enjoying this a little too much!
Barbara: Is he?! [Laughter]
Dennis: He is really liking putting you on the spot. [Laughter]
Bob: No! I’m just trying to find out what the pivotal moment was here in the shift.
Barbara: Well, the pivotal moment is realizing that it isn’t going to make any difference. Retailers are still going to put their stuff out, starting in late July and August and September. The tide has not shifted away from that, and so we are going to join them. [Laughter]
Bob: If you can’t beat them—
Barbara: —join them!
Bob: If you can’t beat them, join them. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m so glad you confessed that, Sweetheart! [Laughter]
Barbara: Well, it wasn’t a sin! It was just a preference! [Laughter]
Bob: And your preference would still be that there’s a strong emphasis on gratitude between now and Thanksgiving.
Barbara: That is correct.
Bob: But, by the same token, you’re a wife and a mom, and you know that you just can’t help but think about getting your house ready.
Barbara: Well, you can’t. And not only that, I remember—when I had all of the kids at home, I started thinking about gifts—not a lot of time, but I did start thinking in September and early October—you know, “Is there anything on sale that I can get now and put in the closet and keep for Christmas?” I mean, you just—as a busy mom, I was thinking about that anyway. I wasn’t thinking about putting up my tree, but I was thinking about the gift-side of Christmas early. I just think we naturally do that.
Dennis: And, with six kids, we were trying to get ahead of the curve. When you start the countdown after Thanksgiving, it’s like one wave after another hitting with all of the parties.
Barbara: Yes; well, you can’t start Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and expect to get it all done, unless you don’t have but a couple of people that you’re buying for.
Bob: And those four weeks, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, are crowded, as you’re saying.
Barbara: Very full!
Bob: And so, you do have to have a little bit of a game plan to ramp up and—without neglecting Thanksgiving—
Bob: —and with giving it it’s appropriate due diligence—you’re already thinking.
Do you remember, Laura, growing up?—was the embargo enforced at home? Like, if you thought, “I can’t wait until Christmas,” did your mother say: “Shhh! We don’t talk about that until after Thanksgiving!” [Laughter]
Laura: Oh, I don’t know I remember that. [Laughter] I wouldn’t be surprised—[Laughter]—like, “Can we play Christmas music? Is it time yet?” “It’s not time.” [Laughter]
Barbara: I probably would have said that; yes.
Laura: “We haven’t said what we’re grateful for yet. Not until after that.”
Dennis: I think what Barbara was wanting to do was just make the Christmas season meaningful—
Dennis: —just focus on the right thing. And I just recall—every year, at Christmas time, she would just kind of murmur under her breath about how we are allowing commercialism to pull us away from the real meaning of Christmas. And, certainly, kids are going to be very excited about gift-giving and gift-receiving and all the surprises of Christmas—and Secret Santas and all the different things that people do.
But she wanted to bring Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, who was born at Christmas, into focus and help people make their Christmas meaningful.
Bob: That’s really been a passion for a number of years, but a passion that you have put some work into over the last six years that you’ve been working on creating resources—
Barbara: Yes; right.
Bob: —for, particularly, moms to use to keep Christ at the center of the Christmas celebration.
Barbara: Yes; it’s an idea that I had back when all of our kids were still home. So, back in the ‘90’s, I started looking for ornaments that were about Jesus. Every year, I would hope that somebody would create something that was about Jesus that could go on our tree. There were a few things here and there, but it was literally a few—maybe one or two, or three or four, out of the hundreds of ornaments that are available.
I just felt like that was totally out of balance. So, after our kids all left home—and in my empty nest years, when I had some time—I thought, “Well, maybe I could actually create some ornaments, like I would have purchased had I had the opportunity to do so, and help families begin to take Christmas back to a focus on Jesus.”
Bob: That was six years and almost three dozen ornaments ago that you started having that idea.
Barbara: It was; yes.
Bob: You came out with a set of ornaments, back in 2012. They were all focused on different names or different titles for Jesus.
Bob: That’s been the theme you’ve carried through in the years that have followed; right?
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: And not merely—not merely the theme of the names—but she didn’t mention that, when she did find something that focused on Christ, it was not quality / it wasn’t beautiful. Barbara’s an artist; and she’s not only beautiful, but she makes things beautiful. So she wanted to put her—really, her artistic ability to work and do something that people would be proud of—that would become heirlooms for their children and grandchildren to fight over someday when Grandma and Grandpa pass off the scene.
Dennis: It was something that would take families back to the real purpose of Christmas—Jesus Christ.
Barbara: So that’s why the ornaments have been created over these last few years—is to help families have a Christmas tree that’s all about Jesus. Now, you can do anything you want to do. You can put ornaments about Jesus, and then you can put all of your other ornaments on there if you want to. Or you can do what my daughter-in-law, and some others that I know, have done and have a Jesus tree.
Our daughter-in-law, Marsha Kay, started doing this about three years ago once I had given her, I think, two or maybe three sets of ornaments. When they would go get their Christmas tree—they got their regular, big tree that they would put in their family room, where they did gifts and all of that—but she always bought a smaller tree that was maybe five or six feet tall. She would put it in the living room, and she would put only the names of Jesus on that.
I remember, we were there one Christmas, and she said, “I want to show you my Jesus tree.” And it was in the corner of their living room. It was nothing but the names of Jesus. She said, “I love to come in here at Christmas, and just focus on the names of Jesus, and remember what Christmas is all about.”
So, now, that we’ve got lots more ornaments available, we’re encouraging people to have a Jesus tree, and have your tree actually be about Christ at Christmas. For most of us, our Christmas trees are the focal point of our Christmas decorating. We have manger scenes / we put wreaths on the front door; but for most families, the Christmas tree is the focal point of what they do every year as a tradition and as a way to decorate for Christmas.
Bob: Laura, you got married a year ago; so you’ve already had one Christmas as a married couple.
Bob: When you were still single, did you decorate your apartment or your house as a single woman? Were you aware of these kinds of themes as you were doing your decorating?
Laura: I was; and I mean—thankfully, it’s because my mom—
Bob: —is your mom; yes! [Laughter]
Laura: —is my mom; so she gave them to me. But I did. Mom and Dad made a tradition—every Christmas Eve, they would give us a new ornament. That was the one thing that we opened on Christmas Eve every single year.
Dennis: —which she had bought—
Laura: —the year before!
Dennis: —on sale—
Laura: —on sale!
Dennis: —half price!
Laura: No; 75 percent off; I’m sure! [Laughter]
Barbara: I’m sure!
Dennis: So it was an elegant—elegant like a Hallmark ornament—but it wasn’t these, Bob.
Dennis: It wasn’t the names of Christ.
Laura: So I have a large collection of ornaments that I’ve received over the years. She still does it occasionally, I think. It’s mostly turned into the new ornaments that she’s created—that’s what she gives us on Christmas Eve now.
So I would—I would decorate my house and my tree. I’d get a tree. If I was living with friends, we’d get a tree and we’d all decorate. It was a fun tradition as a single woman.
Bob: Did you do that, as a single woman, for yourself?—because you weren’t doing it for your kids.
Bob: You weren’t doing it for your family. Did you do it for company you were inviting over? Or did you just want your house—the place where you were living—to have that same reflection?
Laura: Yes; I did.
I wanted to have my home be decorated. It was fun for me! It’s a creative expression, I think, to be able to decorate and do different things, and kind of switch things up. You know, you live with your décor all the time, and so to be able to put a new wreath on the front door is fun or to switch things up. I loved that!
And I loved whenever people came in to the home, they would see something that was different about our tree or about our decorations that we did put up. It wasn’t just the typical—you know, put a Santa on the porch or snowmen everywhere—which I still do—I incorporate both things and make it beautiful that way.
Bob: Barbara, as we’ve gotten older / as our kids have left the home, the motivation to decorate at Christmastime has waned a bit. Have you felt the same thing?
Barbara: We have. I remember saying, when I was a young mom—because my grandmother lived in town, and she had a little four-foot tree on top of a table—
Barbara: —and, of course, the table was in front of the window. So, from the street, you could see this tree; and you didn’t know it was little; but I knew it was little.
I said to myself: “I will never—I will never resort to having a little four-foot tree! I will always have a real tree, and it will always be a big tree.”
Barbara: We now have an artificial tree. [Laughter] And a couple of years ago, when we remodeled our living room and kitchen area, I had a little, tiny four-foot tree, because we did not have the space; and I kind of liked it. [Laughter]
Laura: But you also created a really cool tree—it’s not even a tree.
Barbara: I did; I did. You’re right. So, one year, when we were still in the middle of the remodel, I went out in the yard. We had a tree that had died; so I cut down all of these dead branches, and I spray painted them white. Dennis and I mixed up some paper mache, and we stuck it in a vase of some kind. That’s what I hung my ornaments on. Actually, I like it even better than a Christmas tree; because the ornaments show up so much better.
Dennis: There’s no competition—you can see them, easily, hanging on these—
Barbara: Yes, rather than the green branches that are kind of fluffy and getting in the way.
Bob: So, here’s my question—I understand the motivation to want to make your home communicate Christmas when the kids are growing up.
Bob: I understand, if you’re going to be doing a lot of holiday entertaining, that you want your home to have that reflection. But, if you don’t have either of those things going for you, do you still put energy and effort into paper macheing and spray-painting branches? I mean, is that just because you like arts and crafts; or what it is?
Barbara: Well, it is because I like arts and crafts kinds of things / it is because I like things beautiful; but I think it helps us, as Christians. I think having some things up at Christmas that are about Christ help us focus on the reason why we’re having Christmas in the first place.
So, we will always have the names of Christ hanging up in our house at Christmas—it may be on my little twig tree, or we may resort to having something even smaller—but we will always have the names of Jesus in our house at Christmastime. We will always have lights, because lights are wonderful; they are beautiful; and they remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world.
We will always have those things in our home, even when there are no parties and nobody’s coming home; because I want us to remember that Christmas is about Jesus.
Dennis: And I think, even as we get older, we can tend to forget the reason for the season.
Dennis: And it’s just good for us to do that.
I can attest that she’s done this, Bob; but she’s also strung it out for the other 364 days of the year, too; because we have a picture window that overlooks a really beautiful series of ridges—of oak and pine forests—looking west from our home. And she has hung, at the top of the window, the seven royal names of Christ: King of Kings, Lord of Lords—all those names in the shape of a crown / a different kind of crown—but they hang at the top of this window, and they frame what has become a beautiful sunset almost every night and are just a reminder that Jesus didn’t come just for the Christmas season—
—He came for the other 364 days of the year too.
Bob: There is something about what we do, visually, in our surroundings that communicates to us; doesn’t it?
Barbara: Well, I think it does; and that makes me think of the cathedrals of Europe that were—not just beautiful places for worship—but they were instructional. All the stained glass windows / all the arches—they were all instructive.
Bob: —the Stations of the Cross.
Barbara: Yes; all of that was instructive to the parishioners, many of whom could not read. And so they designed these churches as a way to turn their eyes to God, but also to teach them. And I think we still need that in this culture—even though we all know how to read, and we can read anything we want to read—or most of us. I think we still need visual reminders surrounding us of who Jesus is and that He’s a part of every moment of our lives.
Bob: Laura, did you have any adjustment issues related to the holidays last year?
Laura: You know, honestly, it went really smoothly. We have—
—because of Mom’s embargo—we always celebrate Thanksgiving in a very meaningful way with our extended family. So we would always go to the farm and spend time with my grandmother, and aunts and uncles, and cousins, and all of that. We continue to do that every single year. That’s what Josh and I are choosing to do—is to spend Thanksgiving, when our entire extended family can be together, for the foreseeable future. So, then, we spent Christmas with his family.
Bob: Any Christmas traditions that you’re used to that aren’t a part of your new family?
Laura: Oh, yes! We had—let me tell you all of them! [Laughter] No; I’m kidding. Every year, Dad would take the girls—my sisters and I— and we would go to the grocery store and we would cook dinner together—so Dad and the girls to give Mom the night off, because she’d been working diligently from Thanksgiving on—
Laura: —to prepare for Christmas. So we would go, and we would make a delicious meal, just the five of us.
So that has kind of dwindled in the past several years anyway, because not everyone comes home for Christmas; but I love that tradition. It was so fun for all of us to get together: “You’re in charge of the Caesar salad,” “You’re in charge of dessert,” “You’re at this station,” “You’re doing the sides,” “Don’t burn the rolls.” You know, everyone had a task; and it was just fun to be in the kitchen. We’d put Santa hats on and play music. It just was so fun!
Dennis: It drove your mom crazy, though, because we destroyed the kitchen, Bob. [Laughter]
Laura: But then the brothers cleaned up! It was a real dream. [Laughter]
Bob: So, now, that you’re in a new family setting, has there been any clash? “Well, this is how we did it in my family,” / “Well, this is how we do it in our family,”—have you had to adjust there?
Laura: I think it will probably start to happen when we have children, because his family celebrates Christmas—they open gifts on Christmas Eve. So, it actually worked out really well!
Bob: Oh! They’re one of those families. [Laughter]
Laura: They are. [Laughter] It was different!
Bob: No offense to your in-laws!
Laura: No; of course not!
Bob: But, come on, Christmas Eve—I’m just—
—I’m sure we have listeners who do Christmas Eve as well, but they just need to—
Laura: We want to know—tell us why!
Bob: They just need to read their Bibles more and pray more, and then they’ll get back to Christmas where it belongs; right? [Laughter]
Laura: We did; we had Christmas Eve with his family, and then the next day, we woke up, and we made breakfast, and opened our own gifts, and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. We kind of decided we were going to start a new tradition in our new family: “This is what we’re going to do on Christmas Day.” So, maybe someday, if they decide they want to start celebrating on Christmas morning, we might have a problem; because last year, we started a tradition we’re going to keep on.
Dennis: I believe she will. And you just spoke Bob’s love language—
Bob: —It’s a Wonderful Life.
Bob: You brought in the true meaning of Christmas. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m surprised he didn’t break into George’s lines.
Laura: My gosh!
Bob: [Imitating Jimmy Stewart’s voice] “Help me, Clarence; help me!” [Laughter]
Barbara: It is Laura’s favorite too.
Dennis: I told you! It comes out every once in a while.
Laura: I think—I think that’s probably where we clash—
Bob: [Imitating Jimmy Stewart’s voice] “Get me out of here. Get me out of here, Clarence!” [Laughter]
Laura: It’s amazing! Do not cut that out, Keith.
Laura: But no; Josh is like: “Laura, you need to stop quoting the movie. I’d like to watch it! I don’t want to hear you quoting it.” [Laughter]It’s just something I do.
Bob: Well, you can come quote it with me!
Laura: Oh, perfect! Yes; yes!
Bob: You and Josh come over, and we’ll quote it together.
Laura: Okay; can’t wait—can’t wait.
Bob: He’ll just have to endure through it.
Bob: Traditions are important as you build a family / as you grow a family.
Bob: These kinds of holiday memories are a part of the enduring legacy that you pass on to your kids.
Barbara: Yes; I think traditions are extremely important because that act like glue in a family. So when you do something every year—and it really doesn’t matter what it is—I mean, it can be fixing dinner on Christmas Eve. It can be—in Dennis’s family, he and his mom were the ones who wrapped gifts on Christmas Eve, and they always did a joke gift. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but it’s the repetition of doing something together that’s “Just us,”—“This is our secret thing,” or “This is our special time,” that creates glue. The kids grow up, and they look forward to that—
—they want to be there / they don’t want to miss it.
Traditions are extremely important in the life of a family. The reason, I think, that they’re really important is because God instituted that with His people when He called them to do the seven feasts in the Old Testament. It was an annual reminder: “Year after year, we do this.” God was teaching them the importance of building traditions into their family life. When they did that, it helped the families stick together. It helped them understand the truth that God was wanting to teach them.
And that’s a part of what we’re trying to do with all of these ornaments—is have an opportunity for families to do something meaningful together that helps teach and connect the kids and the parents together.
Dennis: And Barbara has made it a lot easier for moms and dads when you hang the ornaments on the tree. She’s got, for many of these names, a booklet; for instance, His royal names have seven in here—
—they are: Lion of Judah, the Almighty, Son of David, King of Israel, Prince of princes, and—as I mentioned—King of kings and Lord of lords. She’s got a booklet in here that unpacks each of those names.
If you wanted to, you could take the first 20-some days of Christmas, and hang one of these on your tree explaining what Jesus was called and what those names mean. I think all of us are looking for ways to connect our kids to, really: “Who is God?” and “What is He like?” He uses names to describe His Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, Barbara says, there are more than 300 names in the Scriptures about Christ. She’s got 33 of them that she has ornaments.
Bob: So you’ve got a ways to go; don’t you? [Laughter] You’ve got a lot of ornaments still to make.
Barbara: I don’t plan to make that many. [Laughter]
Laura: And we need five more trees!
Barbara: Yes! [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, we’ll pass that assignment on to Laura.
Barbara: There you go!
Dennis: She can finish up the 300.
Laura: Oh, my! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, in the meantime, if folks want to see what you’ve been working on this year, they can go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com—see the new “Eternal Names of Jesus,” the set of three ornaments you’ve created for this Christmas—and some of the other resources: the Christmas tree skirt / the New Year’s snowflake that has the star in the center—all of it’s beautiful!
Again, find all that Barbara has been working on when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link for Ever Thine Home®. All of her resources are available there. They’re available for order if you want to start getting ready for your own family celebration of Christmas this year. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for Ever Thine Home.
You know, what we’ve been talking about here today is really at the heart of the mission of FamilyLife. One of our primary objectives is to help moms and dads, aunts and uncles—
—help older people pass on a legacy of faith to future generations. We believe that’s a big part of the assignment that God has given us in families. Our goal, here, at FamilyLife Today is to help equip you with that challenge. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marriages and families can change the world, one home at a time.
Now, I want to thank those of you who are helping extend the reach of this ministry. Every time you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today, you’re actually giving this program to more people—to young moms and dads who are beginning their journey as a family / to people all around the world. Your donations extend the reach of FamilyLife Today. It’s great to partner with those of you who are Legacy Partners, giving each month, and those of you who make a donation from time to time. We appreciate your financial support.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about how we pass on a spiritual legacy to future generations and how holidays are a key part of that. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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