Christmas was very different for me as a child. We didn’t celebrate it the traditional way. When people ask me about my family traditions, and I say “I never had Christmas growing up” people gasp or feel sorry for asking. But I don't see it as a negative thing!  I survived and turned out ok :) In fact, I wouldn’t trade it!

Here’s why: 

I grew up as a missionary kid in the diverse terrain of South America. 
Come December 25th, my family and I would pack up blankets, sacks of toys and clothing items and drive to small villages surrounding the city of Cusco, Peru.  We would hand them out along with the traditional "chocolatada y panetones" which is a watery concoction meant to resemble hot chocolate and a Christmas bread with fruit candy. We didn’t celebrate it ourselves, As a child I was taught the immeasurable value of giving to others. This was my Christmas experience and I cherish it!

At age 18, I moved to Australia to join YWAM and had my first traditional Christmas while on my Discipleship Training School. Having no prior "Christmas tradition" besides outreaching, I got to experience many different family traditions from the people I lived with.  However, through the years I've come up with 1 tradition for myself which my housemates, out of the goodness of their heart, have agreed to let me keep. 

Meet G the Christmas horse. 

He has taken the place of the bright star that is supposed to sit on top of the tree. He lords over the ornaments with dignity and supremacy as a symbol of sui generis... and he will never be dethroned. Much to the dismay of the rest of my household.

Back to the serious talk.  Over the years I have observed different expressions of the definition of Christmas, so in light of the fact that today marks 12 days out from Christmas, I thought I'd share 12 things that mean Christmas to me:

Family - It seems that family is a key component for Christmas being Christmas. Doesn't matter what you do or where you are if you're with family.  I live on the opposite side of the world from my immediate family. But I have found family where I am! The people who are in my life and have become closer than just friends or acquaintances bring the family element to this holiday season. 
Generosity - Christmas seems to put people in a giving mood... maybe because that was when we were given the most precious gift of all - love incarnated. 
God with us - Speaking of love incarnated. EMANUEL. Man I love that name! What a beautiful name. God with us, ever present, ever near. His promise to never leave us or forsake us. His never ending, always pursuing love that is not far off or hidden in a distant land. God dwells with us and makes His home here. 

Laughter - No matter where or what we're doing, Christmas festivities always make me think of laughter, that sweet melody of the soul! Laughter heals and refreshes the spirit, so laugh a lot this Christmas! 

Gifts - Of course gifts! Gift giving is actually a sign of honor! In the old days kings would give gifts to other kings as a sign of honor and respect. Giving gifts actually benefits the giver as well as the receiver… but in some cases, it benefits the giver more… I mean c’mon, why else would you give your pet a gift? Will they REALLY know if you didn’t get them that squeaky toy they have been pining for all year?? But what do I know, I don’t have a pet… (gift idea for someone. I’ll take a chocolate mini labradoodle please)

Gratefulness - Speaking of gifts, if Christmas doesn't inspire gratefulness in you, I think you might be doing it wrong! Even when I have nothing, there is something to be thankful for. When I look around at the people who surround me, I think "man, how did I get so lucky?" No matter where you are and what your situation is, there's something to be grateful for :) 
Compassion - In Jesus’ life, we see he was always compelled by compassion. The compassion He felt inside for the people He loved loved him to act and bring healing. The compassion that God had for humanity compelled him to move and send His only son to restore and heal us.  

Forgiveness - Always end a year forgiving! Make right what's been wronged. Be generous and don't hold grudges :) unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies. It is damaging to your heart and your spirit, so do the best you can this year and forgive anyone who has wronged you! 
Change of the season - It's the end of the year and the world is going through a season change. In a few weeks we will begin a new year, new chances, new opportunities and adventures. New challenges and trials, new growth. One year gone, another to come and change... so much change can be daunting and sometimes overwhelming, but with change comes growth, and on the other side of it we discover a bit more of who we are. 
Hope - Even in the middle of change there is hope. Jesus' birth awoke hope in the world that had been sleeping in the shadows for too long. Hope for life and of Love, a hope where all things are possible. Where we are free from the bondage of fear and shame! He gave us hope of eternal life. 
Salvation/redemption - The reason He came was to redeem us and restore is to a relationship with the father. To break the curse of sin and to free us from the tyranny of shame and guilt. To elevate us to friendship with God, the place where we started back in the garden and to heal the wounds that a life of slavery and pain has left in us. He came to set every captive free and to glorify the Father. Oh what a Wonderful Savior! 

Celebration - Rejoice!!! Heaven loves a good party! Every time someone is saved there's a party in heaven and every time something good happens we're meant to celebrate it to seal that deal! So this Christmas, celebrate well. But let celebration be the position of your heart, not just the party you throw. 

Merry Christmas to you all!! 
And a happy and blessed New Year!

By Hannah Lenz

Written on her website