Christmas Tradition – Mom’s Nativity {Wednesdays with Wanda}

Mom was big on traditions! I mean really big!

Not just at Christmas, but all year round.

I’ve learned that traditions are very important to me too. When I look back on my childhood, it is those traditions that I remember the most. Those traditions made me feel loved.

Here are some of my favorite traditions that Mom did every year at Christmas.

*She always got us a new Christmas coloring book and a new pack of crayons the first week of December. We used to color in our coloring books while we watched the classic Christmas cartoons on t.v. (And yes, I’ve already bought some for my boys this year.)

*She would always let us open one present on Christmas eve, and it was always a new pair of Christmas pajamas. Oh how I loved sleeping in those new pj’s that night as I anxiously awaited Santa’s arrival. (And yes, the boys will be getting new pj’s too!)

*We would drink lots of hot chocolate with marshmallows with a candy cane to stir it. (I am actually drinking some right now!)

*And we would always make buckeyes…my favorite dessert of all time. I will be sharing the recipe next week. (And yes, I made some last week! The boys LOVE them!)

I hope and pray that the boys feel the same love from me that I did from Mom through each tradition.

But my all time favorite Christmas tradition was getting out our Nativity scene when decorating the house.


Mom wrote an article about it in 1991 when she was the food editor at our local newspaper. I want to share that article with you.


Christmas is a family all bundled up in love.”

We usually trim the Christmas tree the second week in December. The night’s a special one for our whole family because the beginning of the yuletide season finally becomes a reality.

The excitement of the night has everyone scurrying about in each direction. As my husband Doug, brings in the tree, the excitement mounts. Next, he gets the laborious job of digging the decorations out of the attic. The children start the Christmas music, and I make the hot chocolate and arrange the sugar cookies and buckeyes on a pretty plate. As Doug brings the boxes down from the attic, they’re quickly opened and the carpet disappears as the decorations soon cover the floor. We all enjoy reminiscing over the handmade ornaments, the candy cane/lifesaver garland, the twinkle lights, the red bows, and the wonderful smell of the Christmas tree. Before we trim the tree, though, we set up our “treasured” crèche (a manger scene).

Doug and I bought the manger scene twenty-six years ago in downtown Lexington. It was our first Christmas together. We found the beautiful hand-painted crèche on a sale table in the back of Ben Snyder’s Department Store. It had a price tag of $10.98. We bought the crèche and placed it on top of our television set in our new home – a trailer. Little did we realize how much that nativity scene would mean to us in the years that lay ahead.

For several years, however, it was treated like the other decorations at Christmastime. We just got it out and set it in its old familiar place – on the TV. It didn’t seem to take on the special meaning until our children were old enough to help arrange the figurines in their places.

During their growing –up years, the children carefully unwrapped the figurines and Doug and I retold the Christmas story and discussed the real meaning of Christmas as they placed each figure in its proper place. I’m not sure the little lamb was in its proper place, though. Blake insisted on placing the little lamb up in the loft. (How a lamb could climb up there in real life is beyond me!) Traci loved hanging the angel on the nail where it belonged – at the top of the stable. Across the front of the angel’s robe is a banner that says, “Gloria!”. I laughed so hard the year Traci said, “Let me put Gloria up!” (She thought the angel’s name was Gloria!) Cyndi gently placed the baby Jesus in the manger between Mary and Joseph. Then one by one we all unwrapped the other figurines and placed them in the nativity. When we finished, Doug slipped a new, white bulb in the back of the stable. The reflection from the light causes the glitter to sparkle brightly in the shape of a star, behind where the Christ Child lay.

Immediately, Doug turned all the lights out in the room, except the one in the nativity scene. As “Silent Night, Holy Night” or some other hymn plays in the background, we all stand back in awe and gratitude and reflect on God’s greatest gift to mankind – His son, Jesus!

Approximately five years ago, I came across another manger scene (identical to ours) at Hillenmeyer Nurseries. Inflation had sky-rocketed the price to over $300.00. Would I sell ours for $300.00? No way…I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the loving memories our family has already experienced and will experience in the years to come – not only family memories, but also memories of our Savior’s birth!


Mom’s right…it is priceless!

I had told Mom for years, (way before she was ever sick) that the only thing I wanted of hers and Dad’s someday was their Nativity. It was more precious to me than any furniture, silverware, jewelry, or money.

My sister and brother knew that and graciously let me have it when Mom passed away.

Tonight, my family put up Mom and Dad’s nativity for the first time. I felt so much love in my heart as I shared this special tradition with my family.

The boys loved unwrapping the figurines and placing them in the stable!





And of course…I found “Gloria” and she was as beautiful as ever!


And now the Nativity scene sits on my piano.

My son, Luke, played “Silent Night” on the piano for us. And my heart was filled with warmth and love as I thought of how happy it would make Mom to see it in our home. I know I will treasure it as much as she always did because it represents the most amazing Christmas gift ever given…God’s only Son, Jesus.


Thank you, Mom, for a lifetime of precious memories!


(And to my brother, Blake, that little lamb made it up into the loft again! Go figure.)

I have another Nativity set that I love as well. My mother-in-law purchased it for me a few years ago. It is from the Willow Tree collection. There are more pieces that I can add to the Nativity in the future. Mom always loved this set because it came with a camel. She always loved seeing a camel in a Nativity scene. I love the simplicity of this set.


Do you have a favorite family tradition at Christmastime. I would love to hear about it, (and I might have to steal it!) :)

Have a blessed day!



****I have been writing posts about my mom each week as a way to record her wonderful life for myself and my family. It blesses me beyond measure to know that my “Wednesdays with Wanda” posts have touched others’ hearts as well. Two special bloggers asked permission to share my son, Jonathan’s video that I shared last Wednesday. Of course I said “yes” and I wanted to share these links with you. Mom would be thrilled to know that her testimony is making a difference in the lives of others! These bloggers blessed my heart!

The first one is from Renee at Squizzle, Squash!

And the second one is from Kim at My Domestic Bliss.


  1. The Nativity scene looked beautiful on your piano. Oh the memories we have with that. It has Mom written all over it. So glad your family will be enjoying it every Christmas. Mom would love that!
    Love you sis

  2. How wonderful that you can carry on this tradition with your boys! The creche looks beautiful on your piano.

    It's funny how things become traditions. Last week I was tempted not to make sausage balls on Thanksgiving morning because I had already made lots of brunch food for us and our guests. Did that pass muster with my boys? No way! "We have to have sausage balls, Mom! It's tradition!" I didn't even realize that we had made this into a tradition–but they did. Amazing how they're watching!

    By the way, my boys get new PJ's on Christmas eve, too. That's one that we started when our oldest was five. It's become harder to keep that one through the years as the boys have matured into young men–not so easy to find cute jammies for men, especially when one of them is 6'8"! But just the other day my oldest went to Target to buy a T-shirt and came home to tell me about the pajamas he'd seen. "Those would make good Christmas pajamas, Mom."

    We make buckeyes, too, as well as chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge. It'll be fun to swap recipes!

    Blessings to you and yours.

  3. We blogged last week about our favorite Christmas traditions over at Three Simple Girls ( All the ideas there are yours for the taking!
    (Sarai-from Three Simple Girls)

  4. That is the same nativity set my Granny had. I use to stare at it for hours! My mom has the nativity set and I have grannys special nativity set that goes on a special happy birthday to Jesus cake. I now have 5 different nativity sets that I always look forward to unwrapping each year on my birthday-the day we always decorate. I love this story. Thank you for sharing this blessing!

  5. I look forward to your blog every week! Most of the time it's for a good cry!!! But it's a good cry because of all the wonderful fond memories you have of your mother. Again, you have started me thinking of starting some new traditions of our own with my children. And we love Buckeyes!!!!

  6. What a beautiful tradition! I remember decorating the tree with my family too. I am looking for new things to incorporate with my kids, and I must say I now want to rush out and buy a nativity set! The one I want I can't afford but now I realize it doesn't matter what you pay for it…as long as you have the reminder!

  7. what a blessing traditions truly are!!! I know that as our children get older, we are praying about 'new traditions' as the old ones….will one day soon no longer work as the kids grow…and move on with their lives.

    But, we do have many traditions like:
    *loading up in the car one Sunday night in Dec. stop by our favorite coffee shop to get drinks and then tour neighborhoods looking at lights

    *we like to give sleepwear too!

    *the kids always open their stockings on the Sunday night before Christmas

    *I use to get our kids coloring books/crayons the first week of December too.

    *we celebrate Christmas as a family of 4 (5 this year) early, then celebrate with my family Christmas Eve, and with my In-Loves on Christmas day. Thankfully our parents live within an hour of each other…so when we make the 5-6 hour trek home…we can see everyone!

    Thinking about you…and praying for you…..

    p.s. I LOVE your nativity set too!! BOTH of them.

  8. I love families having and sharing traditions at Christmas! Our kids are all grown and making traditions of their own, but we still do many of the same things at Christmas, when they come to visit, that we did when they were growing up at home. Instead of hot cocoa, we now have Mocha Punch, but we still have the same cookies and treats that I had when I was growing up. We still read the real Christmas story every year also.

    I know you must miss your mom so much! What great memories you have of her. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Growing up we always opened our presents under the tree in the morning, and then waited until the evening to open our stockings (everything in the stockings were always wrapped…even a pack of gum) There were 8 of us kids growing up, and becuase my parents never had a ton of money, I think they wanted to prolong the excitment. So now that I have 5 kids of my own, we also wait until the evening to open up our stockings on Christmas day.

  10. Oh how sweet…I have the same Willow Tree Nativity…and my mother in law gave it to me as well! The simplicity in the design is what I fell in love with too! I know that Wanda is so proud of you…your sweet boys. She will be celebrating Christmas this year in a whole new way…looking down on you all and sending her love! Merry Christmas to you…and please do share your recipes!

  11. What a nice post to honor your Mother's memory. I was touched reading the story of the beautiful manger scene and all your traditions. I laughed out loud about "Gloria". Have a nice Christmas, though I know it will be a difficult one. Just keep enjoying the good memories.

  12. My Granny did ceramics and while I'm not overly fond of some of her creations, I loved the nativity set she made for my mom and each of my aunts. When she died, I asked if I could have hers; last year was the first year I got to use it and I just love it! We buy the children an ornament each year which represents something special from the year- this year, they will receive starfish since we have loved going out to Point Lobos (CA) for picnics and to look for/touch starfish along the rocks of the Pacific. We also have "Gingerbread Day" and have pancakes shaped like gingerbread men, do crafts associated with the theme, make cookies, etc. We make have a special tin for our "family cookie" and we make our own peppermint bark. Noel Piper has a beautiful advent calendar we use, and we record our holiday events and a picture in a Christmas Memories book.;=books&qid;=1259797563&sr;=8-1

  13. Traci, I had to wait a few minutes after reading your post just now to keep from crying. It brought back so many memories of my grandma as well. You were so blessed to have a mother like you did. She brought you and your siblings up with love and the truth of Jesus. That is so important and one never forgets. I hope that I can be remembered that way with my children. Your posts always touch my heart.

    Lee Laurie

  14. Thank you for sharing your heart and memories of your beautiful mom with us each week! May God's blessing just pour out on you during this season… Dee Dee

  15. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now. I came here via the Shanty Sisters' Blog. I love hearing about your precious mom. After reading the article she wrote I realized that we live very close. I used to live in Lexington but I live in Georgetown now. Small world!

  16. I found your blog after visiting Kim at Seasons of my Heart. (her cranberry post)

    OK…so I know God brought me here! I loved this post and cannot wait to read more or your writings. As I read I thought to myself… are my mom and your mom sisters? ha ha… we too got coloring books, opened one gift on Christmas Eve (pajamas) and I too loved putting up our nativity the most!

    I loved reading your mom's article… what a treat and a small glimpse into the heart of the women you call mom. Thank you for sharing.

    I loved how your mom's legacy and your family tradition has carried on with you and your family putting up the nativity. I am saddened that you have lost your mother… but rejoicing that you will see her again and that she is resting in the arms of our savior.

    God bless you and your family.

  17. Such beautiful traditions….I wish I was better about stuff like that. I tend to change things up every year, but my kids always return to the traditions that somehow stuck. The cookies, Johnny Mathis, wooden manger my aunt made for me. And always a live tree with white lights :)

    Love reading your Wednesday posts Traci!

  18. I also found your blog through the Shanty sister, I love all the crafts you share. But I also love Wednesdays with Wanda. I was telling my husband about it a few days ago and this morning he said… "Its Wednesday with Wanda time." Anyway Happy Holidays! And God bless!

  19. Oh Traci, such a sweet story! I was all teary eyed until I got to the part about the lamb making it's way into the loft again, and then I just had to laugh. Thank you again for all your uplifting posts.

  20. Tears. What a beautiful story about your Christmas tradition. We do the same with the Nativity and now that I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old, things are beginning to make sense. We also take a lot of time decorating the tree, but we have a second and smaller tree with memory ornaments. These ornaments have names of people in our family who have passed and that we miss greatly. It also has names of family from all over the country that can't be with us for the holidays. We think about each person/family and tell stories and then we pray for their health and for them to have a Merry Christmas. I needed a way to stay connected to them and it has turned into a tradition as strong as our "real" tree.

    Thank you for your beautiful blog. I too was brought here by the Shanty Sisters and will be here a long, long time. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  21. Beautiful and I loved reading your Mom's article about your tradition of setting up the nativity. How wonderful you are carrying that on with your boys. Priceless, indeed!

  22. Traci, I love those traditions, too! About the nativity set….I have a set I bought at Woolworth's dime store about 30 years ago. My favorite is the very same Willow set that you have. (I want to add the wise men). My twin granddaughters are here now and I love letting them play with the dime store nativity as they retell the story – sweet! Linda

  23. I loved reading about your family traditions. Hope you don't mind if I add some of that into our family ;) Also loved your nativity set – especially the willow tree collection. It looks so peaceful.

  24. Such precious stories about your Mother and your life growing up with her! I have the same Willow Tree nativity but do not have the Camel. Hmmm…maybe that could go on my Christmas list this year…

    Thanks for sharing.

  25. What great traditions! My family also does the pajama thing! The boys match & the girls match =D Ohhhh & I cant wait for your Buckeye Recipe! Once in 8th grade one of my teachers went to Ohio & brought some back for us! she was worried that they would perish on her flight home! But they were 100% yummy! I want to make some!

  26. Great ideas. I only have 1 child now, and one on the way, and I'm starting the jammie tradition this year. One thing we've always done and tried to pass on with our child, is an ornament every year. When I left home and had my first Christmas tree, my mom gave me a box with 25-30 ornaments, so I already had my start. Most were homemade from my grandmother, but all have my name and the year on them. I want to do the same for my children.

  27. This post really warmed my heart. It brought tears to my eyes. I have a beautiful nativity scene that my brother and father made for me several christmas's ago. It is the most cherished of all my christmas decorations.

  28. What a wonderful post! I just had to post and let you know that my name is Wanda and I have a daughter Tracie who is pregnant with her 1st child, a son! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    May God Bless your family….Merry Christmas.

  29. What a treasure trove of beautiful memories you have with your mom… and how neat that you have all the articles she wrote. I hope my blog will serve that purpose one day for my children.

  30. I loved your mother’s story of the Nativity and just thought how beautiful yours was too as you are treasuring not only something your mom had as you were growing up and the tradition of hers setting out for her family and now you are doing the same for your children. I believe yours is such more meaningful know that your can give that to your children and remembering your mom as you set it out with your own children. And mostly, because not only you are doing it as a tradition, but because you truly beleive what the Nativity scene means to you…and to me as well. Blessings Traci.

  31. Thanks once again for sharing some of Wanda with us. I LOVE your stories of her & your family.
    On traditions…. I have 3 grown sons, & guess what happens when they marry??? That’s right, they now do the traditions of thier wives families & I am trying to be OK with that : )
    But a funny story from last Christmas…. When growing up, they always got a new toothbrush & toothpaste in thier stockings ( along with the candy, socks, etc ) so last year I didn’t do the tooth brush & toothpaste & when they were opening, my oldest said, “Mom, we are out at home & I just told “C” (his wife) not to buy any, as my mom will give us some in our stockings, It is our tradition”
    Guess that I will do that again this year, “It is our tradition” : )

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