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Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways (with Ann Swindell)

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*Give Away has Ended*

It’s Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways!

If you’re just joining in, start at Day One here.

11th Annual 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways (2018) December 4-15 at karenehman.com.

Today’s guest is Ann Swindell. Ann and I became friends when she joined our First 5 app Bible teaching team at Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is an author who loves to help others fulfill their dream of writing. She resides in Texas with her family. You are going to love hearing about a favorite family tradition. You may even want to adopt it yourself! Now, here’s Ann…


When I was a kid, our family jumped in the car the day after Christmas to drive up to Michigan and spend our “second Christmas” with my mom’s side of the family. We all piled into one house, and the chaos of cousins and aunts and uncles made the house ring with laughter and conversation. There were two things I loved most about these “second Christmases;” while I couldn’t have named it this way as a child, it was that the sacred and the silly flowed together, and I love that Christmas has room for both.

The Sacred: All of us—aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins and grandparents—stood in a circle to sing Christmas hymns. Joy to the World, Silent Night, Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming: they pointed us to Jesus and to the grace we were experiencing by being together. It didn’t hurt that my extended family often sang in two- or three-part harmony; the loveliness of it was nearly overwhelming for me as a child.

The Silly: The next day, after the big meal, we all sat down for the Annual Snowball Ice Cream Race. Don’t know what that is? I’m not sure anyone does except our family! My grandma started the tradition by scooping vanilla ice cream into balls, covering them with coconut flakes, and then sticking a birthday candle in each one. Somehow, family members started trying to see who could keep their candle burning the longest, and a tradition was born long before I was.

By the time I was old enough to participate, the rules had become clear: absolutely no touching the candle with your fingers—the fork was the only way to manipulate the ice cream and the candle. Doors were not allowed to be opened near the candles, and sneezing was highly frowned upon. Uncle Steve was often the official timer and brought his stopwatch for the occasion. Techniques had been honed and shared with younger generations—candles burned longer when they were placed on their side near the edge of the porcelain plate (no paper plates allowed near open flame!), and avoiding the melting ice cream was of paramount importance. Races sometimes took nearly an hour; family members kept those tiny candles burning as long as possible, and winners were often determined in a difference of seconds.

The winner every year received a family plaque and bragging rights, plus a $20 bill slipped to them with a wink by grandpa. Why did we do this? Because it was fun, and because it was family, and because it was our thing—a way to mark the time and the years together, just as we did with singing hymns.

The Lord loves our praise and our songs and our reverence, and He also delights in our laughter and our silliness and our fun. Christmas is beautiful enough to contain both—the glory and the laughter, the sacred and the silly, hymns and ice cream together.

What is a sacred, or silly, tradition you did as a kid or one your family currently does? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Day 8 Giveaway

Ann is giving away a copy of her book, Still Waiting: Hope When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want, and a $15 e-gift card to Starbucks.

Enter to win Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways with Ann Swindell at karenehman.com.


Ann Swindell is a writer and speaker who is committed to seeing women set free by the love of Christ. She writes for multiple publications and is the author of Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want. She has been joyfully married to Michael for over a decade and they are raising their two blue-eyed kids in Texas. Ann loves helping other writers share their stories beautifully and powerfully through her ministries, Writing with Grace and The Writing Mom Course.

12 Days of Christmas Giveaways Rules
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11th Annual 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways (2018) December 4-15 at karenehman.com.

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  1. With my husband’s family the kids put on a play, or perform a song on the bells, we sing Christmas songs and play dirty Santa.

  2. When I was in high school, I bought stockings for my mom and my stepdad. So all had stockings and as the years passed and the family grew with spouses and children we have had as many as 14 or 15 across the mantle. The adults love it as much as kids

  3. We gather in our bed to pray before we start the crazy of Christmas morning. I did it with my parents as a kid and we’ve continued the tradition.

  4. It’s not really a tradition but just the fact that all my aunts, uncles and cousins gathered at my grandparents home every year at Christmas was so enjoyable. We are so scattered now that we don’t get to do this now

  5. We sit in a circle and take turns opening gifts. The youngest stars and then the next person opens, and so on, until all the gifts are opened…. We always try to catch my Dad sneaking opening out of turn!! :)

  6. We have this absolutely disgusting, broken ceramic chicken that gets passed around our family. Actually, it may be a duck, I’m not sure because it doesn’t have a head anymore :-) It was always a huge joke to see who would end up with it each year. My grandmother started this tradition and when she passed, we kept it going. We’ve even mailed the thing to relatives that live far away when we couldn’t all be together. I’m not sure where it is this year or who will get it, but it will definitely be posted to social media and make us all smile. It’s a great way to keep grandma with us too.

  7. We always drive around and look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Also the kids like to spend one night sleeping under the Christmas tree.

  8. Every Christmas we start the morning with reading the Christmas story in Luke, before doing anything else. Bringing our focus back to the true reason for Christmas. It causes us to slide down and meditate on Jesus.

  9. Our kids get brand new Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve every year. Its fun and they have cool pjs to wear for the winter months.

  10. That sounds like so much fun! We love to play “minute to win it” games at our house at Christmas time. Lots of laughs.

  11. I have no memories of anything sacred or silly from my childhood but I’m trying to create a tradition with my kids. One we have started is to go ride a Christmas train every year with the family. It is held at a local farm and the kids love it

  12. Our traditions have changed a few years ago as I got married Christmas Eve is spent with my husbands family and friends at his parents house everyone usually spends the night and will have a fire and roast marshmellows then Christmas Day is spent with our church family then in the evening we join my side of the family for lunch and gifts. Then we go home and let the kids open there present from each of us.

  13. Our blessings do not always seem good at first. We have to be refined to see the reflection of God in our circumstance.

  14. Fortunately, Jesus lives in our hearts daily: 24/7 — not just during the Christmas season.
    I remember one Christmas at my brother’s home when one of the children received a Bingo game from his maternal grandparents. His mom quickly sprang into action, searching the house for “prizes.” (Remember those days when businesses gave away promotional items, e.g. ballpoint pens, emory boards, pocket-protectors, plastic piggy banks, perfume samples, etc.??) My brother chipped in some quarters and half-dollars.
    This was the start of a silly family tradition that lasted for years.

  15. We didn’t have a lot of traditions, but Christmas was only celebrated for about a week, but was very special. We would ride around and see lights, put up a live tree, watch the classics on TV, and of course always plays and music.

  16. It’s not really sacred, maybe a little silly. But since my husband and I have been married (or so?) We have been doing the Chinese Christmas food for Christmas with each other. We both love watching A Christmas Story and we decided to do Chinese as well. We love it, and now our girls get to enjoy sticky rice and wontons too!

  17. Growing up I remember getting to have a slumber party in my room on Christmas Eve with my two older brothers. It was a special time because they were 4 & 5 years older and didn’t really have a lot of time to hang out with their little sister on a regular basis.. We’d wake up before the crack of dawn and bang on my wall that was right next to my parents bedroom. We weren’t allowed to leave my room until they said so, and most years it was “torture” while we waited for my mom to have her coffee. Good times, good times.

  18. My grandmother passed away, and 3 uncles and aunts all lost their jobs all within one year. When that happened, we decided instead of exchanging names for Christmas gifts with a $50 spending limit, we would do thieves Christmas instead with a $20 limit for the adults (kids still get gifts from some of the aunts and uncles). It is so much fun!

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