Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Tradition of the Straws

*NOTE*  This is a post that appears here each Christmas Season. We have begun our Tradition of the Straws this year...may we humbly invite you to join us?  My prayer is that it will bless your family as much as it has mine.

Each year I purchase a Christ-centered Christmas book to add to our collection.  Beginning with the evening we finish decorating for Christmas (usually right after Thanksgiving), I read a Christmas book out loud to the boys after dinner. I do this every night through the Christmas season.  Many years ago I found a little book called The Last Straw by Paula Palangi.  I believe it is out of print now which is a shame.  Although there were aspects of the story that I was not pleased with,  (I edited it as I read aloud) this book has impacted my family more than any other Christmas book.  This book introduced us to the Tradition of the Straws.  This is far and away my boys most favorite Christmas tradition!

You do not need the book to add this to your celebration of Christmas...let me share with you what it is all about....you will need a tray, some straw, a manger and a baby.  This is the concept....Jesus is coming! We must prepare a place for him and we will do that by loving and serving others for His sake. It is an act of worship.

Beginning the fist night, the names of all the family members are written on scraps of paper and placed in a bowl.  Each person draws a name, checking to make sure they have not drawn their own. This name must be kept secret! The goal for the next week is to secretly do acts of loving kindness for that person without getting caught.  For each secret act of love, you may place a straw in the manger.  The idea is to build a soft and comfortable bed made from acts of love for the Christ child who will arrive on Christmas Eve.

This is a picture of our manger.  Josiah made it several years ago.  The book actually came with a heavy cardboard manger in the back to punch out and put together but after many years, no amount of tape could hold it together.  So, Josiah blessed us with this wooden one and I will always treasure it! The baby was given to them by their oldest brother - another treasure that speaks volumes of love!

As you can see we have been busy filling the manger this season.  Each week, the names go back in the bowl and everyone draws again.  Parents will need to help younger ones with ideas and sometimes with practical help.  I have kept many a boy busy so his brother didn't get "caught in the act". And often you will have to turn a blind eye so a little one can bless you with an act of love!

Because we do not have network T.V., cable or satellite, and we aren’t in the stores a lot, (and I throw all of those gift catalogs in the trash as soon as they arrive) my children are not exposed to all the brainwashing that goes on trying to sell them the latest useless toy. But their focus still tended to be on “what will I get” instead of “what can I give”. The manger certainly helped to realign their priorities. Bickering seemed to take a back seat to loving kindness - everyone was thinking of the Christ child and how they could serve Him through kindness to others.

It is amazing how this simple tradition changed our focus and the atmosphere in our home. Sometimes a child will find their bed made, their chores done or their laundry folded. I have found dishwashers emptied, or filled, clothes folded, my bed turned down with a cookie left on the pillow, a wildflower in a vase on the kitchen windowsill,  animals cared for and the list goes on. Arguments stop before they really start and everyone seems to be thinking of others first.

Secret acts done for neighbors, church members and others outside our family circle earn fatter straws, or multiple straws. Hands are constantly testing the manger - is it soft enough for Jesus? On Christmas Eve day the pace for loving acts really picks up….who will place the last straw?

On Christmas Eve, when the boys determine that the bed is ready, they must search for the baby, just as the Wise Men searched for the Christ child.  Whoever finds Him gets to place Him lovingly in the manger that was filled with hundreds of straws, each one representing an act of love to others.

My prayer for you this season is that you too would search for and find the Christ child who was born crucified for you.

Merry Christmas!


  1. We started doing that last year. :o) It's lovely.


  2. Thank you for sharing this. Lovely!

  3. What a beautiful tradition. Such a wonderful way to help EVERYONE in the family (not just the little kids!) prepare their hearts for Christmas.

  4. Simply beautiful! Thank you for sharing!


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