Christmas is an absolutely magical time in our house. The decorations are lovely, our daughters are like angels, and there is a peace that settles into our home.

A large part of the wonder of the season is caused by focusing on the God we believe in and serve, celebrating that He became a baby to save us. There is something so powerful in that moment, when heaven and earth are intertwined. It’s a reality in our family, and a huge deal.

Of course, we also have all those traditions that help the joy along. They have become a mandatory part of our celebrations. Perhaps some will look familiar to you.

The majority of decorations on the tree must be grouped in an area of ten square inches, no more than one foot from the bottom of the tree, with an average of nine ornaments per branch.

There must be a ratio of icing to cookie of 2:1, with most of the gingerbread men more closely resembling gingerbread road-kill, or gingerbread Joker from Batman.

In addition to the regular outdoor festive decorations, the front lawn must also be dotted with snowmen, snow-forts, snow-angels, and tiny ewoks in snowsuits with red cheeks and runny noses asking for hot chocolate with marshmallows when their work is finished.

The presents under the tree must look like they belong in Who-ville, wrapped with more than one kind of paper and a bow stuck on the side with only a few having the correct name tags.

The favourite carols of childhood are heard all through the house, only with voices that sound like they’ve been sucking helium, and lyrics that are sometimes questionable.

The pine-scent that fills the house must be real, because the perfect Christmas cannot be accomplished without having to vacuum up pine needles three times a day.

The nativity set must have at least one item from the toy box in the display, whether it be a Barbie included with the Magi because ‘that one king looks like sleeping beauty should be his wife’ or a dinosaur mixed in with the other stable animals because ‘brontosaurs loved Jesus, too, ya know’.

Several pickles from the plate set out for Christmas dinner have been stolen, and the butter has been carved into some unidentifiable shape.

I think these traditions have helped to make Christmas real to me. Not just because they include my children, but because it makes Christmas both beautiful and messy. The original Christmas was chaotic. It was messy. Jesus was born in a barn, so I doubt it was ever clean and quiet. And yet what could be more perfect than God reaching all the way to us. Not part-way, every last inch. He became human. Holy and messy all rolled into one.

As my children grow up, the ornaments on the tree begin to spread out, the cookies look lovely, and the carols start to sound pretty good. And a tear rolls down my cheek as I watch them arrange the nativity with everyone in a circle, focused on the newborn in the manger, this time without the dinosaur.