Last Sunday during Beacon's evening service, we discussed how different families have different traditions, during Christmas and throughout the year. Certain families in the church shared some of their traditions, and it got me thinking about the traditions my family has during the holidays. If you'll forgive the large amount of navel-gazing about to commence, I'd like to share some of those.
My family has almost always celebrated Christmas at home (at least, as far back as I remember). I think one of the big reasons for this would be our involvement in our church, which always had a Christmas Eve service. We always have helped with that service quite a lot, my mom in particular, therefore we could never really travel far away for Christmas. Usually my grandma and uncle on my mom's side would come up after the Christmas Eve service in the evening for a few hours, and then they'd travel back up on Christmas morning and celebrate with us the whole day. We've also invited many friends with nowhere else to go on Christmas into our home for Christmas dinner (this was mostly my mom's doing, having having befriended some of the homeless community in our area who come to our church).
One tradition that has stood the test of time for my brother and I is that we always open our presents from each other on Christmas Eve. I think this was originally enacted so that we wouldn't go completely stir-crazy in anticipation of Christmas morning, but it's continued into our adult years. One year, our parents asked if we wanted to stop the tradition, since we were consistently getting less presents, and opening one on Christmas Eve would mean even less for us to open in the morning. We both wanted to keep the tradition going, despite having less to open on Christmas morning, because it's been such a fun tradition for us.
Some of our traditions have to do with what we use to wrap certain presents. My dad always wraps a special present for my mom in this small bag that has a picture of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet walking hand-in-hand in the snow. I would always wrap my brother's gift in this Disney-themed packaging that we've had as long as I can remember. We probably should have thrown it out years ago, but the tradition lives on. There's also a running joke in our family regarding a certain present. For years my dad would say that he wanted a Fort Apache toy set, like the one he had as a kid (I think I'm remembering right?), but we've never been able to find any such thing. Still, every year whenever my dad is about to open a present, we joke that it's Fort Apache inside. One year, we got Dad a DVD of the movie Fort Apache, and put it in a box where we'd taped a picture of the Fort Apache playset on top of the box. Since then, the Fort Apache tradition has gotten even sillier, and we all love it.
A few years ago, my dad got an idea for a new tradition for our family. He thought that we weren't spending enough time as a family pondering the original Christmas story and it's implications, so he put together a Scripture reading (Old and New Testaments), weaving together the story of Christ's birth. Then he divided it up into three parts and delegated those to himself, my brother, and me. That Christmas Eve, with the extended family and some friends, the three of us read this "script" and closed out with a carol. I don't know if my dad originally intended it to become an annual tradition or not (my guess is he did), but it has stuck, and each year the "Three Wise Guys" sit down on Christmas Eve to retell the Christmas story with a new theme behind each year's reading. I remember one year I asked Dad if I could put together the script for that year's retelling, and he let me. This is one of those traditions that I want to continue with my family as the years progress.
Obviously, things have changed over the years, but some things have remained the same. I still get to be part of the "Three Wise Guys" Scripture reading, though these days it's over FaceTime. Maybe one of these years I'll be able to fly back out for Christmas in California, or my family will get to fly out to Minnesota, but we're all so busy with ministry around the holidays that those times will be very rare. Still, we get to celebrate some traditions together, even from 2000 miles away. And above all this, we can all celebrate this tradition of Christmas because of the birth of our Savior. Not only with our immediate families, but with the family of the local church as well. Christ's birth signified a radical refocusing of redemptive history for the whole world, as He grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men. Eventually this would lead to this perfect Son of Man, fully God and fully human, giving up His life for the sake of the world, so that we might return to true community with Him and God the Father. We celebrate His sacrifice throughout the year, but we have designated this time of year to remember the beginning of that story. Let's never forget that.
What are some Christmas traditions you and your families have? Tell them in the comments below. Merry Christmas!
A simple servant of the Master.