From decorated trees, wrapped gifts and mistletoe, to Nativity scenes, Advent calendars and midnight Mass; celebration of the Christmas season is wrought with tradition. Yet there are some who would seek to strip it of its power; and that is the power to change hearts. Christmas over the years has become largely secularized by advertising agencies, but that doesn’t mean that the Spirit of it can’t shine through. It is a season of giving. Giving of gifts, time, and love. And it is though the traditions that we observe that this giving shines the brightest.
We all have traditions that we follow each year. How we celebrate the season, this is what binds us together. Without them, Christmas would just be another day on the calendar. Whether you let your children believe in Santa Claus or not, is up to you, but even if you don’t follow this tradition, I’ll bet you have many more.
When my kids were small, we would go each year to have their pictures taken with Santa. They would toddle up to him, list in hand while camera flashes went off all around. Some years they would cry…others, they couldn’t wait to tell him what they wanted. I never really realized that this had become our tradition until one year I decided not to go, since taking a day off school was not encouraged by their teachers for something so trivial. To say that I heard protests is an understatement! “But it’s our tradition!” my then nine year old shouted, aghast.
I honestly don’t remember now whether I caved in to that one or not, but since that time, we have added….and subtracted, many others. And I suspect that now that they are older, many more will be changing, morphing into places I never would have thought they would go. One day they will marry, and the blending of traditions will undoubtedly happen. No longer will we stay in our pajamas all day (yes! I love that one!) or wake up at 4:00 in the morning to look in our stockings (not so crazy about that one – yawn!), but maybe instead we will sleep till noon or possibly even be alone all day watching television.
And that’s okay with me. There are some things that I will miss for sure, but often times I realize that the things we replaced them with are just as good, if not always better. Families change, people move away, divorces happen, but in the end, it isn’t about the tradition itself, but about the time that we spend with loved ones.
- Sometimes Christmas celebrations happen on not-so-Christmas-y days.
- Instead of turkey or ham, we may be throwing back tacos and enchiladas.
- Maybe holding hands in a movie theater says Christmas to you, instead of logs on the fire.
Whatever you decide to make your Christmas traditions, do it with gusto!(Do everything unto the Lord!) Be ever present in the process, no matter what it is, and open your heart to the possibilities that present themselves. Love not only the easy ones to love, but your enemies as well. Give freely of anything you have to offer, to anyone who may be in need of it. Create the Spirit of Christmas in everything you do from decorating, to cooking, to giving. We have a great opportunity here as Christians to show the world who we are. Not by being outraged by the color of a cup, but by responding with love.
“If your enemy is hungry; give him food to eat.”
Did you know that the early Christians didn’t even celebrate Christmas? It was not even on their radar. The resurrection was their focus for celebration – as it should be, for that is what the good news is all about: His sacrifice. Observance of birthdays and anniversaries during those days was primarily a Roman holiday: the enemies of the early Christians. Some now look back on those pagan roots and refuse to participate in the perpetuation of it.
But did you also know:
Christmas actually means Christ’s mass. Its use dates back to 1038AD Middle English. So the Christmas holidays as such are strictly religious, not secular. That being said, if you want to make sure that you are honoring God at Christmas time, avoid the Happy Holidays, and keep to Merry Christmas.
The first Christmas celebrated by the church (meaning all believers, not a specific institution) was sometime during the 4th century. The earliest evidence is from 354AD when Romans celebrated the Nativity of Jesus. (Nativity means birth) the Romans would have considered this important given their history of celebrating birthdays in general. I think the bible also considers it important as it is in there. Certainly a red letter day! They originally observed it on January 6th in conjunction with the epiphany, but gradually moved to the earlier date of December 25th since it was already a celebratory time for the Romans. This allowed them to be involved in the celebrations of the times as well as honor their Savior. They blended their traditions. Not such a bad thing.
The list of Christmas traditions is endless. Each one began somewhere, and in the heart of someone who wanted to bring their families closer together. Love – that is what Jesus is all about. So, in His honor, at this most celebratory time of year, put on your thinking caps, pull out all the stops, and create a tradition to call your own! Start a new one, continue the old, or maybe reinstate one you miss from days past! Remember that it isn’t about the activity itself, as much as it is about the heart behind it. It’s just a red cup really– make it your own. Maybe share the meaning of the color red and how it relates to Christmas with the one who hands it to you. Start a conversation that honors Him.
Take the opportunities to share the love of Jesus as they present themselves - it is an act of Worship!
Each day from now until Christmas Eve, a beautiful life will be writing on Traditions from each of our own lives. There will be projects and food, encouragement and perspective. Follow the journey to the manger with us! If you aren’t already following, sign up today! I promise it will be an exciting voyage!
What kind of traditions do you follow?