Musings On Christmas Traditions

21 Dec

Christmas is a little harder this year. It doesn’t help that I hear Wham’s “Last Christmas” everywhere I go and when shopping with my roommate, I get sad that I can’t really afford to buy any presents for anyone this year. But it’s not all bad. I have a job this Christmas. That’s an improvement! I get to be around family and friends. And I feel close to God, which makes me appreciate the gift of Jesus even more.

Despite the difficulty I’ve faced this holiday season, I’ve begun to make new traditions and still uphold old ones. My aunt and cousins are coming in from Colorado as they have the past several years. We’ll play games together, enjoy my mom’s well-planned and delicious meals, and compete in our annual croquet tournament, always a highlight. My dad and I went to church together for Christmas as we do each year. Whether it’s been Lutheran churches, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, or Foursquare, in Ohio, Chicago, or California, we don’t miss this special time. It started in high school when we were in Ohio visiting our family. I wanted to go to the church where my mom was raised in Columbus. Ever since, we’ve made it part of Christmas for us to help each other remember the real meaning of Christmas. Usually, we would go on Christmas Eve but since I began attending Christian Assembly and the weekend before Christmas is usually one of the best services of the year, my dad and I changed our tradition. And traditions have to change sometimes because we change. We grow in and out of traditions. That doesn’t mean they are gone forever, just different.

My cousin resurrected a tradition recently that I had almost forgotten. When I was young, my grandma would make all of the members in the family these amazing Santa cookies. The cookies are epic. Nothing compares. Each cookie takes at least 15 solid minutes to decorate and includes coconut, sprinkles, raisins for the eyes, icing, and red gloss for the lips. Every year about two weeks before Christmas, we would get our package in the mail of santa cookies! Our immediate family would argue about how many cookies each of us had eaten. At one point, we even had to section off the refrigerator so that someone wouldn’t “accidentally” eat another’s cookie. It got heated. My cousin found a cookie cutter online and she made the cookies this year! How exciting. Soon I’ll have the recipie in hand and next year, I can attempt Santa cookies for my friends and family.

When thinking about traditions, I thought of the Christmas tree. I got my own real tree this year. Granted, it’s about four feet tall and topples over every once in awhile because I couldn’t find a tree stand that workd, but it’s real and it’s actually mine. It makes me think I want to do this again next year. Friends I know recently had to redecorate their real Christmas tree. Their old one suddenly died and all of the work and time they put into decorating the first tree was undone when they had to take all of the ornaments off and put them back on a new tree.

Christmas trees are like stories of a family, which is why I like them. Each ornament has a reason for being there. On this particular tree, each of the kids had a “My First Christmas” ornament with the year on it. Some ornaments were handmade and it was easy to trace back and see who was responsible for its creation based on whose name was on the back. All of their ornaments told stories through bible verses, macaroni and beans placed on cardboard, places they had been. and pictures of the children frozen for that moment of time, adorning the tree with their smiles from Christmases in years past. I noticed a rather new ornament on their tree to comemorate their son who was born on December 18th last year. Imagining Christmases where he wasn’t part of the family, before he existed was strange. With him, a new tradition was born. Now, this family will celebrate his birth while also remembering Christmas.

We can sing the same songs each year and they bring us comfort. We can drink our peppermint mochas, sit by the fire, play games with people we love, reconnect with old friends. We can have Christmas trees or not. We can choose to engage with one another this Christmas or choose to hide away. We can choose to be busy shopping or we can take a few moments to reflect on our year. We can choose to celebrate Christmas or dread it.

As I grow older and remember Christmas traditions I want to keep and make, I remember moments and people, not just things. I remember laughing to the point of tears when coming up with funny names to put on Christmas presents, accidentally revealing gifts that were still wrapped, and songs sung in basements on clanky pianos on a farm in Ohio. I remember Christmas plays and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I remember my dad holding my hand at church. I remember the statue we have of Santa kneeling next to the baby Jesus in a manger and what a picture of humility that taught me even when I wasn’t aware yet.

This Christmas, I choose to embrace. I choose to let family and friends and God in. I choose to move forward and hope that next year things will look and feel a little different and the traditions I will keep will remain close.

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