Traditions at Christmas
Traditions abound during Christmas. There are Advent calendars and wreaths, candy canes, Christmas cookies, caroling, trees, pageants, and Christmas Eve services. Also, there are stockings hung on the mantle, Christmas cards, mistletoe, It’s A Wonderful Life, Rudolph, Santa Claus, fruitcake, and the pickle on the tree.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, tradition is defined as an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) It is the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.
Traditions add enjoyment to the celebration of Christmas. They shape our lives.
Some families have many traditions that involve several generations. Since we lived away from our families, we had to create and celebrate our own traditions without the benefit of our extended family. When our kids were young, we had an advent wreath that taught about the preparing for the birth of Jesus. We baked cookies while listening to favorite Christmas music. We participated in the community Christmas program. Now that our family is grown, we cherish those memories and look forward to passing them on to a new generation.
While traditions are enjoyable, they can also become burdensome. The kids (or parents) become cranky if it is something they have to do. Too many traditions can lead to not enjoying any of them.
Here are some tips to manage traditions:
- Choose age-appropriate activities to teach about the Nativity. When our kids were small, we made simple craft angels from coffee filters or stars cut from styrofoam meat trays. As they grew up we did more complicated things. One year we made a gingerbread nativity scene. We tried many things. If we liked it, we did it again. If it was too much hassle, we didn’t repeat it but kept the “memory.”
- Do activities that teach about giving. Demonstrate the importance of giving by participating in Angel Tree or Toys for Tots donations to provide gifts for those less fortunate. There are many worthwhile local organizations that distribute food and gifts.
- Don’t let traditions become burdensome. Choose the ones that are meaningful for your family. It is possible to get so wrapped up in traditions that we miss the meaning of Christmas.
Traditions can be simple and light-hearted or deep and meaningful.
Mary and Joseph followed the deep traditions of a young Jewish family.
In the gospel of Luke 2:21-24 we read:
“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” “
It is easy to overlook the importance of these traditions of the Jewish culture.
We are more captivated by the angels and shepherds in the story. These rites of circumcision, redemption, and purification were prescribed in the Old Testament law and tradition in Leviticus and Exodus. Mary and Joseph followed the Hebraic law. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day, according to the law. Weeks later, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple to depict sacrifice and redemption. Such irony that the Redeemer needed to be redeemed. They offered the least sacrifice permitted by Jewish law for the rite of purification for the lowest socio-economic class (from Jesus, the One and Only by Beth Moore).
Traditions provide an important framework for life. No matter what traditions you cherish or those you hope to create, they are crucial for passing on faith to the next generation.
Check out some Christmas traditions here while enjoying a cup of wassail.
What traditions do you enjoy?
Next in the Words for Christmas blog series: Presence