Cynthia L. Eppley 12/24/2020
“I’ll be home for Christmas” takes on new meaning this year, doesn’t it? One in California, one in Spain. And Covid Separations.
Though far apart, what are the traditions that bind us together?
Cookies take on a historic significance don’t they? We tend to love what we were raised with; and may add on a few others over the years. For me, the “spritz” cookies are a family favorite. The kids used to call them “Tree cookies.” It was a family tradition to make them and decorate them—which generally resulted in sugar and sprinkles all over the kitchen. Not that much of a mess, and easily cleaned up.
I’m not sure how this got started, but my mother’s family kept this alive: Call home on Christmas Day and shout: “Christmas Gift!” This was much easier before caller ID popped up. We would answer every single call: “Christmas Gift!” We still hold to this.
Foods for the holiday vary greatly. I mentioned this in Thanksgiving Traditions. Whether it is “The Seven Fishes”, Turkey, or ham, it is a treasured part of the holiday. My mother bought a “Fruit Stolen” for Christmas morning.
Full confession: I hated it. Not so much the bread part, but the candied fruit bits.
In our own family, I began the tradition of Christmas morning Sticky Buns. Made the night before, they would rise in the oven overnight. When we heard the pitter patter of little feet, I’d turn the oven on and we’d have about 30 minutes to open one or two gifts.
The best part? The sweet aroma of cinnamon filling the air, tantalizing our taste buds.
If you live close enough to both sets of parents, or relatives the big question is: Who with? Will we race from one home to another?
When will dinner be served? Will there be two dinners?
Will I be so full you’ll have to roll me away from the table?
And at what point does making dinner transition to the adult children while grandparents contribute minor roles?
Going to our Christmas Eve service was an integral part of our celebration.
Typically an early evening children’s service was offered.
By far, our favorite was the 7pm service because we all received candles to light at the end. As we sang “Silent Night”, we raised out candles together and the sanctuary took on a Holy glow. Faces turned upward to take in the glorious sight. Friends and family were in close proximity as the fellowship of believers basked in the gentle gleam.
Our little town has lit luminaries along the sidewalks for years. On Christmas Eve, we place sand and a candle inside a white bag. Lighting the candle, the street lights up and resembles a runway. A favorite tradition was driving through the streets to observe the neighborhood lights. I am told our community usually has 2,000; this year there are more than 3,000.
And Christmas trees are everywhere!
The big question is: do we have a “Fake” tree or a “real” tree?
Do we trek out into the field, armed with a hatchet to chop one down? And ideally, please have snow for this sacred ritual.
A local supplier, just up the hill actually sold out about 1 week ago. People want to decorate even before Thanksgiving.
What we place on the tree can be old and treasured, or new and country
My cousin has displayed a glorious tree, full of memories from her childhood.
Our children bring home their creations from school, and they are proudly displayed on the tree just at their height.
Some parents purchase a new ornament every year, handing them over to their grown adult child.
And this year, Gnomes seem to be popular. That, and a “2020 Pandemic” ornament stating: “Our First Pandemic” or “I survived the 2020 Pandemic.” Creativity abounds as well as good or poor taste…..
Christmas movies are varied, and again a tradition. Families have their favorites, and must watch them. Don’t worry if we’ve seen it 1,000 times. We know the dialogue already and can blurt out the lines in advance.
The sense of hilarity or sentimentality binds us together.
Opening Christmas gifts is the highlight for almost everyone. Will Johnny get his favorite toy? Will Brenda get her cherished doll?
And will we dive headlong into the pile of gifts and rip and tear them apart in wild revelry?
Or will we sedately take turns, “oohing” and “ahhing” over each one? Will Jimmy appropriately thank Grandmom for the inappropriate sweater? (And are there return tags attached?)
Or does everyone get 3 gifts, representing the 3 gifts the Wisemen bestowed on Baby Jesus?
The End of the Day
After the wrapping paper is collected (hopefully without throwing out those tiny parts to games and puzzles),
after the meal is devoured and pies and cakes are consumed,
after the luminaries are burnt to the ground: what traditions do we keep?
We hang on to the traditions because we know they are of fundamental importance. They pass on subtle truths about our faith, our family, and our values. They anchor our children with a sense of security, belonging and attachment to family.
But this year may, indeed, be different.
We may have to forego what we have treasured the most, and make hard decisions about what can be left behind.
Our families may be spread across the globe.
Our health may be at risk, and we may be alone in our homes.
It is hard to release our grip on traditions, and our demands of how it has to be.
“But it’s always been this way!”
Yes, it is painful to not implement treasured traditions. It is a different kind of Christmas this year. Perhaps a “Deconstructed Christmas” brings a different message.
“A thrill of Hope, a Weary World rejoices!”
And recognizing that for this weary year, the Silent, Holy Night speaks for itself. For this year, that may be enough.