Old-Fashioned Christmas Traditions: A Present For Jesus and Reading the Christmas Story
Wise Men Bringing their Presents for Jesus
One way that my Mom tried to teach us about Jesus was by doing "the present for Jesus."
Present for Jesus
Growing up, our family had several traditions that fully ensured that
Christmas was unlike any other time of the year. My Mom was in love with Jesus, and she loved to teach about her faith, not through preaching, but through showing us. One of the ways she did this was with the "present for Jesus." Other traditions were important to us as a family because it was something that we always did, something we could count on year after year, and those things were very important to us. I guess that's why my sister and I try to keep up many of these traditions as we move on with famiilies of our own.
Christmas Eve was the holy part of the Season: the time when we recognized who the holiday was for: Jesus Christ. It was also a time that we got to spend with each other, without the crowds. It was special, because it was ours, an intimate time that we always looked forward to, and treasured. It was on Christmas Eve that we recognized Jesus, and had time to actually ponder what Christmas was for. Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ was important, because he was the one who gave us hope.
One way that my Mom tried to teach us about Jesus was by doing "the present for Jesus." For several years, she asked us to help us decide who our present to Jesus would be to. One year, it was giving a basketful of goodies to a elderly neighbour down the street, and another time, it was giving groceries to some friends who were struggling financially. I still remember the thrill of bringing box after box into their house, and knowing how good it felt to give. It was such a great feeling to know that we were pleasing Jesus by giving to someone else.
Growing up, my family's income was very modest and one thing we were never allowed to indulge in was junk food. If we got candy, it was invetibly from some doting silver-haired gentleman we were visiting, but not from my parent's coffers. And chips: they were things I got to eat once in a while went to visit friend's houses, but not something I ever saw in our cupboards. Eating chips and drinking pop, therefore, was an event of some portent in our family household. And Christmas Eve was the only time my parents broke their rule, and bought junk food.
A day or two before Christmas, there was the shopping trip for Christmas. This included at two boxes of Old Dutch rippled potato chips, two packages of Chip Dip, two bottles of 2-L pops, a gallon of vanilla ice cream, lots of cheese, pepporoni and sausage, and lots of candy! We, of course, could not touch it, but seeing the food come in meant that Christmas was almost here!
The Christmas Story (Luke 2:1-21)
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed ...
read the rest of the story here ....
Last Minute Preparations
As I said, Christmas Eve was special because of the junk food. But eating this junk did not come until we had gone through the other steps in our ritual. This was the sequence of events that made up our special Christmas Eve's. Around 4:00 p.m., Dad and my sister and I completed our last-minute Christmas gift wrapping, and my Mom prepared our food for the meal to come.
At approximately 5 p.m., as it was starting to get dark, we gathered around in the living room, and listened to the Christmas Story.
At approximately 5 p.m., as it was starting to get dark, we gathered around in the living room, and listened to the Christmas Story. Usually, my Dad read, and my Mom listened in complete rapture, head tilted, in love with Jesus, and always amazed at the beautiful story. After the story was read, we were eager to get to the gifts, but knew that it was required that we stop and talk about what we had read. Every year, we talked about what it meant to us, or something new that we had noticed in the story.
By 5:30, we finally got to open our presents, piled under the tree in our living room, as each family member (my Mom, Dad, sister and me) squealed in appreciation for what the other one had thought to give them. After much appreciation and cleaning up the wrapping paper, we were finally ready to eat.
First were the floats. For this non-sugar-eating family, floats were the ultimate in decadence. You could pick: usually sprite or coke, and then you were allowed to keep filling up your glass with pop, and ice cream until your stomach hurt. While we drank down our ice cream delights, we were welcomed to gorge on chips, candy, and cheese and crackers. We snacked, and talked and sometimes played games. This was a night where you could do nothing wrong, and nothing could be wrong. We were celebrating the birthday of Jesus, and it was paradise.
"I don't know how much he really enjoyed our amateur presentations, but I do know this: we believed that it meant everything to him."
Christmas Day: Dinner and a Play
Christmas Eve was our special family time, and then came Christmas Day. This day was significant because it was the only time we were sure to see all of our cousins, aunts and uncles from across the province. The meeting place was Grandma's and we all arrived sometime between 11 and 1 p.m. Bustle ensued as all of the aunts crowded into the small kitchen and rustled up a feast for all: turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, baked yams, salads, other vegetables, and to top it off: my Grandma's baked pudding.
This was the one time of year when it was acceptable; expected even, to pig out. And pig out we did! For the first few years, cousins sat at the kid's table, and were sheltered from the adult conversation. As we got older, we all sat together and got to listen as sibling and in-law passed insult and comment in an ongoing battle of wits. Did the family get along? In a sense. Insulting one another, and besting each other always seemed to be part of the tradition. After eating an outlandish amount of food, we all agreed to wait for an hour or two before tackling Grandma's famous Christmas pudding.
While we were waiting, and the women cleaned up, the kids were now preparing for the one last great Christmas tradition: the Christmas Play. I don't know exactly what year it started, when sometime when I around ten years old, my Grandpa asked my sister and I to come up with a play for Christmas. At first, it was just the two of us. I loved making up plays, and this was a chance to shine! My Mom got the call, and I, as the oldest grandchild, was the one who put it together.As we got older, the other cousins sometimes joined in. And my Grandpa always made it seem as if it was the highlight of his day, a present just for him. I don't know how much he really enjoyed our amateur presentations, but I do know this: we believed that it meant everything to him. And this was the final of our Christmas traditions.
"It is somehow worth it all for the kids!"
To this day, my sister and I have tried to keep these traditions alive. We are both married, and live two provinces apart from one another, but we still endeavour each year to get together at Christmas. Annually, we read the Christmas story, open presents, and enjoy chips and floats, also a treat for these non-junk food eating girls. And the little girls usually put together some kind of play. And even though we all stress out before Christmas, trying to fit in everyone to the plans, and make it work, it is somehow worth it all for the kids!
This Was a Hub Mob Hub
This hub was written as part of a "hub mob," where people all chose to write about Christmas traditions. I hope you enjoyed it! Have a wonderful and blessed holiday.