The First Christmas Tradition

Tradition – the spread of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way

For many years now our family has had ‘breakfast’ for dinner on the eve of Thanksgiving.  We started when our kids were quite young and normally would visit an IHOP or anywhere we could get breakfast served.  Not sure exactly what we were thinking at the time we came up with that one.  Maybe we were just trying to get some special family time before the chaos of the next day that comes with large gatherings of our family.  In any case, that tradition managed to stick.

I’m guessing that each of us may have their own family traditions this time of year sparked by the more universal traditions that come with the Christmas Season, some of which were started before Christ was even born!  I mean, there is still discussion as to Christ’s birth date and it simply being a nod to the former pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  So, here are a few others that I thought you would find interesting:

The Vikings made a habit of bringing evergreens and sometimes full size trees into their homes during the cold dark winter to remind them that life would again bloom once the snow melted.  Christians later saw evergreens as a symbol of eternal life and sometimes decorated them with apples (think Garden of Eden) and hence the later use of those red shiny glass balls that have put many a family pet in the emergency room.

Christmas tree lights started as candles on trees to express Christ’s role as the light of the world (and unfortunately caused more than a few fires).  Thankfully, those have been replaced by the present day variety of lighting we now use to decorate our homes.

Most of us know that Santa Claus was actually Saint Nicholas, the Greek Bishop of the 4th century famous for his generous gift giving to poor children.  But did you know that the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings comes from the story of three particular impoverished sisters who left their stockings drying over the fireplace?  Saint Nicholas threw gold coins down the chimney which landed in the sisters’ stockings (and get this) so that they would each have a wedding dowry and not have to become prostitutes!  (According to MSNBC via Wikipedia.)

How about candy canes?  Looks like a German choirmaster in 1670 wanted to keep the kids quiet in church during Christmas Eve, so he commissioned a local candy maker to make some ‘sugar sticks’.  And, in order to justify giving kids candy during mass he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which he argued would help children remember the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus!  Is that what you think of when you are sucking on one of those tickets to type-2 diabetes?

So, here is the point.  It’s easy to lose Christmas in all of the hype.  Should we be hyped?  Of course!  It’s only the most significant act in the history of this universe, including its creation.  But let’s not lose that significance in the lesser traditions that most of us have no clue why we are doing them.  Let’s consider a new tradition, a reminder of where all others spring.  Let’s start each day with the thankful knowledge that God became human in the form of an innocent, vulnerable baby so that we could know His extraordinary, unconditional love for all of eternity.  And all we need to do is say yes to that offer.

Traditions speak to who we are, where we come from and where we can expect to be.  So, let’s start this new tradition of finding Christ in everything we do this time of year, and in so doing remember why indeed it is the most wonderful time of the year!