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As Christmas draws near, I’m indulging in some traditions. The Santa card that Aunt Mary and Uncle Art sent me when I was four is hanging on the tree. My mother wrote our sons’ names on it when she sent it one Christmas many years ago. Other traditions include making frosted sugar cookies, sending cards and exchanging gifts with family.
Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”
However, let’s not get too sentimental about Christmas traditions. Some of them disappeared with good reason. Clearly, Laura wasn’t forced to eat oyster stew, lutefisk and lefse for Christmas Eve supper. It’s a good thing we also hand cranked homemade ice cream for dessert or I would have starved.
Apparently, my brothers and sisters were like-minded about those traditional Norwegian dishes. By the time I was nine and we moved to town, my siblings were married and had families. Everyone gathered at our house for assorted meats, salads, and Christmas cookies. Dad lobbied for lutefisk and lefse every year, but they were no longer the main meal. Oyster stew vanished.
By then, our small house was packed every Christmas Eve with up to thirty adults and children. In 1960 there were three infants present! More mobile red-cheeked kids ran around in their Christmas outfits, cookies in hand. Adults imbibed in eggnog and my brothers told stories that drew hardy laughter.
By nine ’o clock, the house would be eighty degrees and the decibel level even higher. That’s when I’d fight my way through the mob and slip outside.
The night would be silent, the air refreshing and cold and the sky lit by a million stars. Walking around the neighborhood alone, the words “silent night, holy night” became reality. Not a single car was driving around. Even the wind was quiet in the presence of the same glorious night sky the shepherds had seen.
Those Larson Christmases make fond memories now. They were followed by Christmases with the Schucks, which were just as boisterous and included homemade pickled pig’s feet and deep fried chicken gizzards. And, oddly, the stomach flu often went through the family during the holidays.
Today, our Christmas Eves are much quieter. If the weather is good, we attend a lovely candlelight service at church. The next day we feast and open gifts with our children and grandchildren. (The menu doesn’t include oyster stew or pickled pigs feet.)
Although times change, the memories and the traditions we keep are a way to hug the people we love when they are no longer with us.
And perhaps it’s good that traditions evolve. I like the saying “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.” That point of view has certainly made this Covid 19 year easier.
There is one tradition that we can follow regardless of time, distance or pandemics, and that is to open our hearts to the original Christmas baby, our Lord Jesus. My prayer for you is that you find time to ponder the hope that He brought and still brings.
It was He that said in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Notice he said, “I am with you.” Now. In this present moment, we have the gift of his presence. We only need to stop and realize how he can sustain our hearts with hope and joy.
What Christmas traditions do you follow? Which ones have you left behind?
Writing Update: I’ve been working on a sequel to “By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek” and “Amber’s Choice.” Here’s the synopsis:
Can a couple as different as chalk and cheese make a relationship work? That’s what Brianna Davis wonders after she moves to Cottonwood Creek when in an unlikely turn of events, Tiny Winger captures her heart. But is love enough to conquer the hurts of the past?
Tiny Winger has overcome the abuse and neglect of his childhood with the help of God and the good people of Cottonwood City. Now he dreams of a life with Brianna Davis.
Only two things block the way: his mother and Brianna.
What do you think? Your comments are welcome.
Merry Christmas and God bless you!