Category Archives: traditions

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays?

This seems to be an on going debate this time of year.   I’m a Merry Christmas person, because I am a Christian. This is the time of year designated for the celebration of the birth of Christ… for Christians.  But it wasn’t always that way…

Christmas, in it’s earliest days, was many different things.  It was a celebration of longer days for the Europeans, most commonly called the winter solstice.  It was a perfect time to celebrate  in Scandinavia because most cattle were slaughtered, so they would not have to be fed through the winter.  Folks had plenty of meat and, in addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally ready for drinking.   The Germans were busy honoring their pagan god, Oden, during this time of year, huddling inside their homes in fear.  In Rome, a holiday called Saturnalla, in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture was underway.  They kept busy for a month with eating, drinking and turning the Roman social order upside down.  During this time they also celebrated Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome, as well as the birth of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun.

As far as Christianity had been concerned, the main holiday was Easter. Period.  It wasn’t until the 4th century that the church decided to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Even though it is most likely that Christ was born in the spring, Pope Julius I chose December 25th and it was first called the Feast of the Nativity. 

By the middle ages, Christmas celebrations were primarily drunken, carnival-like parties, much like Mardi Gras.  Finally, by the 17th century, religious reform moved in and changed the celebration drastically… temporarily.  It was even cancelled for a time.

With the beginning of America, in 1620, Christmas was boycotted once again.  It had gotten so bad, that the holiday was actually outlawed in Boston from 1659-1681.  Then in 1828, NYC police responded to the first Christmas riot, which many think was the catalyst to reform of the celebration.  It wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.  Over the next hundred years, Americans constructed their own Christmas traditions.  It was built with bits and pieces of many other customs from many different cultures and time periods.

The bottom line is this; Christmas is an invented holiday, that means many different things to many different people.  For the Christian, it is the chosen day to celebrate the birth of our Savior, as the story is told in the Holy Scriptures.  For the Hebrew, it is Hanukkah. For the pagan, it’s the winter solstice.  Greek and Russian cultures are celebrating the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, which is the day they believe the wise men found the manger.  There are many other types of celebrations all around the globe… and around your neighborhood.

If Christians really want to keep Christ in Christmas, I think we should stop worrying about the well wishes of others and look at ourselves.  Instead of rushing the stores at 3AM with ill intent to the person snatching the last Elmo, lets visibly practice patience, kindness, self control and gentleness.  Instead of stressing through long to-do lists, let’s count every minute as a gift from God, and visibly demonstrate peace and joy.  Giving should be 365 days a year, not just though the holidays.  We should be donating clothes, food, and gifts frequently.  Let’s invite friends, family, and neighbors, to dinner regularly.  Send cookies to people just for fun a few times a year.  Tip your service people well – all the time, whether they are good or not.  Seriously.

The Word says,  “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47

The Lord added to their numbers because of how they lived, which was different than everyone else.  Being mad and offended is not being different.  Being stressed and rushed and consumed with shopping and decorations, is not different.  Christian’s can keep Christ in Christmas by being different – Galatians 5:22-23… Against such things there is no law…

Whatever your traditions are, stop worrying about what others are doing and saying and be at peace this holiday season… that is something I think we can all agree on.  Really.

So, how do you celebrate on December 25th?

Merry Christmas.

 

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Black Friday.

Today is Black Friday.  The biggest shopping day of the year.  I am sitting on my sofa, still in my pj’s and it’s after 2PM.  I did get up around 9 this morning, but I cleaned the kitchen floor, did a load of laundry, vacuumed my bedroom, and the ceiling fan in my bathroom.   I have also managed to read about 4 chapters in The Circle, by Ted Dekker, the 25th Proverb and Psalms 132-135.  I’ve checked out Facebook this morning too.  Many of my friends have been posting about shopping and all of the great deals and crowds.  I’m not jealous.

There was a time in my life, when I planned my Christmas shopping and headed out before the sun.  I’ve stood in lines holding toys and electronics for hours.  I fondly remember applying for my Target card, while standing behind 200 other people, holding a hopping Tigger, that I almost didn’t get.  It was a dive and grab, and I was victorious.  My youngest son beamed with delight on Christmas morning, and we tolerated that bouncing, chatty Tigger for many, many hours, days and weeks after.  I asked him if he remembered that Tigger today.  He said, “no.”  I wanted to yell, “Really?!? What!?!  I almost committed assault and battery for that thing!  I stood in line forEVER!”  Really??  He said that he does remember the Thomas the Tank bike, that we purchased at 4:30AM at Zany Brainy in 2001.  I only stood in line for about 45 minutes for that one.   It was the bike he learned to ride, and I have scrapbook pages of the event in memorandum.  I guess I should have taken a picture or two of that dang Tigger.

Several years ago, we started a new tradition at our house.  We only give the kids 3 gifts.  A gold, which represents a treasure they have wanted.  A frankincense, which is something for their mind, and a myrrh, which is something for their body.  We still hang the stockings, and fill them with fun things, in keeping with Christmas traditions.  It has been AWESOME.  Having 4 kids, I still must shop for 12 gifts, but there’s a defined point and a plan.  When they tell me what they would like, it’s a short list.  Also, by calling it what it is, it keeps the theme of the real meaning of the holiday in focus.  I can usually get everything online too… Usually.  Last year they couldn’t think of anything that they really wanted, so we adopted a few families in our community and put all of our resources there.  We still surprised them with a treasure on Christmas morning, but it was more memorable to shop together, and deliver the gifts to those families than lots of gifts under the tree.

So, what did you do today?  Are you finished your shopping already?  I still have to get the 12…  I wonder if it’s too late to go find a good deal?

 


Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and things that go bump in the night.

* Spoiler Alert (if you believe the above are real, do not read this post)

There are many “acceptable” lies that some parents tell their children.  The 3 biggies are: Santa, The Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

I honestly never gave these things much thought, except the Easter Bunny… As a Christian, I always had trouble making the leap from Christ’s resurrection to a giant egg- leaving rabbit, but that’s not my point today.

 It seems that many parents in America don’t have a problem telling their kids that a big fat man, a giant bunny, and a fairy, will sneak into their homes, in the dark of night, and leave surprises.  Some parents even drag their kids to the mall, stand in line, and put them on a strange person’s lap for a picture….  When I put it that way, it sounds kinda creepy, doesn’t it?  I’ve had parents tell me that it’s fun!  It’s tradition! It’s harmless and kids love it. Seriously?

I used to leave reindeer snacks, cookies, and carrots out for our annual intruders.  I never even really minded that my kids didn’t have to thank me for their gifts cause they were from Santa, and he wasn’t there on Christmas morning.  If you are a parent that has had your kids write thank you letters to Santa – kudos!  I tried… but then forgot, and my kids didn’t remind me.  Those dang kids.

It all changed one day back in 1997, when my darling daughter had just turned 5. My second child told her that all of these American icons, where not real.  She came to me, and asked if it was true.  I sat down and confirmed what her stinker brother had said.  She looked right at me, with big blue, tear filled eyes, and said, “Mommy, why did you lie to me?”  Really.  My heart broke.  I told her all of those great reasons, and she said, “but mommy, it’s not fun. it always scared me”.  After that, we had a family meeting and we found out that all of our kids found it a little scary, and they never really understood the connections… Santa/Birth of Christ, Bunny/Christ resurrection or Teeth/Fairies… At the time, I was expecting my fourth child and the kids informed me that, if we planned on “lying” to the baby, they would not participate.

That was the end of the mystical characters in our home.

It has served us well, even though some of my friends have been annoyed with us.  Especially when my kids told their kids the “truth”…(sorry)  Through all of that though, it was probably one of the best changes for our family.  Christmas is now 3 gifts, a “myrrh” is something for their bodies, a “frankincense” is for their minds and a “gold” is a treasure that they have wanted.  We still do the stocking for our country tradition, and we fill them with small fun things.  Easter is focused just on Christ, but we still will participate in a good egg hunt on occasion, and we have had a photo or 2 with the Bunny…just for fun.  When the kids lost a tooth, they just handed to me…and I handed them some cash…lame. I know.  You can judge me all you want next time you are waiting for your kid to fall asleep, and then spend 15 minutes digging under their pillow looking for a tooth…

We are always honest with our kids, even in the name of fun.  We leave the make-believe to their imaginations…. If you are a die hard traditionalist, good for you.  But if you ever want to come over to the less stressful side.. I’ll be waiting. 😀