By Cari Schaeffer
Our family Christmas traditions are not quite as lofty as others might be – we keep it simple and fairly straight forward.
When I was growing up, my family traditions consisted of opening one present on Christmas Eve and attending candle light church services, most years. We would gather with my grandparents, cousins, and other relatives for a big family meal on Christmas day. Some of the traditional food served, other than turkey and ham, was banana pudding, three bean salad, apple walnut salad, and tamales. Go ahead and raise your eyebrows – you should! My family consists of red necks with just a little bit of Hispanic culture thrown in because I was raised in the southwestern portion of the United States. Laugh all you want, it was good eating!
One of my husband’s family traditions was to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve and open all the presents as soon as Christmas day arrived at the stroke of the clock. His family would typically stay up most of the night (there were six children) into the next day. We ditched that tradition when we came together and had our own children. Who wants cranky kids on Christmas Day? Not I, said the little pig…
For our family and as Christians, we are sure to keep our focus on the real meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Christ. We attend candle light services at church on Christmas Eve and listen to the retelling of the birth of Jesus found in the book of Luke. We don’t open a present on Christmas Eve because we tend not to purchase a lot of them. Don’t get me wrong – gift giving does take place, but there aren’t piles and piles of them. Christmas comes the same day every year and we budget for it. The day after Christmas, we have no remaining debt from it. We have taught our children that we give presents to remind ourselves that Jesus is the best Gift we have ever received. The feeling we have when opening gifts is just a small taste of what it’s like when we receive His gift of eternal salvation.
We made a conscious decision not to have Santa Claus as part of our family culture. I know there are folks who weigh heavily on one side or the other on this issue. I understand that – to each his own. But for OUR family, we prefer not to allow a non-existent character to take the focus away from the real person of Jesus – the true meaning of Christmas. As a disclaimer, we also don’t do the Easter bunny (for the same reason) or the tooth fairy. One Christmas season many years ago, we were milling around the foyer after church when an older woman leaned down, smiled at my four year old son and asked him what Santa was bringing him for Christmas. He looked at her, frowned, and said, “We are Christians. We don’t do Santa. He’s not real, but Jesus is.”
On both Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, I make my home made cinnamon rolls. As my children have gotten older (two of my boys are now teenagers), I have had to increase the number of pans I make because otherwise I won’t get any! They are devoured rather quickly, but have to sustain us until Christmas dinner is ready. We usually eat around two in the afternoon and I make the whole thing from scratch, to include the rolls. As a Chef, I can do no less. The only canned item I purchase is the evaporated milk and pumpkin to make my pumpkin pie. I even make my own cranberry sauce, which is ridiculously easy to do and so worth it.
Every year, we must watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story. My husband is an absolute Charlie Brown NUT. He shamelessly dances to the tune of Linus and Lucy. On our tenth anniversary, we were at a very high end restaurant. There was a gentleman playing a grand piano in the dining area who was taking requests. I slipped my request to him. He smiled and winked at me while shuffling around some pages. Finally, the tune began to fill the air. My husband’s filet mignon paused in mid-air on its way to his mouth. He cocked his head, looked at me with wide eyes and asked if I had done that. I grinned and nodded. He loved it. It is still one of our favorite memories. Every year, I try to get him a gift of something that has to do with Charlie Brown.
Even though our Christmas traditions aren’t lofty, they are meaningful and they are ours. I love them and how they bind us together as a family. There is always a lot of love, laughter, and good cheer bouncing off the walls in our home. I hope your traditions do the same for you.