I intend to keep writing Christmas songs. There’s still a lot more about Christmas that can be captured and feel like old-time Christmas. A lot of Christmas traditions haven’t been explained in song. – Clint Black
December at our house is one long celebration to embrace Christmas. On my side of the family, it kicks off at Thanksgiving with an extended family gathering. This leaves the rest of the holiday season for friends and immediate family celebrations.
My birthday on December 10, followed by our wedding anniversary a week later serves as a prelude to Christmas and the New Year. Many seasonal and end-of-semester activities at the school my husband teaches at have been paused, but other community and, of course, our church activities abound.
I aspire to have plans laid out by the middle of November so we can enjoy the season without last-minute pressures, but in these uncertain times, spur of the moment based on a wish list seems to serve us better.
The formal dining room and back parlor at Maison Steinbuchel, with its continual burning wood stove fire, are kept in reserve to embrace Christmas. This is our favorite place to sit, read, reflect have meals during the holidays.
Embrace Christmas In Context
For some, tradition is something to embrace, for others, to avoid. Which response has a lot to do with the experience attached to said tradition.
But before we explore specifics, what is a tradition really? The dictionary definition is:
- the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: as in a story that has come down by popular tradition.
- something that is handed down
- a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting
- continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices
- a customary or characteristic method or manner – The winner took a victory lap in the usual track tradition.
Tradition can be positive or negative depending on application and experience. When it comes to Christmas, I tend toward the embracing side of things, with adjustments to accommodate our personal journey.
Christmas is an appropriate time of year to capture that which is worth keeping by inserting a tradition to go with the experience and jettisoning negative experiences associated with standing traditions. Here are three ways we have done so:
First Adjustment And Merging Families
I was a December baby. My mother took great care to ensure my birthday did not get swallowed up in Christmas. She always waited to put up the Christmas tree until after my birthday. She made sure the gifts I received for my birthday were distinct from Christmas. Even in tight financial times, there was never a mention of “this is for both your birthday and Christmas this year”.
I appreciate her being intentional about that. As an adult, I have modified this to honor my husband’s side of our family whose matriarch would have left a Christmas tree up all year round, if allowed to! I put our tree up and begin decorating the day after Thanksgiving. My tradition is to kick the season off with gratitude.
Adding Traditions From Abroad
As an Air Force dependent, my husband lived in Europe for six of his childhood years. I was able to experience that through our travels, studying, living, and working in Europe. Christmas in Europe has a depth of tradition that is hard to put into words. You just have to be there.
We preserve this through our special holiday multiple course meals, decorations, and observance of church calendar festivities. For the latter, we migrate to our local Catholic and Orthodox congregations who are ever so gracious when we visit.
A Gift Tag Tradition
The last tradition is quite silly and personal. Early on, we acquired some neat gift tags. We collected many in France and Germany. They are so cute.
Because of what these tags represented: the Chris-kindle market we visited in Nuremberg, or the boutique we stumbled into in Strasbourg, I could not bear to throw them away once used. So, we reuse these tags every year on the gifts David and I exchange. These little tags add depth to the gift given because it has a special experience attached to it.
Behind and Upholding Traditions
But, I can’t leave it there. None of this would mean anything if it were not for Jesus:
Emmanuel – God With Us.
- A baby born the way all babies are born, except of a virgin.
- A baby who grew in wisdom and stature took first steps, knew hunger, hurt, and all manner of pain.
- Who attended Hebrew school and learned a skill as a carpenter from his earthly dad.
- God with us acquiring knowledge, understanding, and insight – all which He had possessed before joining mankind and set aside to bu Immanuel – God with us.
- The unchangeable One joined us and remains with us in our journey.
May this day of Celebration awaken Christmas in a fresh way for you and yours.