Christmas Traditions

What sorts of holiday traditions do you have? For instance, do you put up a Christmas tree? Stockings by the chimney and cookies for Santa?

As for presents, do you open them on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

As for services, do you go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Is there a special meal you eat to celebrate? Do you have family and friends over? Or, are you like a lot of my friends back home who do nothing at all? I ask because I get a lot of enjoyment out of hearing how other people live and thought you might too. I don't know much about other holidays (Hanukkah, etc), so feel free to tell me about those too.

When we were kids, we put up the Christmas tree and put our wrapped presents under it. My dad would put up all kinds of Christmas lights up outside, as would everyone else in the neighborhood. At least once a week or so we would drive around to see particular houses that were known to have elaborate light displays and see if we could find anything new. We especially got a kick out of going to the country to see these two houses that had a running “contest” as to who could make the most outlandish outdoor display. I think one year I counted 16 Santa faces, 12 Nativity scenes, about 20 reindeer and all sorts of elves and candy canes. And this was in one yard. It must be nice to have that much time and money on your hands!

We weren't raised as Christians-at least, we didn't go to church past a certain point-, but we took part in the traditional American celebration. More than anything it was a time to get together and give gifts to the people we love. We did the whole Santa-and-stockings thing well past the time when a lot of others would have stopped; we didn't believe in Santa anymore, but it was still fun to go through the motions as though we did. Plus, my nephew was born when I was 12 and we went all out for him.

I remember my brother-in-law telling me that he hated the idea of Santa Claus because he felt Christmas was supposed to be about Jesus and Jesus alone. He didn't want my nephews to sit on Santa's lap or do the other things that then-one-year-olds do because he wanted them to know what Christmas was “really” about.

My sister eventually got him to step back by telling him that she would make sure that the boys knew that Santa and Jesus had nothing to do with each other and that the birth of Jesus was the “important” part of the holiday. Santa was just a silly American celebration while Jesus was the savior of the world. This is pretty common among my religious friends and what I plan on doing when and if I have children.

Overall, holidays are what you make of them. They can be as sacred or profane; fun or boring; lonely or loving, whatever-it's how you want to observe them, if you observe them at all. Things have the meaning we give them and there's nothing anyone else can do to take that away. Ultimately, it's all up to you.

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