Is Christmas still “the most wonderful time of the year”? Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is probably the time most filled with traditions. We bake cookies, peanut brittle and fudge. We get crafty and make tree ornaments, stockings and wreaths. We decorate the tree with a new theme. Some of us even mail Christmas cards.
We might even call shopping a tradition. I know people who make a day of shopping one of their special times for family fellowship. Friends will meet to shop the aisle of one store where they can find just the right gift, then drive to yet another to find another “just right” gift. Later, they rest to enjoy a “cup of good cheer.”
Do you remember the traditions of your childhood? Maybe childhood isn’t so long ago for you. For others of us childhood is decades ago. What do you remember as your favorite tradition?
My youth at Christmas time included some great expectations. We knew there would be a Christmas program at our church and the kids in our family who were old enough would have a part. There was even a tradition associated with the program. At the end, when we were all released, each child was given a small paper bag filled with candy and nuts. The contents were predictable—it was a tradition after all—but we squealed with delight all the same.
When I think of reciting a poem in front of our small congregation (almost without a hitch), my hands shaking, then receiving my treat later, I still get nostalgic. Our program, like that of most small churches of that era, revolved around a nativity scene and the story of Christ’s birth from the second chapter of Luke. We also included arrival of the Magi bringing gifts.
I didn’t need a song to tell me Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year. My family seemed to come together like at no other time. And we had our own traditions.
The Christmas tree was one of our favorites. I come from a large family and decorating must have seemed a little chaotic for my mom, but she let us go full force with the job. The only things we weren’t allowed to touch were the vintage (even then) glass ornaments. My older brother most enjoyed flinging icicles at the tree.
We did other things to prepare for Christmas, but my absolute favorite tradition was driving around our small town looking at the variety of light displays families used to decorate their homes. Usually, the night of the Christmas program was our special night to make the journey.
In the days before tiny lights with built-in gadgets to make them twinkle (to recorded music, no less) and huge air-filled snowmen and Santas, people kept their decorating modest for the most part. Or at least tasteful. Even families who could afford to decorate with more lights, steered away from the “Christmas Vacation” style of decorating.
I guess we were old fashioned. Christmas meant more than decorating a house with the purpose of entering it into a televised competition.
Since it was a small town, it didn’t take us long to drive around and see the lights. Short drive though it was, we regarded it as a real treat. Like I said, our family would come together like no other time. We children “oohed” and “aahed” as if we were at a fireworks display. Sometimes Dad would roll to a stop at a house if its decorations needed a little longer to take in.
The display I regarded as most special decorated the lawn in front of the church on main street. There, year after year, we’d roll to a stop to admire the nativity scene. Two small floodlights in the ground shone upward, making it easy to see Joseph, Mary and Jesus at night. We counted off each character, especially baby Jesus, whose story we’d just enacted.
For us, that stop on main street was like making the trip the magi made to find the holy family.
This year, I’ll be spending Christmas with only my pets, Scout the Rabbit and Rennie the Gecko. I’ll miss driving down Lincoln Avenue, but surely, I’ll be able to do it again one day.
Then, when I arrive in the little bitty town that I called home, I’ll keep my eye out for the church and its classic nativity scene. As I’ve done for years, I’ll be seeking the Savior.