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Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Traditions

by Casey Peterson (bio)

Christmas is a time filled with many festivities and traditions. Some are humbling, sweet, and inspiring. Examples include caroling to the elderly, family nativity scenes, reading from Luke 2, and seeing Christmas lights. These traditions are filled with an innocence and happiness difficult to describe, yet captured in many elements of revered Christmas music. It is a tangible spiritual and physical feeling of the love Christ has for us, evidenced by the gift of His life and His gospel that He gives to us.

Others traditions profoundly confuse me as to why they started, and how they perpetuate. Examples of these include Christmas trees, Christmas newsletters, Santa Claus, awkward gift exchanges, and fruitcake. The tradition of Christmas trees traces back into Old Testament days. In Jeremiah 10:3-4 it reads "3. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." I wish I had more detail, who decided to chop a tree, bring it in the house, and put sparkly things on it? Makes no sense to me, and though trees are undoubtedly pretty now, I still don't get the reason behind the tradition.

Along with Christmas decorations and the tree (to which my wife is AMAZING at decorating), she also devotes a huge area in our kitchen to hanging all the Christmas newsletters. The best ones are from those we choose to stay in contact with for the other 11 months of the year. We know their trips, what sports they play, and who's growing the most (but what does that have to do with Christmas anyway?). The humorous ones are the distant relatives and past acquaintances using this as an opportunity to perhaps preserve a fading relationship, or possibly other pure motives drive this. Facebook has turned these odd phenomena of odd pictures, family and personal insights, and occasional bragging into a yearly occurrence though. Perhaps I shouldn't make fun of newsletters, Facebook may be pushing them way of the Twinkie and the typewriter. The only way newsletters could get more awkward is by the odd comments a lot of the outlier people continually make on every post. Gratefully, traditional newsletters didn't allow for that. But back to the question, why the tradition? Perhaps it was spawned by from the Luke 2:3 reference of each person being taxed in his own city, an accounting if you will from each of us where we live, where we're from, and an accountability of our possessions and activities. Thanks Mr. Augustus and your Roman friends for your tradition of quirky dialogue and updates reported annually.

The third confusing tradition for me is Santa Claus. I know of few other ways to upset people as much as offending Santa, settle down, I'm not attacking him. I've seen the same shows as everyone else, and appreciated what Santa traditions add to the merriment. However, I also have curiously perused the annual pictures of screaming and terrified children sitting upon the lap of a portly elderly man tasked with the paramount duty of wrestling multiple children while trying to look merry and jolly. I watch grown adults blatantly lie to children about Santa's existence, well knowing that if it was the kids were lying to the parents, severe punishment would result. Integrity is fudged, more money is spent to provide "Santa's gifts" along with family gifts, and children psychologically navigate being told suddenly to sit on the lap of a bearded stranger dressed in red fuzzy clothing and tell him their deepest wishes. Certainly, the founders of this tradition outdid themselves.

I realize Christmas revelers are a devout and dedicated group, and in the blink of an eye they can change from their sparkly sweaters into the defenders of the Yuletide. I mean no offense to them, and cringe thinking of the personal attacks on my humanness and Christmas spirit that may result from my musings. I like Christmas, I really do. However, the traditions thoroughly confuse me, and probably will continue to. Yet, from my confusion, I extend a Merry Christmas to all readers, especially a sincere hope for the spirit of the reality of true Christmas, with Christ at the center.

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