As the year draws closer to the close, the closer we all get to Christmas. Halloween has long passed, though the stores will have already begun to fill with string lights, ornaments, and plastic trees beforehand. Those that plan ahead will begin to purchase presents for those that they love, if they haven’t already. Those like me will probably wait until the week before Christmas Day and pray that the Amazon packages arrive on time.
We all have different ways that we approach the holiday season. And, while it’s a holiday that we celebrate in similar ways, most of us have different Christmas traditions that we follow for the occasion. For Alaina Wilder, her family’s Christmas tradition begins on the first of December. She said, “Each night we light the candle that is for that week, as well as the ones for all other weeks we’ve done so far. Then we read from our advent story for that year, which is always a journey to finding Jesus on Christmas night. On Christmas morning, we light all the candles plus the last candle… and read together before starting our main celebrations. This tradition is a great way my family chooses to spend time together every night during one of our busiest seasons, as well as a way to focus on the gospel meaning of Christmas every day.”
Despite Christmas often being criticized as a heavily commercialized holiday centered on greed, for the people that I interviewed, family was heavily emphasized in their Christmas traditions. For Mrs. Christi Mitchell, she said that they “make ornaments for [their] tree as a family. Lots of glitter, puff balls, and love.” When I asked Blair Dean what her favorite Christmas tradition was, she said, “My favorite tradition is being with family… We read the story of Jesus’s birth out loud at our family gathering... We’ve also pretty much given up on giving gifts specifically on Christmas Day... Now, Christmas Day is primarily just for quality family time, and I think that’s great for us.”
Things change, though, as people move away and grow older. Whether traditions are able to be kept, they still live on in our memories, and that’s a major part of what makes them so special to so many people. When I asked Courtney Eaker about her family’s traditions, she said, “We used to go up to my grandparents’ house in Ripley before they fell into bad health… Before any festivities could begin, my grandmother would open her old, reliable KJV Bible and read us all the excerpt of Jesus’s birth and the three wise men. This was to remind us of the reason for the season, and my grandmother would speak a final prayer... Although we haven’t been able to celebrate like that because we have drifted apart over the years, it is still a fond memory that I will cherish forever.”
Señora Rutland said, “My favorite Christmas tradition as a little girl was that my grandmother would set out the nativity scene without baby Jesus and during Christmas morning, she would get the baby Jesus and sing ‘Away in a Manger’ as she placed it in the manger. My favorite tradition with my in-laws here [in Mississippi], is that we have a birthday cake with candles and we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Even though I know that Jesus was not born on December 25th, we still take time to celebrate the birth of our savior on that day.”
I think that Dr. Sweatt summed it up best when he said, “A favorite memory is Christmas Eve church services singing songs, especially ‘Silent Night.’ It just brought home to me how much God loved us and how He blessed us with His love through the birth of Jesus.”