Four Days Before Christmas & Unpacking the Reason

A few weeks ago, I unpacked Christmas.

In the boxes were fragile glass ornaments, precious works of art with”best Nana ever,” and the little drummer boys my daughters, Sara and Erin, made with their grandmother more than thirty years ago. There were gifts from friends and heartfelt pieces my Mom gave me. Some are decades old; others were given in love just last year during COVID when Christmas was “postponed” for a week. 

As I gently unwrapped each treasure, a memory from years past flooded my brain. As a child, the Christmas season was a time of religiosity, celebration, and presents. I grew up in a home far from privileged, but at Christmas, you wouldn’t know that. My Mom went into overdrive, and when I became a mother, I kept many traditions I learned from her. I don’t make “Bea’s Christmas Punch,” and I’ve never successfully pulled off her kiffle recipe (although my daughter and husband have perfected it), but a lot of “what Christmas is to me” is what she and my Dad modeled—generosity, joy, and sharing.

I’ve been unpacking the Christmas story too.

Many religious scholars are confident that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. The shepherds were likely not in the fields watching over their sheep in December; Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem for a census which wouldn’t have taken place when roads were potentially icy and, based on John the Baptist’s birth date—and what scripture tells us about their ages—Jesus was likely born in September.

The consensus is that the Roman Catholic Church chose December 25th to celebrate Christmas because it was shortly after the winter solstice when pagans celebrated the “birthday of the sun.” Changing the day from an “agnostic” to a “holy” one made sense. (The coincidence of the Son’s birthday and the sun’s birthday isn’t lost on me.)

When did Christmas become mainly about trees, lights, Santa, elves, reindeer, and presents? When did Christmas become less about Christ?

Santa Claus had a humble beginning, too.

Sinterklass (Santa Claus)—short for Sint Nikolass (St. Nicholas), was a third-century Turkish monk who gave all he had to help the poor. One year, during the annual celebration of his December 6th birthday, an artist drew a sketch of Sint Nikolass carrying stockings filled with small toys, and by the early 1800s, stores started advertising Christmas shopping with the now popularized “Santa Claus.” Obviously, the birth of Jesus wasn’t always linked with Santa Claus!

It can be easy to get caught up in commercialism and lose the true meaning of this season. People are often exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Then, after Christmas, many parents must explain to their children why Santa brought other children “better” presents than they received. Sad, right?

Rituals

• Do you unpack Christmas rituals? Do they bring your joy, or are they merely bullet points on a never-ending “to-do” list? (I’ve been guilty of that.)
• Is your giving motivated by the season or by previously set expectations?
• Are you buying out of genuine desire and care, or are you simply checking off a list (maybe twice) to ensure that you have something (anything) for everyone? (This often happens if you’re in a position where someone you’d rather not be with is always part of Christmas day.) 
There’s nothing wrong with a Christmas that celebrates both the birth of Christ and love for each other. In fact, that seems appropriate. It’s only when we unpack the stuff but not the story that we lose sight of what’s really important.

Role Models

As a child, we always went to Christmas Eve Mass. In 1966, on December 24th, a treacherous blizzard hit our town of Bethlehem. Snow was coming down hard and piling up fast. It became apparent that there would be no way to drive to the service where my Dad was supposed to be the song leader. He decided that it would be safer for us to stay home but that, despite the dangerous conditions, he would walk to church and sing for anyone who made it.

What an impression that made on an eight-year-old girl. Amen to a man who always knew what truly mattered in life. That’s one of the many Christmas stories I’m blessed to unpack.

Traditions

This year, as always, we’ll repeat another Christmas Eve practice that my parents handed down. After church, we’ll head to our daughter and son-in-law’s home, where Larry will read “The Christmas Story according to Luke” before we have our “Birthday Cake for Baby Jesus,” complete with candles (of course) which my grandson, Ethan, will blow out.

Eventually, we’ll head to our home, and the grandkids will put on their Christmas pajamas and go to bed to wait for the Santa they now know isn’t real. There’s synergy between the secular traditions and the actual “reason for the season.” In that harmony, there’s joy.

I pray that you know—wherever you are and whatever challenges you face—that you are loved.  
I pray that you see your incredible value.
I pray that these last few days before Christmas fill you with awe, splendor, and peace.

With Love,
Kay


Please help spread the word of peace full home™.
Blog: peacefullhome.com
Twitter:@kaymclane
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©peace full home.com®/intentional living, 2013-2022

 

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6 thoughts on “Four Days Before Christmas & Unpacking the Reason

  1. I loved this, Kay! Thank you for the facts that I didn’t know and also for sharing your Christmas traditions. Merry Christmas to you and your entire family!

    Like

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