Traditions: familiar, meaningful rituals that help us remember the past while absorbing the present. They are instilled in us when we are young, passed down through generations, and even acts we create and start on our own. It can be sharing a special meal, reading a cherished story, or visiting places from which we have been away for too long. And even though we may scatter around throughout the year, souls getting lost in the shuffle, Christmas traditions pull us back in, take us home. I asked several of my friends and family to share Christmas customs that are meaningful to them. As you read their stories, I invite to you to think of your own traditions and the marks they leave on your heart.
For my grandmother, Frances Sutton of Wetumpka, AL, Christmas has always been about family: “The anticipation and excitement in the opening of presents, the over indulgence of eating carefully prepared food, the compulsory annual Christmas picture, and, above all the love that abounds and the treasured memories that are made. I have celebrated Christmas in many different places, sometimes with all the members of the family and sometimes with only a few. That baby whose birth we celebrate showed the way of love that is truly the magic of Christmas. That magic glows brightly when I celebrate surrounded by family.”
For my cousin, Kristin Sutton from Montgomery, AL, Christmas comes early in the form of a special day after Thanksgiving: “All the sisters, girl cousins, and grandmothers get together at my house for "Sister Day." This tradition has been going on for as long as I have been alive…we all start the morning chatting, and as the people begin to arrive, some of us begin on a craft. All of the sisters take leadership over one of the day's projects…Throughout the day we bake, make Christmas crafts and eat…This is always a great time for us to get together and spend some girl time”
Rev. Elizabeth O’Neill of Montgomery, AL cherishes tradition: “When I think of Christmas traditions, my reflections center around stories and I immediately make a distinction between the time of preparation and the Christmas celebration itself… It is a distinction that I grew up with and still try to mark, to hold on to…” As a child, she remembers making homemade treats to give away and watching a beautiful Nativity Scene progress across her grandmother’s dining room. When her own children were little, she started a tradition of giving them each an ornament on Christmas Eve and they carry it on with their own families. “Still, as much as possible I do hold on to my childhood experience and to the stories shared with children because it helps me to focus on the sacred ground of our Christmas celebrations. While I have to admit to loving the frills and the fuss, the colors, lights, and tinsel, I mostly love the gentle entry into the hush of a Christmas morning when the baby arrives – a child is given – when faith is renewed and a new story begins to take shape.”