I enjoy hearing of family traditions for the holidays. Thanksgiving is still relatively free of commercialism, so they are infringing on it with Black Friday's now. But most folk still like to get family together for turkey and all the trimmings. If you like turkey sandwiches, it is best to be sure you host this meal. After picking and burping, the men retire to the couch to watch football, the kids play outside, and the ladies clean up. No, it's not fair, but that is the tradition.
Then there are myriads of differing Christmas traditions. Some make certain to find a church that has a Christmas Day worship service. Others may read the Christmas story as recorded in the gospel of Luke. In our home we actually memorized this portion of scripture and recited it together. In most of our homes, however, Jesus got little more than a tip of the hat. We piously proclaimed that we were celebrating His birth (and we actually convinced ourselves this was true), but the main event always comes down to the fun of opening presents on Christmas morning.
Some homes allow for one curious present to be opened Christmas eve, as the remainder wait for the morning. I've heard of some homes where the presents are opened Christmas eve. I forgot to ask them what they did in the morning. Slept in, I suppose. It is so difficult for a kid to wait past 6 o'clock to get out of bed and begin the arduous task of ripping open all those pretty packages. If dad was up the night before, assembling a complicated toy until the wee hours of the morning, 6 o'clock is mighty early. But that was part of the tradition when I grew up.
I don't know when I began to realize that it really was more fun to give than to receive, but parents get even more fun than their spoiled little ones, seeing the twinkle in their excited little eyes. We teach them so easily about greed and indulgence. Then, as they grow, we hope to teach them that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.
Since my Barbara's birthday is December 24, and since we got married on December 26, you might think we developed unique traditions. It might have been nice to have a routine that would give proper emphasis on each of these significant calendar events. But we never found a way to do that. When we tried to go to a fancy restaurant on our anniversary, we were still so full of Christmas goodies that we couldn't enjoy a meal as we might on a different night. So I suppose you might say our tradition began to be to celebrate our anniversary on any night, but not Dec. 26. That works much better. On our first anniversary, we were in Philadelphia to attend Westminster Seminary. We did go to Old Bookbinders restaurant, and I learned to eat a whole Maine lobster. I told the waiter I would order it on the provision that he taught me how to eat it. He came with a complete bib, a nutcracker and a tiny fork and showed me the finesse of dismantling one of these delicious beasts.
Then, because we usually had a Christmas eve service, Barbara constantly had her special day trampled with other plans. Seldom did she get her chocolate cake (unless she herself broke down and bought one). What does a family do with a chocolate cake when the house if already full of candy canes, pfeffernusse cookies, fruitcake, hard candies, fudge, etc.?
She was frequently short-changed, even when growing up because her father too was a minister. Yet it was my dear wife who supported and encouraged us to have Christmas eve services where ever we were. And, of course, she played the piano for the service.
We do share fond memories of one special Christmas eve service in our fledgling chapel in Neptune, NJ. when the first snow of the season arrived in the form of a blizzard that night. Our neighborhood came out for the service in unusual numbers. Ushers had a snow shovel by the door with which they periodically cleared the porch. And when we lit candles and sang "Silent Night" to conclude the service, we had a tradition that almost everyone there cherished. It was necessary to dig cars out of the parking lot, and at least one of them needed a passing cowboy with a rope to pull him out of the slippery stuff.
We had taken an enjoyable Christmas Carol and scripture reading service, with a pointed sermon for the holiday visitor, and made it a time to point to Jesus, the author of all of our good times.