When I was a kid my dad worked a lot. He is one of the hardest working men I have ever known. He worked overtime when he could, and traveled into the city so we could live in a calmer environment. So with his work hours and travel, there were some times when we didn't see him much. Growing up I can always remember him making a special point of gathering our family to listen to Christmas music while we decorated the Christmas tree and hung Christmas lights.
I remember one year when the Christmas season was over and my dad said, "let's take down the tree." My little brother ran upstairs and we heard a huge crash. We found him standing next to the fallen tree that he quite literally just took down, decorations and all. My parents didn't get upset and angry, but grabbed the camera and took a picture and we laugh about that experience almost every year.
Santa is another tradition that is often a point of debate. What was he really like, what is the story of Saint Nicholas? Why does the old man have children sit on his lap while they whisper secrets into his ear and he promises to sneak into their homes at night and give them candy? (Sounds really creepy to me) In my house Santa was never overdone. We knew that our presents came from our parents, and we didn't do too much with Santa. I do have some fond memories as a kid going to Christmas parties or going to the mall as a family and we would always see Santa there. I'm not the biggest 'Santa' fan, but I also smile when I see pictures of him because to me it reminds me of Christmas. And Christmas reminds me of wonderful family memories. Many of my friends really love the Santa tradition and they have so much fun with it! I think that's great!
I also have one more thing to say about Christmas traditions, that I'm pretty sure we can all agree on. During December I have memories of shopping with my parents. I have gone out to different places, looked in store windows and met people on the streets. I'm not a big fan of large crowds, but I loved going out at Christmas time. The reason is that people are nicer at Christmas time. As materialistic and ridiculous as the Christmas shopping season is getting, I still see more smiling faces in December than in any other month.
I am convinced that the reason so many people are happy has nothing to do with the origin of Christmas traditions. To me it doesn't matter why we decided to cut down healthy trees, string hot lights around our house, hang socks on our mantle, or put poisonous poinsettia plants on our dinner tables. I was never told about the history of Christmas trees, or that the date for Christmas was set based on a pagan holiday. What I learned was that Christmas is about taking time together as a family, and turning our hearts to Christ.
I believe the time is happier because for a brief moment, we stop focusing on ourselves, and look up at the other people passing us on the streets. We smile, we joke, and we turn to our religious roots. If having a tree, or lights or a candy cane help you feel joy inside, and help you think of Jesus Christ, I think that's wonderful! If the history of these traditions bothers you, I hope you find some creative ways to start new wholesome traditions, either way, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy all the wonderful traditions, fun and family that make this season so special.