Last month I was honored to be the speaker at a holiday dinner. In preparing for my time with the women I started thinking about my childhood Christmases and our family traditions. I recalled the Advent Calendar (complete with gifts) that my grandma would send; decorating the tree; the way my brothers and I would sort the gifts and count to see who had the most (my mother was particularly fond of this “tradition”); the way my dad would read The Night Before Christmas to us every year, and best of all; the way my whole family was together on Christmas Eve. And by “my whole family” I mean my parents, both sets of grandparents, my brothers and me. Ours is not a large family. We did have an aunt, uncle, and cousins in Oklahoma but we didn’t see them very often.
As it so happened, all of our kids were home to celebrate the November birthdays the night before I was to speak. Since I had a captive audience I decided to ask them what their memories were of Christmas. Paul, our oldest son began with “Well, decorating the tree; hanging our stockings and always getting our picture taken . . . . I’m starting with the things I don’t like.” I knew he didn’t like to decorate the tree – no one in our family really seems to enjoy that – but I was surprised to hear he didn’t enjoy hanging the stockings. He clarified by explaining that he’s happy to hang his stocking, it’s the picture taking he hates. My heart bleeds for him. I mean really, the audacity of me taking a picture right before I stuff it full of goodies for him. What was I thinking?
After we got a good laugh over the photo torture he’d endured, he went on to talk about the rest of the traditions that he remembered. He mentioned how we always read a book before we put the angel on the tree, but then went right into “Christmas eve dinner with the neighbors, and candy cane pie.” And then, “Christmas tree coffee cake on Christmas morning.” Ah, the food!
Next it was Scott’s turn. He’s the youngest. He went straight to the food and listed the entirety of our traditional Christmas Eve meal from meat to potatoes and Jello. After he finished with Christmas Eve dinner his thoughts turned to the Christmas tree coffee cake, which by the way, we purchase from the local bakery every year. Hmm…I’m starting to sense a theme.
Adam (our middle son) wasn’t here for the initial go round of questions but when he arrived I presented him with the same query. He recalled the years I wrapped up a “Jesus present.” For many years I’d buy the kids something to remind them of Christ at Christmas (a novel concept, I know.) It could be a Christian C.D., book, Bible, or anything that would point them of Jesus who was, after all, the star of the show. I always wrapped their "Jesus gift" in plain brown paper with a red bow and had them open it later in the day once everything had calmed down. Adam, at least, remembered that. But then, the next thing he said was “Christmas tree coffee cake.” The way I figure it, our Christmas traditions are toast if the Cannon Falls Bakery ever goes out of business.
So, my advice to young parents is this. If you are trying to start some family traditions of your own, don’t worry about the gifts, the decorations, or the stockings. Focus on the food. It doesn’t have to be much, it just has to be consistent; and, if you can get the bakery to do the work for you, all the better. You’ll appreciate that when you get older.
What traditions are important to you? I’d love to know. Whatever they are, I pray you get to enjoy at least a few of them during this Christmas season. And, if you are looking to start a new one and live near Cannon Falls, MN, I heartily recommend the Christmas tree coffee cake from the Hi-Quality bakery. It’s delish!