Participation Required: Christmas Traditions

You may also like...

51 Responses

  1. Noelle says:

    Thank you so much for linking, Michael!

    Through the years I have nearly killed myself in an attempt to make Christmas “special”.

    This year, I have neither the time nor the energy to outdo last years Christmas me.

    So here I am now, recalling a million breath-stealing, heart-turning moments that i have found myself in the midst of this season with welled up eyes. Moments I was able to be fully present in because I wasn’t concerning myself with being a superhuman in the presentation of a holiday…
    All because I stopped the crazy and pulled the reigns back on the fanfare.

    Embracing a lesson I wish I had learned years ago.

    (I’m a little slow on the uptake)

  2. Nonnie says:

    When we had our kids, we always had some sort of Mexican food on Christmas eve. It was just a tradition. Even when we lived in the Philippines and would camp on a remote beach over Christmas, we would at least bring some tortilla chips and salsa to carry on the tradition. Now that we are 5000 miles from one another, Skype has become a huge Christmas tradition for us with the grandchildren. I find the holidays difficult and don’t enjoy going over to other people’s houses, with all of their family, for Christmas day, even though so many graciously invite it. It’s too painful being away from my own grandchildren. The last few years Hubby and I go to a restaurant, have a lovely meal, bring 1/2 of it home and then Skype with the grand babies.

  3. Nonnie says:

    To end on a more positive note, the very best Christmas we ever had was in the Philippines. We got a shipment of children’s stuff animals and toys. Our kids loaded into our jeepney and we drove into one the poorest areas of Manila. When we saw a child outside, with no toy, one of my kids would jump out of the jeepney and run up to him or her with a toy and tell them “Merry Christmas! Jesus loves you.” We drove around until all the toys were gone. I don’t recall every seeing so much Christmas joy on my children’s faces as on that day. It was glorious.

  4. stu says:

    Michael, Why is Christmas so hard for you?

  5. stu says:

    I love Christmas. I’m a kid again. Well, not so much this year.

    While our kids were growing up we had Christmas traditions like most everyone else. One of my traditions was to allow my kids to stay up late on the night of the 23rd. We’d watch a favorite Christmas movie and reminisce. We didn’t let them sleep in on Christmas eve so they gladly went to bed at a reasonable hour on Christmas eve. We didn’t have to convince them to go to bed. They were ready. Works every time. lol When they got older they caught on but by then it didn’t matter. It gave my wife and I time alone to snuggle on the couch and for me to put some toys together. Happy happy joy joy

  6. sarahkwolfe says:

    So many feelings about Christmas.

    My family growing up had so many traditions, and they were wonderful. Long, lingering meals. Velvet dresses. Midnight Mass at the Episcopal church. Luminarias and directing traffic on our street while still wearing our clothes from acting out the nativity story. (with a light saber for directing traffic). Tamales and enchiladas and beef tenderloins.

    I’m going to write more about this in the coming days…about how my mom would set the table and the house with absolute perfection, but it was not stuffy or stiff. It set a tone of delight.

    Now, it has a twinge of pain because she no longer knows. Dad set the table for Thanksgiving this year at the ranch, for the first time in 4 years…and it was difficult because each piece brought back so many memories of all Mom would do. She wandered along, watching him and taking some pleasure, but no longer being the one setting the tone.

    There is pain for us because her presence reminds us now of brokenness and of our lack instead of our strength and delight.

    Sooo…I am aware that our traditions have a deep value, and that they are bittersweet. I’m also aware that we go through these traditions and these “ornaments” on the occasion in our broken way. They are all broken attempts at celebrating with great delight something unimaginably wonderful.

    Dad and I were talking about how we need to continue with the traditions, even when they are a little painful, and even when they seem a little foolish. Our traditions are a little haphazhard right now, but Sammy said to me the other morning, “When are we loading up in the car with our hot chocolate and popcorn to go drive around and look at Christmas lights?” That’s a tradition, right?

    Sorry for rambling 😉

  7. Michael says:


    You’re building a love for tradition and a love for the season in your kids.
    That will go on for generations.
    Don’t stop…

  8. Michael says:


    I’ll pass on that…already had enough criticism for talking about myself this week.

  9. I love Nonnie, and stu, and Sarah’s stories. Thank you guys for sharing.

    Christmas, when I was a kid, presented me with about 3 straight days that my dad wouldn’t drink. It was like heaven. Christmas became the thing I lived for. When my parents were fighting and I was scared, I’d huddle up in my room and listen to Christmas records. When I didn’t think I could endure another beating, I’d close my eyes and go to another place. Christmas. Christmas was the way I kept from killing myself. I knew if I could get through it, Christmas would be back soon.

    As an adult, Christmas doesn’t bring me the same magical Nirvana that it did as a child. I try to make it special and enjoyable for my children, but I know that they’ll never understand they intense joy and pain that it brings for me. I try to be “normal”, whatever that might be.

    Christmas was like one breath of air after my head had been held under water for the rest of the year. Right on the brink of drowning, and then…Christmas!

    Confessional over.

  10. Dude says:

    My family has a Christmas eve dinner…everybody attends.Nobody really attends church on that night.On Christmas day we just hang out and eat finger food and watch movies.My syblings who are married make the rounds with the in laws.
    My view about Christmas is purly biblical .
    ..Jesus .The tree and all the other trappings mean very little to me.

  11. Sarah says:

    Josh…that was incredibly powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Michael says:

    Well done, Josh.

  13. Xenia says:

    Christmas morning we go to Church to celebrate the Nativity in the
    Flesh of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
    We receive the greatest gift possible: the Holy Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of Our Lord, the Incarnation made real for us. Later on in the day we go to the open house at Fr. G’s house. He and his wife invite the parish to his house on Christmas and Easter, every year. Big meal, lots of laughter, too many butter cookies and beef stroganoff on tummies that have been observing the Advent fast since Thanksgiving.

    I believe that one of the reasons people feel so empty and depressed at Christmastime is because the emphasis of the day has been shifted. Since ancient times, the focus of the day, the big “wow” moment, was always the reception of Communion. Nowadays the big “wow” moment is ripping opening presents at the crack of dawn. The “wow” present used to be Jesus;, now its a box of Legos or an iPad. No wonder we are left feeling empty, as if we somehow missed the point.

    Our expectations for Christmas are misguided.. We have been too affected by smarmy Christmas movies with their Norman Rockwell settings and sappy holiday music. We have been fooled into thinking that Christmas is the day when all our friends and relatives are supposed to transform themselves into Martha Stewarts and Mr. Rogers. It is artificial for many families and the effort to create this scene of domestic bliss is often futile. When this pageant doesn’t come together like we have been told it should, we are depressed. When we look back on a long life of Christmas mishaps and disappointments, we become morose.

    Go to Church this Christmas morning. Receive Our Lord. Sing a few Christmas carols with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Eat a meal with your family and friends. Have an open house for your neighbors and serve cookies, oreos if that’s all you’ve got. It’s the second greatest feast day of the year! It’s all about the Lord, not about us and our whack-a-doodle, Hollywood/ Hallmark/ Currier and Ives fantasies! Sure, we may have bad memories but Christ came in the Incarnation to heal all that! Take Him up on His offer! Rejoice!

    If all your Christmas consists of is going to Church on Christmas morning and participating in Holy Communion, then you have had a glorious Christmas, even if the rest of the day consists of going home alone to a TV dinner or spending the day with a houseful of unpleasant relatives. You have received the Lord.

  14. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    Sorry to be a grinch, but I got rid of all my christmas decorations a few years ago and I don’t bother with it or a tree anymore. However I still gather with my church family on christmas eve and my Blood family on xmas. I don’t do presents either, not going to go into debt for that.

  15. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    A few years ago I was struggling big time financially and my Mom ripped me to shreds for not buying people gifts after of course we said this prayer about how this day represented the birth of Jesus and how great it was. That changed how I viewed this day. I said to myself I will no longer buy into the Materialism that this holiday represents and instead just enjoy the time I spend with family during it.

  16. Michael says:

    Lot of wisdom there, Xenia.

  17. stu says:

    I was enjoying the sentiments but these posts are dredging up ghosts of Christmas past. I feel a song coming on. Don’t hold yer breath. It won’t be pretty.

  18. SIng it stu.

  19. Noelle says:

    Josh. Beautiful (your transparency) & heartbreaking. Thank you.

  20. stu says:

    It’s the most gut-wrenching time of the year… I’m off

    to work 😉

  21. I don’t know if it’s a tradition – in my family whoever can show up shows up to the designated home for Christmas afternoon / dinner. Nothing else special.

    However, this year everything is out the window as 23 of us are meeting at Duke’s in Maui for Christmas dinner. (actually, we are all meeting for 8 days in Maui. 🙂 .

  22. Sarah says:

    MLD…that’s awesome. How cool! Or hot, as the case may be!!

  23. Xenia says:

    The Grinch who stole Christmas was Ulrich Zwingli.

  24. Xenia’s# 13 is fantastic.

  25. “The Grinch who stole Christmas was Ulrich Zwingli.”

    LOL I love that one. Luther tried to explain this to him even by writing “this is my body” onto the table they were sitting at. Most modern day protestants decided to follow merry old Zwingli and take Jesus out of the communion.

  26. covered says:

    Xenia, Josh and Nonnie rock! Thank you all for sharing.

  27. Steve says:

    We celebrate the pagan side of the holiday. Present exchanges, trees, lights, carols, etc.

    Jesus didn’t ask us to celebrate His birth, He wasn’t born in December, and I’d rather not mix a pagan festival with Christianity anyhow (doesn’t feel right to me, even if the catholic church thought it was a good idea many years ago).

    I don’t condemn others who ‘dress up’ the pagan holiday with Jesus, but I just personally can’t mix the two. Consumer/Materialism & Jesus are not good bed fellows.

  28. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    “I don’t condemn others who ‘dress up’ the pagan holiday with Jesus, but I just personally can’t mix the two. Consumer/Materialism & Jesus are not good bed fellows.”


  29. Paige says:

    Not a “fan” of American materialistic “christmas”, but always love to gather with the fam,
    Only the grands receive presents.

    We do have a uniquely ‘Green’ tradition. Because my kids’ dad was a pastor who was gone both Christmas Eve (for a service) and Christmas Day (church hosted a community day long dinner–which is still going 35+ years later), my oldest son invented “CHRISTMAS ADAM”. Since the 24th is Christmas EVE, then the 23rd became ADAM because ADAM came before EVE…..Thus, we celebrate Christmas Adam on the 23rd. This frees up the fam to go be with in laws on the 24th & 25th, if needed….. We also do host a Christmas morning brunch…. No presents, no fanfare, just Family and Food.

  30. Steve says:

    Solomon @ 28

    I read your posts above and we have similar thought processes. I do still ‘make merry’ on the day, and exchange gifts, but my days of going into debt for a holiday are long gone.

    We purchase small gifts, in cash, if we have the money. For example, this year, my siblings are broke so we have decided to forego presents and just have a nice dinner together. (I still might slip a small something into a stocking because I’m a stinker)…but traditional presents under the tree are out.

    I think if I ever reach a point like you, where the burden of buying things lost all joy for the holiday, I would be in the same place.

  31. Solomon Rodriguez says:


    Yeah it took that to happen to open my eyes. Like you I still enjoy the getting together with family and stuff. I do get gifts for my three kids still but within reason

  32. Christmas Adam…totally stealing that:)

  33. My Christmas tradition is to strategically avoid (by the use of iPhone & earbud tech) the incessant holiday music that ruins the otherwise rich and varied visual & olfactory sensory treats of the season. The colours, the smells, the creative decor of the Winter Solstace varied holiday celebrations are all ruined by the auditory assault of smarmy-jazzy-hey-let-me-freshen-your-cocktail-sinatra-rat-pack-style versions of holiday songs, and I’ve learned to adapt and survive lest I’m reduced to…

  34. Ricky Bobby says:

    I love Christmas, only b/c I have kids and they enjoy it. Not many good childhood memories, it was usually pretty stressful walking on eggshells trying not to piss off the good pastor.

    Traditions with my new family: We go to the in-laws for Christmas eve and have pizza. We all get together the next morning with a big Christmas breakfast and do the gift thing (it’s all about the kiddos). We do Christmas dinner as an extended family as well.

    We attend church services with friends, family and neighbors as well.

  35. Jim says:

    I choose to live in the here and now. Yes, like many here, my childhood was a mess. When I was five, my non custodial parent kidnapped me from my custodial parent and took me five states away. I’ll happily cover the sin and not name the offending parent. That’s one of hundreds of horrors stories I could tell. In my early 20’s, I chose to let all of that stuff go and live in the now. At Christmas, my job was to make it the best and most meaningful for my kids. Now I get to chill and watch the joy in the eyes of my grandchildren.

    Every second counts. Why waste another single second dwelling on really bad things that happened, when doing so will change nothing? Cast off the chains of the ghosts of Christmases past (see what I did there?), and breath the fresh air of freedom to live in the now.


  36. Ricky Bobby says:

    Sounds like your parent isn’t still a Pastor in a position of trust with access to kids and adults who give their trust over in a cult-like manner which can lead to disaster.

    My conscience won’t let me stay quiet about it. It’s not a matter of “living in the here and now”…it’s a matter of conscience and conviction. If the guy was shoveling s***t at the local dairy, then I wouldn’t feel so compelled.

  37. Ricky Bobby says:

    I’m living in the now…right now there’s a Calvary Chapel pastor in the pulpit who is endorsed by Calvary Chapel who is a child abuser. That’s wrong. Very bad wrong.

  38. Dude says:

    My mother grew up in the Orthodox church and became a protestant when she married my father.As a child we had Christmas twice a year.I enjoyed the Orthodox version with my mothers side of the family.The eastern european way of my mothers family always impressed me.

  39. David sloane says:

    Growing up poor with one parent made our Christmas a time of making things to give to one another. The Wolworth,s five and dime store was a place that we could go and spend the few dollars mom had given us on some small gifts for everyone.

    The best Christmas was in the early 60’s when a man who was a post office worker introduced himself to my mother. You see he knew she got a welfare check now and then and was supporting herself and four kids on it.

    He took mom on a shopping trip and purchased gifts for everyone. There was a tree and a lot of presents just like my friends homes that Christmas.

    Never forgot the man’s name. Jim Prescott was a Christian.

    During the 90’s a few friends and I discovered we could lessen the depression impact of Christmas we traditionally got by not participating in it. It seemed to work for us.

    A few weeks ago my wife bought me an early Christmas gift. I had a 700.00 dollar budget to replace my old computer. In the store she noticed me giving special attention to a certain one that was 1600.00.

    So she gave me what I needed to get it. I was like a kid again with my new shiny toy.

    Most men I know get depressed around Christmas. Interesting how they deal with it. Just reading a few of the above post you can get a clue of the varied ways they deal with it.

    I have a close pastor friend that beats the Pagan holiday drum. I feel sorry for his grand kids. They don’t get to experience Christmas.

    My cat box is really cool. About twenty minutes after one of the cats uses it a scoop slides across the box and shoves anything into a trap door at one end that traps everything with no odors escaping.

    It is just big enough that a guy could scrunch his knees up to his chest and barely fit in it. That is the picture I saw in my minds eye when I read the opening post.

    I enhanced the mental picture by wrapping some colored led lights around the man and put a bright red Santa hat on him.

    He himself is a wonderful gift to those who know of him. All of the past pains and wounds of Christmas past have shaped and molded a great guy. Don’t you think?

    He is one of Gods gifts to us.

    No I wouldn’t let him sit in my cat box but he is always welcome at my table.

    Merry Christmas Michael and May all your dreams come true.

  40. Jim says:


    Your situation is completely different than the many adults who are blue on Xmas because of childhood memories.

    1. I wasn’t addressing anyone who posted above.

    2. I’m on your side regarding the wolf in question.

  41. stu says:

    Gut wrenching stuff. I was working on a parody but I couldn’t post it. Too close to reality. sorry

  42. Michael says:


    Thank you for your support and constant kindness.
    It means a great deal…

  43. Michael says:

    Christmas this year will be no less gut wrenching than when I was young.
    Like many I’ve spoken with the last couple days I can’t afford to participate in the commercial orgy that this time of year has become.
    Other family members will pick up the slack…my son will be fine.
    Many other children will not be.
    This is a time of great shame for me and other parents who want their kids to experience better things than they did as children.
    The stories I’ve heard and the pain I’ve seen expressed would haunt me even if I had no issues of my own.
    I grieve with them and for them.
    My job isn’t to try and rob joy that others feel this time of the year…joy is hard to come by and it should be treasured where ever it’s found.

  44. stu says:

    I have blocked out a lot of my past, including Christmas. I remember singing along with Mitch and one of my older brothers getting yelled at for rearranging the presents very early on Christmas morning. The way my dad exploded you’d think that organizing gifts ruined the day. I thought it was cool having my gifts together. It’s the most dysfunctional time of the year.

    One of my goals as a parent was to not do what my parents did. That’s not as good or spiritual as following Jesus but maybe it was following Jesus. We had no stress holidays. Visiting my parents and family was a good reminder to me of what not to do.

    One of my adult children is moving back in with us. It’s supposed to be for a limited time to help him get back on his feet. We’ll see. I’m going to ask him about Christmases growing up. I wonder if his view is anything like mine.

  45. Ricky Bobby says:

    Jim, thank you for the clarification, much appreciated. I apologize for the response to you as I misunderstood you.

  46. gomergirl says:

    I don’t have much family. My parents were both only children, so growing up it was just us and one set of grands. Then i got a sister and so we were up one. Now its just mom and sis and me and Dude. He has family in SoCal, but we don;t get down there much. It makes me melancholy, or maybe just magnifies what is always there. We don’t have kids, so I may get red and green candles out, but nothing big. Our only really big tradition is, on Christmas eve, we have Chinese food. My mom’s godfather, back in the day was a man from China, who escaped in the 30’s to the US. He was great friends with my grandparents and, like I said, my mom’s godfather. He spent many years and bribes trying to gt his family over here. I met him when I was 5. Anyway, he would close his restaurant and have a big party on Christmas Eve and they always went. so, when they move to California from Kansas, they just kept going and so have we. Otherwise, it has become a bit of a quiet time. last year we spent the day playing DrawSomething between us all sitting in one room.

    Oh, and there is the Doctor Who Christmas special that we get now ON CHRISTMAS DAY!!!! So you know, there is that. LOL…

    Happy Christmas to you all.


  47. Jim says:


    No worries, and thanks for circling back. I’m not known for my clear communication skills.

  48. filbertz says:

    we have a few remnants of holiday festivities…I love Christmas carols (the “church” ones, not the silly commercialized/secular tunes) for about two weeks right before Christmas day. We hang lights on the house and decorate two small trees, but have cut back on lots of the other stuff. We haven’t attended a Christmas Eve service since ’99 when I was so incensed at the behavior of others at the service we left that church permanently. Instead, we host a family and friends Chinese food dinner at a local restaurant. We still exchange gifts, but generally aim to provide much-needed items for my kids and grandkids. I don’t think Jesus minds too much. We also have a Christmas day feast for all comers, but otherwise its a great day to take a nap or hike with Trigger. Typically, we will slip out and catch a chick-flick at the local theater in the evening.

    The incarnation of Christ is central to my thinking and lifestyle, but it isn’t captured by the celebration around the Christmas holiday. It is much like Easter festivities which are incapable of encapsulating the Resurrection.

  49. Listening to Pachelbel’s Canon right now….what a sublime piece of music!

    One tradition of mine is to read Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” each year at this time.

  50. The incarnation – didn’t that happen 9 months earlier? Was not God in the form of a human as a fetus in the womb?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Phoenix Preacher

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading