In between our bites of business at a Saint Cecilia Catholic School Parent Group meeting December, we shared what events or memories made Christmas special. The conversation showed me that this elaborate season really makes the best impression when we celebrate in simplicity.
- Mary stated that all the families in her native Irish village would light a candle and put it in their windows to welcome the Christ child. Everyone could see the candles while going to Midnight Mass or coming home. She has also added the tradition of listening to a favorite uncle reading Christmas stories on a CD or cassette tape.
- Kathy shared how her big family would celebrate Christmas Eve with a large Italian family. No one gave gifts; they just shared pizza and a pinata and made lots of noise. Then they would attend Midnight Mass as a group. They spent a relaxed Christmas at home with their children.
- Janice and her siblings have worked hard to keep the while family in one place this Christmas. Her mother did it, and not the job of non-stop cooking is in the hands of her brother, sister, and herself.
- Chris was the youngest of six children in a family of modest means. For them, the time was about baking cooking, reading The Night Before Christmas, and waking up in chaos.
- Sherry grew up with one sister, but the extended family included seven and eight siblings per parent. Her family always made candies that went out to such community stalwarts as the letter carrier and the bus driver. Her family could not afford to buy many gifts, but they always had somewhere to go: their grandmother’s home. Now Sherry says she collects “lost souls” or people who cannot afford to go home for Christmas, like military singles, and the celebrate Christmas Day together.
- Sarah has a tradition of reading. She has collected twenty-five children’s Christmas books, both sacred and secular, over the years. She wraps them and puts them under the tree. Her children un-wrap a book and read it that night. She adds that some parents even number the books so that if it is a long one, then they will schedule time to read it on the appropriate day. Also the first Christmas celebration Sarah’s family attends is the Christmas Viking Festival in Poulsbo WA which has St. Lucia coming on a Longboat with torches.
- Ellen remembers setting up a Nativity scene at her grandmother’s house and putting little cloth elves around the house. One year her family decided to make presents, and her little brother (she was nine and he was seven) went into the garage and made her two doll chairs. They were lopsided and rough in appearance but she stated, “That was the best Christmas present: I’ll never forget it.” She also shared how she realized the idea of keeping holidays simple and focusing on what matters instead of what we think matters. She learned that from her son when he expressed at this past Thanksgiving, “One day is not going to change my perception of our family.”
- Finally Erika affirmed it succinctly. She helped out with the Saint Nicholas Three King’s Shop at the SCCS Christmas Festival. This was a “shop” of gently used donated goods which the children could purchase for their families. Erika stood there amidst hundreds of donated items and said, “This is what I want! I want to do more giving and less buying–using what we already have.” Her wish came true because her sweet family came in when she was gone and bought Christmas presents for each other at the half-price sale! I wish you could have seen the joy and sparkle in their eyes when they were picking out their wonderful treasures for Erika, their Mom and wife.
The Holy Family set for us the best example of the simplicity of love and giving. The Christmas story tells us in Luke 2:6-7 (NAB) “While they were there, the time came for her to have her child and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Let us each find room for the Christ Child in our hearts and in the simpleness yet grandeur of His birth.