By: Roseanne McKee
It goes without saying that many decorate their homes inside and out with lights, Christmas trees, wreaths and pine garlands. Christmas parties and attendance at the Nutcracker Ballet and Handel’s Messiah choral performances are very enjoyable during the Christmas season. Donating to an angel tree is a lovely way of remembering those in need this time of year.
In this article, I’d like to highlight some less common traditions. If one resonates with you, I hope you’ll add it to your Christmas traditions this year!
A couple in Perkins, Okla., Darrin and Allison Harris, give their children new pajamas and a Christmas DVD on Christmas Eve. The children put on the pajamas, enjoy a movie on Christmas Eve, and are ready for photos on Christmas morning in the new pajamas.
Enjoying special foods is a delicious Christmas tradition!
My sister’s in-laws in Pennsylvania gather with the extended family on Christmas Eve, and serve homemade perrogies, which are dumplings filled with a savory filling and boiled. Perrogies have Eastern European origins, but made their way to the U.S. with immigrants who settled here.
Wisconsin residents enjoy kringle pastry, which became the state’s official pastry in 2013. Kringle was originally made in Denmark in a pretzel shape without any filling. However, a bakers’ strike in 1850 in Denmark changed that. Bakers from Vienna, Austria were brought to Denmark to fill the need for skilled bakers. The Austrian bakers used their knowledge of dough folding to create new types of pastries — kringle with fruits, nuts and other fillings was born! The O & H Bakery in Racine, Wisconsin, carries on that tradition with oval shaped kringle in flavors such as: almond filling with cherries, brandy, chocolate, cranberry, pecan, cream cheese and cinnamon.
I still recall fondly the Christmas stockings of my childhood, which traditionally held: an orange, an apple, whole walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, candy canes and other wrapped candies.
Reading Christmas short stories to groups is one of my new favorite traditions. Last year I read a story from one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas edition books at my son’s school Christmas party that I got from the library.
The story I chose was about prisoners creating ornaments out of the limited materials they had, and decorating a Christmas tree in the common area. The writer tells of how this effort brought him a measure of happiness during that difficult time in his life.
This year at their Christmas luncheon, I read to the members of the Alpha Delphians’ book club in Hominy. My short story selection was from the newly released Chicken Soup for the Soul book, A Book of Christmas Miracles. I recommend this book, the proceeds of which go to Toys for Tots.
My story selection was about a man who always gave up attendance at the church Candle Light Service on Christmas Eve, so that he could get the coffee and cookie time after the service prepared. One year he was unavailable and a young woman was asked to fill in for him. She was resentful at first, but found that giving in this way had several unexpected blessings.
After I read the short story, I tell my own experience of Christmas magic, which happened many years ago, while I was in college at the University of North Carolina, and working for a local family in Chapel Hill, N.C.; I met a sweet older gentleman at the family’s Christmas party.
The gentleman, who had a Dutch accent, told me of his family’s childhood tradition of Father Christmas knocking at the door after Christmas Eve supper and handing out candy and treats to the children. One year, during World War II, he said that the men were away at war and he wasn’t sure if the tradition would continue. After supper, there was a knock at the door and Father Christmas did appear. However, when he received his gift and candy, he thought he saw Tanta’s pearls under the Father Christmas’s beard.
Tanta means “aunt” in Dutch. Strangely enough, no one else at the party recalled seeing him and the family did not know who he might be. His identity remains a mystery, but nonetheless, telling this story (a story within a story) brightened my Christmas during a year when I would be unable to travel home to be with family, and retelling the story has become part of my own Christmas tradition.
I digress — back to Christmas traditions.
At the Dick Connors Correctional Facility in Hominy, Okla., the prisoners always create a float for the Hominy Christmas Parade, which often wins top prize.
I like the practice by one Hollywood couple, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, of doing puzzles at the dining room table while listening to books on audio. When I read this, I decided to add this to our family traditions at Christmas this year.
One of my neighborhood friends, Katrina Eash, does a Jesse Tree with her daughter to bring attention to the meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.
“A Jesse Tree is a decorative tree used during Advent to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’s birth. Since Advent is a season of waiting, a Jesse Tree will help to build joy and anticipation as you wait for Christmas,” according to https://www.myjessetree.com.
“Jesse Trees have three main parts: A tree, symbolic ornaments, and passages or scripture readings to go along with them….They are designed to lead children through the entire story of the Bible during Advent in a simple and fun way. They also introduce important religious concepts to children and show how key Bible stories connect to Jesus. Each day during advent, you will hang a new ornament on the tree and read a passage (https://www.myjessetree.com).”
According to Wikipedia, “the word “tradition” itself derives from the Latin tradere literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.
I hope that these examples inspire you to add to your existing Christmas traditions and I wish you blessings, peace, prosperity and health this Christmas season!