From Merriam-Webster’s website: Definition of TRADITION
- a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
- : the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
- : cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
- : characteristic manner, method, or style
Recent reads of Reclaiming Christmas, Radical Homemaker Style and Gimme, Gimme vs. Doing Good: Teaching Children to Give have me thinking about Christmas traditions, especially in our “consumer culture.” Growing up I loved Christmas. I have entire albums of music I know by heart and love to sing (unfortunately for Bruce these include the Star Wars Christmas album and the disc from John Denver and the Muppets). To me it doesn’t feel like Christmas without a tree, ornaments, and twinkly lights. And even though I’m now vegetarian and do soy instead of dairy, I’d be a bit sad without my holiday nog. While Bruce and I have done a more simple Christmas for a few years now (just exchanging a stocking’s full of gifts), we’ve never fully considered what Christmas means to us and what we want to be our holiday traditions. This year we are beginning that conversation.
What did I actually love about childhood Christmases?
While I do have the American appetite for stuff, I’ve realized that what made me most happy as a receiver at Christmas was being surprised to find what was under that colorful paper or in my stocking and getting something I’d really, really wanted (the Flash Gordon movie on VHS tape and the ‘wear it 5 ways’ winter coat that was white with bold-colored stripes). Being happy as a giver had to do with choosing something that I thought would bring the receiver joy. While I don’t remember many of the gifts I’ve actually given, I know that this spirit of pleasing another (be it a person or a pet 🙂 ) still gets me excited to shop, bake, or otherwise create a gift.
What is Christmas about?
Though my ego wants me to say otherwise, for me thinking of Christmas means the things I’ve mentioned above, plus calls with family, the Christmas Eve celebration at Jubilee!, and my birthday which follows three-days afterwards. I’m not certain, however, that this is the meaning I want it to continue to hold for me or to establish for Gracelyn. Thanksgiving, which has gained more of my appreciation since growing up, is obvious — being grateful for all the blessings in life AND taking time out to acknowledge these gifts. It seems that Christmas, therefore, is a chance to give back, an opportunity to tangibly give evidence of my gratitude by passing on blessings to others. While this gifting can be done in a consumerist way, I think that such thinking actually limits our creativity and may even corrupt the act of giving with other desires (to show how blessed we are to have lots of money, to base our worth on how much we can give, etc.). What I’ve recently shared with Bruce is the idea of widening our ways of giving, or rather balancing our giving with four categories of gifts: time, talent, trinkets, and tithing (While I know tithing has a specific definition, it was the only “t” word I could think of to describe giving in ways such as donations to charities or to those with whom you don’t have a personal connection.). For me, it seems this keeps the spirit of Christmas as a giving time while helping undo the strong consumer-Christmas connection.
This year I’ve come a bit late to the game to fully satisfy my new “criteria” for Christmas, relying mostly on trinkets though I have given gifts of time and talent and prepared my tithing. So, while this doesn’t cover all of the traditions we might set for the Lavender-Mulkey Christmas season, I look forward to letting these categories help guide us in the gifting part of our traditions in the year to come.
Merry Christmas Everyone!