This is my tradition, tell me yours
I don’t feel comfortable at this time of year unless there is a Nativity scene, at least one advent calendar, and the star is the last decoration to go on the Christmas tree. It’s a throwback to growing up, which is strange since I don’t remember us having a proper Nativity scene until my teens, nor a star until I was about 17 or so (we had an angel instead on top of the tree).
We speak of traditions at this time of year; everyone has them. Some come from your parents, which may in turn have come from their parents. Some are of your own making.
From my childhood I carry the tradition of having a Nativity scene in the house. One of very few vestiges of my Catholic upbringing that still effects a powerful hold on me. As a Quaker each day should be no more nor less holy than the next, and so there is nothing “special” per se about Christmas. But I’m Western, and so culturally it is special, regardless. And so Christmas doesn’t feel right without the manger scene.
I also have to have a Christmas stocking, with gold foil wrapped chocolate coins. Our Christmas stockings were more like large, plastic sacks shaped like an overgrown sock, but they were always there at the foot of the bed on Christmas morning, filled with small, fun gifts, and the chocolate coins (best eaten before breakfast) tucked in at the bottom. Even now, mum and dad post a bag of chocolate coins to me in advance of Christmas morning to place in my stocking.
Since I moved to London and got married, my wife and I have started to make some traditions of our own. We’ve avoided the traditional “argument of the lights” by getting a pre-lit Christmas tree. But we have our tradition of decorating the tree to Christmas music, specifically The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. On Christmas Eve I read A Visit From St Nicholas (aka The Night Before Christmas) to my wife, because her mum used to read it to her every year on Christmas Eve. Breakfast on Christmas morning consists of hot buttered croissants, smoked salmon, and sparkling white wine.
Tradition keeps us in touch with our past; our personal past, our family history, and our wider cultural heritage. In Britain, some traditions are dying out; wassailing, Yule logs, sixpences in the Christmas pudding, everyone stopping for the Queen’s speech. But then we forget that some traditions aren’t as old as we think. Turkey at Christmas (at least in the UK) is a relatively recent interloper from across the Atlantic. Goose is far more traditional. The Queen’s speech has only been going on for 50 years or so. Others are borrowed traditions from other, older festivals. Some are confused and contradictory (is Santa Claus in his red suit an invention of Coca Cola, or a corruption of Sinter Klaus, his red suit an inverted hide, red with blood?).
However you celebrate this time of year, be it for religious, spiritual, cultural or familial reasons, I hope you have a joyous and happy time, filled with love, laughter, friendship and surrounded by family. I hope your traditions help to forge deep bonds with those closest to you.
And I hope you’ll share some of your traditions with us in the comments.
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”