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What is Christmas all about? Family traditions and religion


Read ‘The birth of Jesus was like this’ here

Read ‘Silent night holy night’ here

What is Christmas all about?

My family traditions and
religion during Christmas

I have a confession to make. I used to dread the ‘Holy Season.’
Not any more. I tell you what happened.

I was born in Australia and grew up in Europe. My dad was brought up as a Catholic and my Mum grew up a Protestant.

In Holland, we celebrated ‘Sinterklaas’ on the 5th of December.

Sinterklaas still is, all these years later, represented by an old man with a long white beard and a large red cloak. During my childhood, he arrived by boat and after this, he drove through our village streets on his white horse accompanied by his helpers, ‘de Zwarte pieten.’

Good children were rewarded with treats and gifts. Naughty children risked being put in ‘the bag’ by Santa’s helpers and taken back to Spain. Sinterklaas’ helpers looked black because of the soot they collected as they navigated chimneys with their load of gifts, to deliver goodies to the well-behaved children.

Thanks, Mum!

Scary stuff. My Mum didn’t like her children to be intimidated by imaginary strangers. Therefore she told us, kids, that Sinterklaas was fake and she would make sure that we received as many presents as the other children did.

Lotsa brownie points for my Mum there. She lost a fair amount of leverage throughout the year, I’m sure; not being able to threaten us with Zwarte Piet’s ‘bag.’ But whatever leverage she lost, she more than regained in respect for being a truthful parent who treated her children with thoughtful kindness.

I’m pretty sure that my siblings and I were the only children in our school who didn’t believe in Sinterklaas.

On the fifth of December we received lots of gifts and on the 25th of December, we celebrated Jesus’ birthday with a real Christmas tree with real candles. The tree was placed next to a nativity scene and all kinds of yummy foods that my Mum prepared according to Dutch tradition.

Thanks, Mum, for your honesty and truthfulness.  

Santa Claus

In my early twenties, I moved back to my country of birth, Australia, where I married an Englishman. He had never heard of Sinterklaas but couldn’t wait to introduce me to Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas in his home country.

I’ve since discovered that both Sinterklaas and Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas (a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra). Different cultures, different names but the principles are the same. Lotsa gifts for good kids and naughty children… beware!

As a child, I cherished the celebrations surrounding Sinterklaas and Christmas. That whole end-of-year season was filled with fun and holiness, as far as I was concerned.

As a Mum with little children, I didn’t enjoy Christmas so much. I remember the Christmas period and weeks leading up to it as frantic and filled with too much cleaning, too much cooking, too many presents, and way too large a credit card bill!

Holy Season?

I started to dread the ‘Holy Season.’ 

After my health crumbled I wasn’t able to get out and buy a Christmas tree and presents etc and, after discussion, my teenage children and I agreed to stop celebrating Christmas.

This did not go down well with family. We were disowned by some and ignored by others.

Served us right. Because when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

By now I had started to read the Bible in earnest and couldn’t find Christmas in the Bible. Sure I found Jesus’ birth recorded but no date, nor an invite to celebrate. Does this matter at all?

In addition, I found Jesus’ Father rebuking people having parties around a tree, eating pork and such delicacies. He called them a stench up his nose.

In the context of various cultures celebrating the birth of Jesus the best we know how to… I don’t think it matters that much what day Jesus was born or how we celebrate His birth.

In the context of how Jesus said He would like to be remembered. It matters… to me. He did not ask us to remember the day he was born by giving gifts to each other. But at the Passover, he asked us to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him.

This do in remembrance of me

Before he was crucified Jesus took the cup and gave thanks. He also took bread, blessed it, and brake it, and gave unto his disciples, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. In the same way, he took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

What is Christmas all about? And he took the bread... do this to remember me

What is Christmas all about? And he took the bread… do this to remember me

Did Jesus ask us to remember Him only at the weekly Holy Communion, as instituted by churches, or at the yearly Feast of the Passover or Easter or did He ask us to remember Him every time we eat bread and drink wine?

I gave it some thought and cannot think of any good reason why I wouldn’t want to remember Jesus several times a day in the way that He asked me to.

I leave it up to you to decide for yourself how often you would like to remember Jesus.

And that is exactly the point of this post.

Honour everyone’s traditions

With this post, I want to honour everyone’s traditions whatever they may be according to their culture and religion.

Who am I to tell anyone how to celebrate Christmas or any other religious feast?

I grew up celebrating Sinterklaas and Christmas. In my twenties, I married into a different culture which saw me adopt the Santa Claus tradition. After this, my girls and I for various reasons weren’t able to celebrate Christmas the way we knew how to, which was a mix of Dutch, English, Australian and religious celebrations and traditions.

After much reflection and a decade of inactivity in that regard, we now invite friends and family over to hang out during the holidays, and we remember Jesus how He told us that He would like to be remembered.

Part of my family rejected me when for various reasons I decided that my children and I wouldn’t celebrate Christmas any longer in the traditional way. The traditional way in my case had been excessive and decadent. And I was, and still am very happy to leave this self-indulgent behaviour behind.

When in Rome do as the Romans do? I stopped mixing with Romans because I couldn’t keep up with the requirements.

Honour and remember Jesus

Above all, more than honouring my family, friends or tradition I want to honour my Saviour and love of my life, Jesus. I want to do what He asked me to do in remembrance of Him.

Therefore, at lunch, I proposed a toast and said,

This toast is to our guest of honour, Yeshua. Even though no-one knows the date of his birth, today His name and birthday are celebrated all over the world.

Yeshua (meaning Saviour), also known as Jesus asked us to remember every time we break bread and drink wine, that His body was broken and His blood was shed on our behalf.

It is because of Yeshua’s sacrifice that we may live. He shows us the way.

Praise The Lord

Amen

On Christmas especially, I remember why His body was broken and how His blood was shed to atone for our sins.

Thank you, Jesus.

Read ‘The birth of Jesus was like this’ here

Read ‘Silent night holy night’ here

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