I (David) was asked to speak this past week about the meaning of Christmas at an English club. I got to talk about my family’s traditions around the holiday season and about what I believe Christmas means for all of us. I started out with talking about how I’m from Texas, which is only one of fifty states. There are so many different Christmas traditions in the U.S. (talk about yours in the comments below!), that I couldn’t begin to expound on all of them, much less pretend to be a representative of what “most Americans do” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.
I don’t think that our family’s traditions were much different, though, than what you see in movies about American family Christmases. We had stockings on the mantle (which we opened on Christmas Eve), presents around a tree, drove around singing Christmas carols while looking at lit-up houses (are we the only ones that did that?), and had a big meal on Christmas Eve / Day, depending on when the family could all be over.
One of my family’s old traditions centered around eggnog (or “egg nog”, if you like). We weren’t allowed to even open the bottle of eggnog until Thanksgiving Day, which was really, really hard for me, because the mighty nog was my favorite drink growing up. I could down a half-gallon in a day or two. Thanksgiving was also the official start of the Christmas season. We didn’t go “black Friday” shopping every year, though. I don’t think many of us enjoyed that too much.
I also got to share about why we give gifts on Christmas. It’s not just an “eating holiday” or a “seeing family holiday”. Why? Because God first gave us a gift: Jesus. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us. I shared about how we normally read from Luke about the nativity or another passage.
Since moving here to Ukraine, it’s been harder to keep up some of those traditions. Things like that are meant to be done with other people that also sense the meaning of the traditions. I do enjoy my in-law’s traditions, but there is a sense of “I’m not home” sometimes during the holidays. I miss riding around singing carols, seeing the extended family, rushing downstairs on Christmas morning only to be told that mom and dad hadn’t gotten up yet and that we needed to wait to open all of the presents.
I’m still able to have my eggnog, though! I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com that does the trick. I don’t put the rum in, but I keep everything else pretty much according to the recipe, adding a little more cream, because I like it thick!
Here’s a link to the recipe. It’s called “Amazingly Good Eggnog”, which is a fitting title, I think. I have some chilling in the refrigerator right now, waiting for us to share it with our friends at our youth group new year celebration tomorrow.
So, what does Christmas mean for you? What odd and interesting traditions do you have?
(Here are some pictures of us on Christmas!)