“A Non-traditional Traditional Christmas”
by Tamar Hela
Okay, don’t freak out, but I really abhor the majority of holiday traditions—at least those made up by the retail industry to get us to indulge in ourselves. For example, I’m not big on Thanksgiving food. I know, cardinal sin right? My ideal Thanksgiving meal would actually be all the best quality meat I could find, cooked to perfection and chopped into bite sized pieces in order to dip into the made-from-scratch cheese fondue I would have bubbling on the table. And I’d have some vegetables to dip too—can’t forget that.
I become very agitated with Black Friday and even Cyber Monday. Do we need to buy all those “goodies”? I mean, does Mom really need another food processor? Would Aunt Mable truly appreciate that quilted leather jacket just because it was half off? And will Grandma’s garden look better with all those plastic gnomes? Maybe I sound like the Grinch, but when I hear stories of how people are held at gunpoint outside Best Buy on Black Friday and are told to give up that new PlayStation they bought, it brings a great feeling of anger to my spirit. Is this where “tradition” has brought us?
I get the whole décor bit for Christmas time and other holidays too, but honestly, I don’t think we need to have a winter wonderland in Macy’s in October. What ever happened to enjoying each season for what it is? What is the reason or meaning behind what many of us repeat thoughtlessly year after year? What is the meaning of Christmas?
Growing up, we didn’t always have the endless stream of presents that each child dreams of, but we always had enough—more than enough, actually. There were years that Christmastime may have appeared sparse to other onlookers, but I never knew the difference. My mom made sure that Christmas was special for my sister and I. One particular tradition comes to mind when I think of my childhood Christmases. There were these yummy coconut ice cream cake things that Mom would purchase. I think they came four in a box. When we were close to Christmas Eve—perhaps during our break from school—Mom would pop one out for each of us and place a candle in the middle. She then lit the candles, turned off the lights in the kitchen and we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. We’d blow out our candles and eat our little cakes while Mom reminded us of the meaning and reason behind Christmas—the birth of Christ. See, she wanted to make sure that we never forgot why we celebrated the season. This tradition my mom carried on for quite a few years has stuck with me because it made a huge impact on my life—an impact that helped my perspective stay true to the real meaning of the holiday.
Something else Mom would do with us, which I’m sure many people still participate in, was drive us around for an hour or so to see Christmas lights at night. We would try to find the BEST house and made our votes for the top candidates. Just spending that time together was magical. We didn’t receive anything tangible but instead had one of the most precious commodities anyone could want—TIME. Having our mom spend time with us was the best gift I could have received. I believe there really is no price you can place on time spent with loved ones. Sometimes giving of yourself is the most lasting gift you can give to anyone. Out of the many gifts I’ve received over the years, the ones that I still “have” are gifts of time—presence—from loved ones. I probably have about five actual presents from past Christmases and the rest are forever forgotten. But I will never forget the time my family has spent together over the years.
One more tradition that comes to mind is that of gingerbread house building with my sister and one of our close family friends. For about ten years now, a tradition we’ve kept up is building houses from scratch. Some years, they’ve turned out pretty sketchy…
Other years, they’ve turned out great!
The point is: we do this to spend time together—again, the whole presence theme. So ask yourself, what does Christmas mean for you? Is it a stressful time where you bust your budget to get things that your receiver is going to sell on eBay December 26th, or is it a peaceful time where you get a chance to spend time with loved ones and pour into their lives? Are you rushing around, ignoring the people right in front of you just to impress guests or are you present in the moment? This Christmas, I encourage you to take a non-traditional approach and do something different.
What if you chose to skip out on presents this year and donated money to those less fortunate? What if you cancelled that Christmas Eve extravaganza at your house and instead took your family driving around town to find the best lit house? Happiness doesn’t have to cost a lot of money but it will cost you something—time. Taking the time to remember the meaning of Christmas and pressing pause on your busy, hectic life to enjoy what you already have is something that will never go out of fashion. So have a very merry, non-traditional traditional Christmas!
Tamar Hela is an aspiring author in the process of completing her first teen fantasy novel, Feast Island. Her book is the first in a series of eight and is about seven teenagers who are transported to a parallel universe where they must save the inhabitants of the planet Cantelia from an evil and oppressive ruler.
Tamar lives with her family in California and currently teaches junior high Bible classes. Stay tuned for announcements on her nearly finished novel and public debut in the social media world. For now, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.