Written by Beth Corcoran, Contributing Writer
It is finally Christmas time again! Oh how I love this time of year! I love the sights and smells and the time with family. I love how people seem more neighborly at Christmas, and I love to see how my little ones’ eyes light up when they see Christmas lights.
But one thing my husband and I have grown increasingly aware of over the past few years is that our love for Christmas traditions should pale in comparison to our love for the Reason for Christmas—Jesus Christ.
I have seen many good ways to add meaningful worship into our Christmas traditions. The Jesse Tree is a great example of this. However, our family became convicted that we needed to evaluate the worth of traditions we currently had in place before we added new ones. It has, undoubtedly, been a very interesting journey for us. I’d like to share some of what we have learned. (Disclaimer: I’d like to note that this is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather just a description of what we have done. It is meant only as encouragement and edification.)
We want to intentionally point all of our Christmas celebration to Christ, and not to worldy traditions with no value.
Our journey began with a homeschooling assignment. My children love to make lapbooks, and when I saw an offer for a free Christmas lapbook, I jumped on it. The purpose of the lapbook was to learn the history behind many different Christmas symbols and traditions and to document them for future reference.
However, in preparing the lessons, I gained a new awareness of just how many of our common Christmas traditions were deeply rooted in paganism. (By paganism, I am referring to pagan cultures—mainly the Druids and Celts.)
After much thought and prayer, my husband and I decided to move forward with the lapbook assignment, but to tweak it a bit. As our family discussed each tradition or symbol of Christmas, our kids were to evaluate them and put them into one of three categories. The traditions could be classified as being rooted in Christianity, as being rooted in paganism but redeemable, or as being rooted in paganism and not redeemable.
You may be wondering at this point what I mean by redeemable. The word “redeem” stirs my soul like no other word. It means to buy back or to give value to something previously worthless.
It was God’s plan for redemptive sacrifice that makes Christmas worth celebrating. What a lovely word!! When I refer to a Christmas symbol as being redeemable, I am meaning that it came out of pagan celebrations, but it can be “bought back” by Christians to make it point to Christ.
Photo credit vl8189
How to Evaluate a Tradition
I was amazed at how our family pursued learning about Christmas traditions with such vigor. My children, though small, were able to firmly grasp whether something was worthless or could point to the Lord. Let me give you a few examples.
Many Christmas traditions have a deeply Christian and biblical background.
A great example of a Christmas symbol that has roots in Christianity is the candy cane. Its colors, shape and flavor are great ways to share Christ at Christmas. If you are unfamiliar with the story of the candy cane, there are many great resources. Click here for a cute children’s book about the candy cane.
Many, if not most of the Christmas symbols, for us, have fallen into the “pagan but redeemable” category.
This just means that we have to create a new meaning for them as we explain them to others. A great example of this is the Christmas tree. The use of the Christmas tree started in Druid ceremonies. But now we can use this evergreen to point to the everlasting nature of Christ. The triangular shape of the tree also reminds us of the Trinity. We think of Jesus at Christmas, but really all three persons of the Trinity were intimately involved. Other examples of “redeemable” symbols for us have included items such as stockings and ornaments.
The last category included symbols that were rooted in pagan rituals and really had never been adapted to point to Christ.
We were amazed to find how many of these things we had incorporated into our home at Christmas without even thinking about it. Now that we are thinking intentionally about Christmas, we have eliminated these symbols and traditions from our home. A great example for us is mistletoe. Who doesn’t love a good kiss as they enter the house?! But we learned that mistletoe had been a symbol of fertility in pagan worship and kissing under the mistletoe was a Celtic tradition. Hanging mistletoe in the entryway of the home came from the belief that it warded off evil spirits. Honestly, our family couldn’t really find a way to make this fit with our worship of Jesus, so we eliminated it.
I won’t lie. Sometimes purging some of our traditions has been a bit sad because we had fond memories from childhood. Sometimes, however, we haven’t even noticed something was missing in our home (like the mistletoe!). But it has been so freeing for us to evaluate our beliefs and traditions at Christmas, rather than blindly conforming to the world.
We were amazed at how many traditions we followed just because that’s what our parents had done. But when asking our parents why they did them, they didn’t know either. What freedom comes from being intentional with our worship and celebration! You may choose to categorize traditions differently than we did. That's fine! Really, in the end, it all comes down to bringing God the most glory possible.
Have you ever intentionally thought through your Christmas celebration? What have you done to redeem your traditions?
**This was originally posted on Nov.30, 2010. I think it's such a wonderful post for helping us to be intentional as we examine and plan for our family's Christmas traditions. The season gets to busy, so this is a perfect time to consider how your family will celebrate Christ's birth this year!**