We will keep traditions on Christ

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 17, 2010

Normally this time of year I expect a mailbox filled with pictures of families dressed in their holiday finery and Christmas cards accented with glitter and messages of holiday cheer. While I have received a few of these holiday greetings this week, the majority of my mail has been in response to last week’s column.

A column lamenting the commercialization of Christmas has obviously a struck a chord with many readers. Both of my mailboxes — snail mail and e-mail — have been inundated with responses to my writing. Surprisingly, the response has been a mixed bag.

“You have earned the name of Scrooge this Christmas!” one writer penned. The letter came with a Elves: North Pole Extension, Natchez 39120 return address and grievously questioned how I could deprive my son of the wonders of Christmas that Santa Claus embodies.

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That same day, another person felt compelled to send a poem that he wrote in 1981 expressing his own feelings about the season.

“It’s time for Santa, Frosty and Rudolph to step out of sight,

And once again tell our children, the true meaning of Silent Night,” the poet wrote back then.

Many other people have stopped me on the street or in my office to share their own frustrations with the holiday.

Dealing with the stress while still observing a meaningful Christmas seems to be a struggle for many families.

Of all of the responses to my column this week, I have enjoyed most listening to how each family has found its own way of performing this delicate balancing act between Santa Claus and Christ.

For example, one reader used to tuck an heirloom ornament deep inside the Christmas tree each year for her children to find. The child who found the ornament received a special gift — a cross or other religious gift.

As she described this family tradition, I wondered if finding this ornament amid the brightly colored lights and glittery ornaments was a little like trying to stay focused on the real meaning of the holiday amid the seasonal stress.

Before they were grown, the children in this same family also chose one of their still-wrapped gifts to give to a local child in need each year. Not knowing what was inside, the children carefully shook each gift before making their final decision.

The reader said it taught her children that Christmas was about more than getting gifts from Santa Claus. It taught them the importance of giving, too.

One other reader mentioned that her child receives only three gifts from Santa Claus each year.

“Because that is how many gifts Jesus received from the wise men,” she said.

This tradition not only turns the focus back to the Nativity, it also keeps the gift giving from getting out of hand, this reader pointed out.

As a new parent beginning to form new holiday traditions with his 18-month-old son, I too am searching for ways to observe the Christmas season.

I recall staring with awe at the stained glass Nativity my dad made that took center stage in my grandmother’s living room. I remember watching him make each individual piece — Mary, Joseph, the baby and all.

I remember the thrill of finding images of the Christmas story behind each one of the little doors in our family advent calendar.

What traditions will our family start this year? I am not sure.

One thing is certain, however. It will not focus on the wonders of Christmas that are embodied in Santa Claus, but in the miracles of the season God provided.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540.