Thursday, December 01, 2011




a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
: characteristic manner, method, or style

    There are many things that families do together each year that make Christmas seem like Christmas to them.  You probably have some simple (or complicated) things that happen annually in your home. These customs and habits play a large role in creating your family's Christmas norm.

    After we left Minnesota we found the Caribbean a difficult place to spend Christmas.  It was not that we didn't want to be here; simply that it felt like every other 80 degree day and the weather played into what Christmas meant for us.  In addition to the issue of weather we had a hard time recreating things here.  Some parts of our traditions had to do with people.  Those people were 3,000 miles away.  Some portions had to do with food.  Those foods weren't readily available.  Some things had to do with shopping and wrapping and gift giving and receiving.  We lived in rural Haiti and the options for shopping were nil. A portion of our difficulty recreating a familiar Christmas had to do with our church and candlelight services; singing familiar Christmas songs in English...  Christmas meant twinkling lights and gorgeous decorations ... If you're tracking with me at all, you know that those things weren't easily reproduced in Haiti.

    Due to this forced break in tradition we were able to look deeper at why Christmas is a special time of year. We realized that much of what was special and important to us had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.  We were missing the point somewhat.  We don't think there is anything wrong with traditions.  As a matter of fact we still miss some of them. It was, however, a good chance to refocus on the gift God sent. We had an opportunity to redefine Christmas and to be intentional about making it less commercialized and more meaningful.

    After our first full year and Christmas in Haiti, we needed to spend the next one in the USA.  Because our lives were in transition and turmoil that Christmas (due to having delivered Lydia and preparing to send Britt to college and sell our house), we again faced many challenges trying to create any sort of ritual or tradition.  In an effort to do something the would feel Christmas-like I asked the kids if they wanted to try to memorize some scripture. I tried unsuccessfully to teach them large portions of the book of Luke.

    That year (2007) a new tradition was born entirely by accident.  I grabbed the video camera and had the kids say the parts of scripture that they could and I begged Troy to toss the clips together to share with friends near and far. We laughed at how silly it was but also loved the simplicity of the message our kids mostly managed to share.

    Since then, making the annual video is a part of our Christmas tradition. Even though Britt left to start her grown-up life after the first year, she and Chris have been a part of each year's production, even sending us their video assignments from Texas.

    The point of the production is to direct our kids to truth. We laugh and mock ourselves and our culture and sing and create and worship and act and plan all to remind ourselves of what Christ's coming really means.

    We have not been able to replace some of our pre-Haiti traditions but we're trying to create new ones for our tribe while being ever wary to attempt to make our relationship with the (newborn) King a much larger part of Christmas than the rituals of Christmas that we create.

    We're enjoying putting together the 5th Annual Christmas production (slowly, ever so slowly) ... Until it is finished we'll be posting past productions for posterity's sake.  (Which incidentally is a blog tradition along with re-posting many December posts every year.)

    Gather round, ye children 

    by Andrew Peterson

    Gather round, ye children, come
    Listen to the old, old story
    Of the pow'r of death undone
    By an infant born of glory
    Son of God, Son of Man
    Gather round, remember now
    How creation held its breath
    How it let out a sigh
    And it filled up the sky with the angels
    Son of God, Son of Man