Here we are, almost a week into Advent, and nostalgia is all around us. Everywhere we look, we see things that remind us of Christmases past and memories from years ago. Something in our spirits longs for that which is steadfast and familiar. We love nostalgia. We love to remember the moments that stirred our childhood hearts to wonder and dream.
Some of my favorite traditions at Christmastime include hunting for a Christmas tree with family, baking cookies, opening presents with family on Christmas Eve, trips to Maine, decorating gingerbread houses, the candlelight Christmas Eve service at church, my Dad’s German sauerbraten with spaetzles, and the polish bread he bakes that was my Grandmom’s recipe. Watching the Hallmark movie, The Christmas Card, with my mom has become a recent tradition. Now that Jamie and I have our own family, we are figuring out some of our own traditions that we want to pass on to Joey. Filling a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child is one that we love. We also enjoy going "all out" in decorating Christmas cookies together- sure, we're not competitive at all! Of course as a musician, any chance I get to whip out my Christmas Carols binder is an opportunity to embrace tradition and let the spirit of Christmas fill the air with beautiful tunes from the past. We also are beginning to enjoy the Christmas cheer here in our town- the tree lighting, parade, and all the festivities. One of my favorite traditions is actually the little paper advent calendar my aunt and uncle from Indiana gave me when I was a baby girl. I get it out every year and open the little paper doors- it just feels magical, as if I were a little child again.
Today I got to talk with my parents about their favorite traditions and memories from Christmas back in their childhood...My Dad said he loved Christmas breakfast every year- they had to wait to open their presents until after breakfast, but he so enjoyed the feast his Mom prepared. He also described in detail some fried Polish cookies called kruschikis that his Mom baked every year. I enjoyed hearing him explain how they went to bed early every Christmas eve, because that was the night when all the magic happened- his parents would put up the Christmas tree and all the decorations, and also put all the toys together. He reminisced about Christmas Day and the countless friends and family who would stop by and visit- people would be in and out all day long in their cozy city home. My mom's favorite memories included when her dad and brother would put up all the lights outside. She also remembered shopping for presents at nighttime, how she thought that was so special, especially when they lived in a small town. One of her absolute favorite traditions was Christmas caroling through the neighborhood- adults and children all together spreading good cheer to everyone.
Why do I write about all these traditions? Because they are so vital to who we are. God makes us with hearts to appreciate moments, to treasure memories, to want to capture experiences and keep them going. There is a longing in each of our hearts to share special times with those we love. During the holiday season, as we prepare for Christmas, there is no greater time to share traditions, keep the memories alive, and recall Christmas joy from years past. I had such a great time today talking with my parents and hearing their stories from childhood, as well as recalling favorite moments from my childhood. It makes me think of how I want to make this time of year special for my son. I encourage you to ask your parents, grandparents, other family or friends what their favorite Christmas traditions have been, and to reflect upon your own. Then be intentional about incorporating traditions this year, as well as treasuring the little moments.
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.