I Married Ebeneezer: R. J. Larson

One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my family’s darkened living room and gazing up at our glowing Christmas tree, perfectly happy—no gifts needed. However, colorful heaps of Christmas gifts always marked my childhood holidays. My parents believed in observing our Savior’s birth and in making Christmas as festive as possible. We listened to Bible stories, baked enough treats for the entire neighborhood, and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas as we decorated the house. We sang in programs at church, ate far too much at family dinners, and reveled in being together. I grew up with the notion that everyone, everyone, loved to celebrate the holidays.

Fast-forward twenty years.

My husband and I celebrated our first Christmas together two months after our wedding. Actually, I did the celebrating. My sweet, adoring husband studied my Christmas list and my newly purchased Christmas ornaments intended for our tree, then said, “I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

Was he serious? I argued, “But your father owns a Christmas tree farm! And everyone at church is celebrating…”

“Christmas trees are a pagan custom from Germany, and my father is German,” my husband countered quietly. “Besides, the Lord was most likely born in the autumn, and I think the whole holiday is too commercialized, so face it: You’ve married Scrooge.”

I promptly nicknamed my husband Ebenezer, and I moped. How could I possibly celebrate the holidays and rejoice in our Savior’s birth with an Ebenezer brooding nearby? Admittedly, he was a seriously cute Ebenezer, but the Christmas tree tinsel lost some of its sparkle that year.

Plus, Ebenezer did have a point. Most of the traditions I’d loved as a kid had pagan origins. “So,” I muttered beneath my breath, “we’ll have to make up some new traditions.”

After our sons were born, I was careful to emphasize the spiritual core of the holiday season. We celebrated each year with a big family brunch where I served favorites like eggs and hash browns followed by German Rote Grutze—red fruits gently stewed with tapioca. Then we read Luke 2 aloud. We also sought opportunities to give and to work for charities, and encouraged our sons to do the same.

Our annual Rote Grutze.

Our annual Rote Grutze

Our older son—a true chip off the old Ebenezer block—upset some of his classmates and a few adults by loudly declaring that Santa was a lie. I supported the notion, but I allowed my dear Ebenezer to intercede on these angst-ridden occasions, and I admit to giggling more than once.

Our younger son relished the holidays and added his own traditions to our unconventional mix, including the popular movie A Christmas Story—a gift from my parents—which forced me to look up more German favorites to create the “Ralphie dinner” of meat loaf, red cabbage, and mashed potatoes. (My in-laws were thrilled.)

Ralphie would be proud.

Ralphie would be proud.

Dealing with gifts proved to be easier. Just as Charles Dickens’ Scrooge fretted over Tiny Tim, my own Ebenezer fretted over his sons lest they feel left out when it came to exchanging gifts. “Kids make Christmas fun,” he finally confessed one year, as we retrieved scraps of holiday wrapping paper from behind the couch.

This year, a new family member will be adding to our traditions. Our daughter-in-law insists that in addition to the Bible readings—which she loves—we must decorate. She and Ebenezer are currently negotiating on her Christmas plans.

Most likely, in a few years, grandkids will pay us Christmas visits, and I’m enjoying imagining…just imagining…how their soft-hearted grandpa will celebrate the Holy Days then.

Dear Eb’s a goner!

What aspect of Christmas celebration—or the build-up to the holiday—would you hate to go without?

Connect with R. J. on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

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11 thoughts on “I Married Ebeneezer: R. J. Larson

  1. Awww . . . I sympathize. We always had all the “jing-tinglers” and everything else the Grinch stole from Whoville, even as we celebrated Jesus’ birth. 😀

  2. Yes, that’s a great song! And a wonderful movie that really tells how the “stuff” isn’t that important. Too bad they didn’t say Who was! 🙂

  3. All the truly great, timeless Christmas specials have that moment…when they forget all the ‘pagan’ stuff and the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes. Or Linus reads Luke 2. If that’s missing the story ends up fading from memory.

  4. Wonderful story, RJ. Sounds like your “Eb” is coming around–and you’re right about those future grandkids. He’ll be putty LOL! One “pagan” tradition I’d really hate to give up is my Christmas stocking. All growing up, Santa would fill it with some amazing gifts; so when I married, I did the same for my family. Now my husband would rather barter all the presents under the tree than give up his stocking! 🙂

    • Kate, same here! Isn’t it funny? For years I wondered why my family was so excited about the stockings each year. It finally occurred to me that it’s because I fill the stockings with mysterious little surprises chosen specifically for each receiver–including treats that are only available during the HolyDays. Hurray!!!.

  5. I don’t want to be your downer ! I was raised this way since 11, I don’t feel we have missed anything. If anything, we don’t suffer the spending thousands on stuff that everyone would exchange after anyways. I would be interested in your DH’s spiritual upbringing. I I was raised Baptist. I whole heartedly believe in shunning all things pagan and am more in favor of biblical holy days. If you read history you will see that Christmas was not even allowed here in the united states, actually banned for alot of years up through the mid 1880s and it wasn’t made a holiday till later. I like festive decor, but I like it year round, not just for a few weeks. We do allow others to give the kids gifts but most of my family do not and thats ok. I want my kids to know that it is far better to give then to recieve. Being Christlike and serving others is more important to us then recieving things. Perhaps Eb shouldn’t be the gonner…. ? My grandkids know that we don’t and why. They don’t question it at all, but we have good times and good food when together. Its about family and making memories, but those memories are about love and being family, not about Christmas for Christ and the Mass have nothing to do with eachother !

    Blessings to your and your wonderful husband
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books
    http://www.faithfulacresbooks.wordpress.com
    faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

    • Hi, Linda! Love and blessings to you! DH and I weren’t raised Baptist, but we began attending a Baptist church a few years after our marriage–we were young believers when we first married, which added to my own spiritual sifting process. In addition, his father was an atheist who raised Christmas Trees, which is another story altogether, with an AMAZING finish that brings me to happy tears whenever I think of my FIL.

      I want to reassure you that this post actually deals with my own growth and approach to the HolyDays. The point was that I do agree with my DH, and I have cut waaaaaaaay back on the frills and gifts, and we have discussed matters over the years and created our own traditions. I assure you that “Eb is a goner” refers only to his potential relationship with future grandkids–he is so tenderhearted! (Another reason I love him, of course.)

  6. That “Scrooge” complex sounds very familiar. I have my own, but the Lord has changed his heart on a few things. We do gifts now (though not extravagant and over-the-top), and we have created some of our own traditions to accomodate our family’s diversity. I decorate but we don’t do tree and lights. But there is garland and sparkly things, and stars and navity sets and such littering our knobs, buffets, and railings. I needed to do something. The fact that we live in another country also changes some of what I am used to from the states… Sigh…

  7. Celita, it sounds as if your locale has also compelled you to create your own traditions with your family. I love that–it gives us the chance to talk over our beliefs with the kids as they’re growing up. By the way, I love our nativity sets, but found that the glittering stars carry static electricity in our climate and zap us whenever we touch them! LOL!

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