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 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.)
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?
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