Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 6

Separating the Celebrations
We felt more peaceful and better rested than in previous years, but struggled to keep our celebration simple. I began reading about Christmas traditions around the world. I found that lavish gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day were the exception, not the rule. If gifts were part of the tradition, they were more often given on St. Nicholas Day (December 6) or Epiphany (January 6). In most countries, the gifts were small and simple, and most often only for children. I thought moving our gift-giving day to Epiphany would only extend a season that was already getting too long, so we looked up St. Nicholas Day traditions.

The American Santa Claus comes from the Dutch name for St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaus. St. Nicholas, noted for his generosity, was bishop of Myra. He was made patron saint of sailors and children. In Holland, the bishop or his representative, dressed in the red robes of a bishop, arrives by boat on St. Nicholas Day and quizzes the children on their catechism. Those who do well are given a small toy or a snack.

We decided to move our gift giving to St. Nicholas Day. Even if we put off shopping until the last minute, we were ahead of the crowds. All through December, people would ask the boys, “What is Santa Claus bringing you this Christmas?” and they would say, “Santa Claus already came to our house.” We found that having our gift shopping and giving done, and our activities narrowed down to those we found most meaningful and important, we were able to relax and enjoy the rest of December more.

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Blogger lebelinoz said...

St Nicholas day is also a tradition in some parts of France. I think it's a great idea: do you think it will catch on in your community?

Another French tradition (and also very French-Canadian) is to have the biggest celebrations the night before. The big meal, the big church celebration and the opening of the gifts starts Christmas eve and goes on long into the night. Christmas day is all about lounging around the house, snacking on leftovers and brunchy things. A bit like a big hangover day.

December 4, 2010 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Actually, I'm hoping it doesn't catch on. Part of the benefit to our family is opting out of many of the excesses of the season. If it caught on, kids would start expecting gifts on BOTH holidays, and retailers would start gearing up even earlier.

As for a big celebration Christmas eve, I fear it would turn out like the year we tried midnight Mass. On Christmas day, the kids were grouchy and the parents had headaches. Kind of like a hangover the morning after, but without the drinking the night before.

December 4, 2010 at 5:17 PM  

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