Christmas has always been a magical time of year for me. When I was a child, we had quite a few traditions, and when I married Nora, we came together as one and chose the traditions that we would have for our family. There were some traditions that shaped my childhood that I wanted to continue, and some that she wanted to continue. For example, I always loved the idea of waking up Christmas morning and opening up Christmas gifts as a family. We would get up, often before the break of dawn, and would sit at the top of the stairs dressed in our Christmas pajamas, waiting impatiently for our parents to get the fire place started, turn the Christmas tree on and give us the “go signal”. To this day I think they went extra slow, just to heighten the anticipation. Mission accomplished. Nora loved having a family dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by the candle light service late at night and the singing of Christmas carols. The traditions our family has shared over the years are ones that we cherish to this day. It is our favorite time of year.

Our children are growing up and are slowly starting to leave the nest. It saddens me a bit, but I also know that they must grow up and start their own traditions. I’m sure some of our traditions will be a part of their family, but I also know they will have some new exciting traditions that will shape their family for years to come.

As Christmas approaches this year, I begin to think of my fellow believers around the world and wonder what traditions have shaped their Christmas celebrations. After doing some research, here are a few that caught my attention.

Many Canadian families have cookie-baking parties. They bring a cookie recipe and then come together to bake them and then everyone takes home some of each to enjoy. Also, Nova Scotia sends their biggest, best Christmas pine tree to Boston because of the assistance given from the Boston Red Cross and Massachusetts Public Safety Committee during the 1917 Halifax Explosion.

In Spain, after the midnight service on Christmas Eve, people walk through the streets carrying torches, playing guitars and beating drums. One Spanish saying for this time is “Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleeping!”

Christmas is the most important tradition in the Philippines. The playing of Christmas carols can often start in September, with the celebration continuing until the first Sunday in January when the Epiphany (Feast of the Three Kings) is celebrated. On Christmas Eve, many will go to church in the evening, followed by a midnight feast called the Noche Buena that will last all through the night.

In Russia, some people fast on Christmas Eve until the first star has appeared in the sky. This is followed by eating of “sochivo” or “kutia”, which is a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, fruit, chopped walnuts and sometimes fruit jellies. Kutia is often eaten from one common bowl to symbolize unity.

One of the most popular ways of celebrating in Italy is the Nativity crib scene. The crib scene was made popular by St Francis of Assisi and is used to help tell the Christmas story. Traditionally, the crib scene is put out on December 8th, but baby Jesus isn’t put into the crib until Christmas Eve.

The many different traditions go on and on, but the important message we can take from all of them is that they are all meant to celebrate the greatest gift, that we didn’t deserve. God gave His one, and only, Son so that he could come and ultimately die for OUR sins. So however you celebrate this magical time of year, I pray it is filled with much love and joy. Yes, there are loved ones that have gone ahead of us, and it can make our hearts ache, but because Jesus was born, we can celebrate knowing that we will see our loved ones again someday.

What are your Christmas traditions? I would love to hear what shapes your Christmas celebration.