“What is your favorite holiday tradition?”
Whenever I am asked that common question of the season, I think of plenty of family traditions and it is difficult to pick a favorite. Every year, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, my family and I go to pick out our Christmas tree. My sister and I decorate the tree with ornaments from as far back as our mom’s first grade art project. On Christmas Eve, my dad’s side of the family goes to my grandmother’s house to exchange presents before we all head over to Vesperal Liturgy together. On Christmas Day, both my mom and dad’s sides of the family come over to our house for dinner and a gift exchange. There are a lot of traditions to choose from.
As I analyze the question, “What is your favorite holiday tradition?” I feel quite foolish for coming up with a list of traditions that have very little to do with what Christmas is all about. There is no doubt that the American society has built Christmas on consumerism and ‘the season of giving.’ The American lifestyle has funneled our mentality to focus on shopping, Christmas music, and snow. But as an Orthodox Christian I ask myself,
What if the malls were closed before Christmas? What if the Christmas radio station decided to not play Christmas music this year? What if we didn’t have a white Christmas? Isn’t there something more?
Indeed there is. Recently, I learned about the ultimate Christmas Tradition, which is the genealogy of Christ from Matthew 1:1-17. What does that have to do with anything? Glad you asked. Christmas, despite what our society believes, is solely based on one thing: God became man. Jesus Christ was born into forty-two generations of sin. He bridged together the Old and New Testaments and invited both Jews and Gentiles to partake in His Father’s Kingdom. He was given life so that He could give us life.
For the average American college student like myself, that is a lot to try to understand. So I broke it down like this:
In regards to Christmas, there is “tradition” and there is “Tradition.” I have been so used to practicing all the “traditions” like decorating the tree or hanging up stockings that I have almost completely neglected the true “Tradition.” The way that I see things, there are two ways to approach the Christmas season. I can treat it like a piece of dark chocolate, or I can treat it like a candy cane.
Almost everybody likes Hershey’s dark chocolate Kisses simply because they taste really good. The bad thing about Hersey’s, though, is that it does not last long. Similarly, the “traditions” are fun and make you feel good, but there is not much depth or longevity to them. On the other hand, candy canes have a stronger taste to them and it takes a while to eat them. You can take your time to eat a candy cane, or you can chew through it quickly without taking time to fully enjoy it. Like candy canes, the “Tradition” has a strong initial impression that takes more time to understand and get used to.
Dark chocolate and candy canes both taste good and there is nothing wrong with them. At least for 20-year-old college student me, I can get caught up in the dark chocolate traditions of shopping, decorating, and eating, and forget about the true meaning of Christmas. I need to look beyond the “traditions” and find the “Tradition.”
Like eating a candy cane, which is decorated with the white of purity indicating the Virgin birth, the red of Christ’s passion and Blood, and shaped in the form of the Good Shepherd’s staff, I need to be willing to take my time and observe the true Tradition, my favorite Tradition, which is the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord.
About the Author
This is a guest post from Anthony Jonas. Anthony is a junior in the Human Development program at Hellenic College, and a former member of the Student Advisory Board. Over the past year, he has served as the Student Administrative Intern for OCF.