Pastor Steve’s Column – December

Christmas Traditions

There are a lot of things we do that have become routine and ritual. It’s not bad to ask why.

We have plenty of Christmas traditions: decorated trees, giving presents, wreaths, cookies, candles, poinsettias, Santa Claus, etc. My mother’s family (of Czech origin) decorated the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve after the children had gone to bed. The children would wake on Christmas morning to see the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

At some point when I was young, we abandoned this tradition and the tree was decorated by the family a week or so before Christmas. We became Americanized. In my home, everyone knows that we read the Christmas story before we open any presents. David brings me our traditional “Christmas Bible” and says, “Come on Dad, read.” It helps bring focus to the day.

There are a number of Christmas traditions around the world that don’t make sense to me. These include roller skating to church on Christmas in Venezuela, Christmas Eve carved radishes in Oaxaca, Mexico, La Befana—the Italian Christmas witch, and The Poop Log in Catalonia. One interesting tradition is the Ukrainian Christmas Spider. Some call it the spider who saved Christmas.

There are several iterations of the Christmas Spider. Basically, a poor family in the Ukraine brings in a tree from the woods, but cannot afford decorations, or gifts or a special meal. A spider in the tree, hears their situation and throughout the night the spider creates beautiful Christmas decorations in the tree with the webbing. When the morning sun shines on the tree, the web turns to silver and gold. The family never has to worry about money again.

What can we learn from this tradition? The spider, a creation of God, cares about the poor and wants to provide for them. Christmas is a good time for us to care for the poor. Our Christmas traditions should be a celebration of God being born into a marginalized and poor family, under difficult circumstances. The family becomes political refugees before establishing themselves in a working-class town. That’s not too much tinsel, garland and lights.

This Christmas season we are challenged to remember the reason for the season. Our traditions can help us focus on God sending a savior into the world.

Grace and Peace,


Pastor Steve

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