|Uncle Greg in action|
Among the things that make the holiday season memorable are family traditions. One dictionary defines tradition as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.” While growing up in Moorhead, Minnesota, my family had our share of Christmas rituals. One of them was my sister Tanya and I taking turns opening up the little flaps on our advent calendar.
My immediate family always opened presents on Christmas Eve after Dad came home from work in the late afternoon (or in the morning if he had the day off). To pass the time Tanya and I played the board game Monopoly, which often took two hours to complete. Sometimes we also went to a candlelight service at the Lutheran church we attended across the river in Fargo, North Dakota.
Later that night I would get together with my mother’s side of the family at Grandma Tweiten’s house. Often we ate a light dinner but then always sang Christmas carols before opening presents. Eventually my Aunt Gaye added a tradition I grew to appreciate…singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. After all, that’s whose birthday we’re supposed to be celebrating.
Christmas Day afternoons were spent with my father’s side of the family. Initially we met at Grandma and Grandpa Post’s house. Then in 1979 my uncle Greg bought a large house in Fargo. From that point on, Post family gatherings usually took place there. By that time we had a tradition that actually started years before during the summer.
Grandma and Grandpa Post also owned a mobile home near Lake Lida in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. At the end of one family gathering, Uncle Greg jokingly ran after our car as Dad began driving away to take us home. Tanya and I got such a kick out of that we always begged Greg to run after the car when leaving other gatherings. Soon Greg and his wife Jill started having kids. They often joined their father in his runs.
One time I came back to Fargo for a visit and stopped at Greg and Jill’s for another family gathering. Before leaving I asked Greg if he would “keep up the tradition.” Greg replied, “Nah, I don’t think so.” I then said, “Yeah, you’re probably getting too old for that.” When I left the room, Greg told the rest of my relatives, “I can’t let him get away with that.” Moments later as I pulled out of his driveway, Greg emerged from the house and ran after my car while using Grandma’s cane. I wish someone had filmed that hilarious Kodak moment! Years later I managed to capture one of Greg’s runs with my camcorder and later added the “Chariots of Fire” theme to the video.
The word tradition originates from a Latin word tradere, which means “deliver” and “betray.” Likewise the Bible talks about traditions in both the positive and negative sense. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” On the other hand, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (Mark 7:8)
Like many other families, my parents did the Santa thing. Tanya and I woke up on Christmas morning to find more presents for us under the tree or on the living room couch. Back then I enjoyed the extra gifts but now wish we had done something else to emphasize the reason for the season such as reading the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2.
Family traditions can build togetherness but should ultimately draw us closer to the Lord instead of away from Him.
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” - Colossians 2:8