Celebrating Christmas Traditions

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Dec 06, 2014

“Some businessmen are saying this could be the greatest Christmas ever. I always thought the first one was.”
Art Fettig

Every year as we enter the month of December we step into the world of Christmas traditions. These unique behaviors at this time of the year help us celebrate what Christmas means to us but they also help us celebrate what we mean to each other.

I love the old Christmas traditions that have been part of our family ever since Evie and I celebrated our first Christmas 47 years ago. The year was 1967 and we lived in a small campus apartment while we finished that final year of college. 

That year we purchased a simple nativity set with the holy family, wise men, and a few animals that we tenderly placed on some golden straw inside a makeshift stable. After all these years we still have that nativity set and each year we tenderly take it out of the box and display it yet one more time. Oh what great memories come back to us from that old, simple nativity set.

If you were to visit our home at Christmas we would show you the decorations on our Christmas tree that capture Christmas, as well as family traditions, over the years. Each ornament has a story and each Christmas as we trim the tree we are reminded of those stories. Some ornaments we made, and when we hold them we remember the bright faces of our children. 

Last year Evie and I began a new tradition. We accepted the invitation of my friend, Jean Krack, Borough Manager of Phoenixville, to go by his home to see his Christmas lights. For years he has decorated his home weeks before Christmas with over 100,000 Christmas lights for neighbors and friends to see. You may want to drop by and see them. He lives at 15 Glen Farms Drive in Collegeville (he gave me permission to include this) and perhaps we’ll see you there, too. 

Some countries have strange Christmas traditions. If you don’t want to celebrate another Christmas unmarried and you live in the Czech Republic, try this: stand with your back to the door and throw a shoe over your shoulder on Christmas day. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing to the door, congratulations, you’re going to get married soon … although no one knows how soon.

In Japan, a Christmas food associated with the holiday is the Christmas cake. These sponge cakes, with whipped cream, chocolate and strawberries on top, are ordered months in advance and are eaten on Christmas Eve. Any cake that is not sold after the 25th is unwanted. For the same reason, single Japanese women over the age of 25 used to be called “Christmas cakes.”

Families in Finland visit the graves of their ancestors and relatives on Christmas Eve to light candles in memory of the deceased. Those who don’t have their kin’s graves nearby visit cemeteries to place candles in honor of their family members buried elsewhere. As a result, on Christmas Eve cemeteries are lit up with candles presenting a beautiful sight.

We also have numerous Meyer family food traditions at Christmas. It would hardly seem like Christmas for us if we didn’t make at least a dozen loaves of pumpkin bread from the recipe Kevin got from his third grade teacher.

We also love the thumbprint cookies with red and green frosting, peanut butter “kiss” cookies, frosted Christmas cookies and our old-fashioned popcorn balls. Perhaps our favorite family foods, however, are Poppy’s (what Noah, our grandson, calls me) World Famous Bar-B-Ques and Grammy’s (what Noah calls Evie) Special K bars which our children named “K-doodle bars.” We gain more than calories from our food.

There are many reasons to start counting the days until Christmas, some of them are inspiring; others are delicious.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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