That’s Christmas to me…
While many of us (specifically adults) dread the first glimpses of tinsel in Sainsbury’s ten seconds after Halloween, I can’t help but get just a little bit excited. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year! This year I was in Gravesend for the turning on of the lights parade with some school friends. We sang carols (in the middle of November!), giggled in the fake snow, and danced behind the parade, laughing and smiling for hours as hundreds of children shuffled along with their hand made paper lanterns and parents in tow. The excitement in the air that night was almost tangible, and to think it was only the prequel to the real build up for Christmas!
In the UK we expect every Christmas to be better than the last, and we go to great lengths to protect our time and make it special. It’s the one time of year when it’s okay to smile at people in the street and burst into song every ten seconds (Let it go!). Mulled wine and mince pies are the diet of the season, Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé are singing in every store, and we all have a woolly jumper with a reindeer or snowflake on it hiding somewhere!
Let’s face it: we’re all obsessed with Christmas. But even though it takes over our lives for one month of the year, do we know what it’s really about?
One thing that really stood out to me recently is that Christmas has a different meaning for everyone. Most of us have accepted that it’s a compulsory family occasion. Also the big man with a beard who manages to deliver presents to the universe whilst we’re asleep is essential to the holiday experience, but what is it really about? I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched a Christmas film, like The Grinch or Elf, and cringed when the characters stumbled over the half-hearted remark about the true meaning of Christmas being something like ‘family’, though they didn’t seem convinced themselves. But then I realised, actually, all those films had caught something I missed. They were right!
To me, Christmas is all about Jesus. It’s his birthday celebration. But it’s also all about family too!
Being half Polish, there are a number of cultural traditions our family have adopted over the years. In our house, Christmas eve is an even bigger event than Christmas day. The build up to Christmas eve is always a bit crazy, but to us it is such an exciting time that we often find ourselves counting down the days till the next one from January!
However there’s always a mad dash to get the house clean in time for the million+ extended family member’s arrival (to make it seem the house is truly this clean all year round!) and an endless amount of food to prepare. There are always at least 12 dishes; including, but not limited to: sauerkraut, beetroot, roll mops, rice (not Polish), mushrooms, bread, potatoes and a never ending supply of fish dishes to represent the twelve disciples. We even put straw under the table cloth as a reminder of the manger in which Jesus was laid after he was born!
Although the kids may say that the most exciting thing about the day is the presents after dinner, for me the best bit is being surrounded by family, sharing an amazing meal, and spending time catching up, singing carols, and just being together to celebrate Jesus’ birthday! At the beginning of every celebration, my grandmother and the heads of the gathered households lead the rest of the clan in a prayer and a blessing, reminding us that without Jesus there would be no Christmas (and no Easter either for that matter), and that we celebrate this day to honour him, and thank God for sending him into the world to take our punishment for sin from us.
Then they break the Christmas wafer – a bit like communion – and give a piece to each person and say a blessing over them for the year to come. This is a really special time for us, for it is all about family! For Jesus came to Earth to re-unite us with our Heavenly Father, and to re-establish our relationship with Him as children of God. By dying on the cross in our place, he removed the barrier of sin that had come between us and God in the first place!
He is our bridge to the Father. That is why we celebrate Him! How cool is that?!
So yes, Christmas is all about Jesus. And yes, it is all about family too!
Merry Christmas one and all! x