Traditions

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Remembering the message of peace

by Della Rees, Lt. Colonel –

Traditions—they are an essential part of what holds society together. Often the reasons for societal traditions are forgotten. They become an automatic exercise. But traditions can disappear because they no longer fit present circumstances. For instance, traditions begin fade when close family ties are no longer available.

No longer does my family gather to open gifts on Christmas Eve. The aromas of roasting turkey and other delectable dishes departed when Mother, approaching age 90, retired from the holiday kitchen. Her daughter preferred going to someone else’s home, frozen pie in hand. Personally, band and songster caroling has been replaced by the noisy clatter of a coin counter at kettle headquarters.

Many Salvationists adopted some ethnic traditions, such as the observance of the Santa Lucia Festival before Christmas and Julgran Plundering after Christmas where the tree was taken down with singing and treats—even if they were not Scandinavian! As time has elapsed, and we are further away from the old practices, these have often faded away

Yet one childhood tradition and one from adulthood represent Christmas to me. A memory from pre-school days is of a small cardboard nativity scene—no fancy European ceramic figures for us. It appeared each December and then returned to the storage box.

That remembrance eventually inspired me to collect a few small nativity scenes. The first one was made in Hawaii with a coconut shell stable. The few became almost 200, including—yes—a set of large European ceramic figures. I added a lighted scene in my window as a reminder to neighbors of the real Christmas message. Some items stay out during the year so that I am constantly reminded of that message.

The adulthood tradition? It is one that exists between God and myself. Each year at Thanksgiving I pray that I might discover some special message about Christ’s coming. The first time I asked that, I soon witnessed a Christmas tableau of the Holy Family and attendant figures quietly and beautifully staged. The simplicity of the message of peace, wrapped in swaddling clothes—not layers of philosophy and theology—stirred my heart. Message received.


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