Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Skipping Christmas

Posted: December 21, 2013 in Holidays
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Skipping ChristmasHave you read John Grisham’s novel Skipping Christmas or watched the film adaptation Christmas with the Kranks? It’s about a couple who decides to forego the usual traditions of Christmas gifts, decorations and parties in favor of taking a vacation during the holidays. It doesn’t take long for them to experience opposition to the idea from others, and to begin making exceptions to their pledge, culminating in a full-blown traditional celebration at the last minute when their daughter announces her unexpected return home for Christmas.

I’m no Scrooge. I like the Christmas season. I enjoy exchanging gifts and especially spending time with family. I enjoy seeing Christmas decorations in the neighborhood and, in fact, wish more houses had them. But you know what? I’d be in favor of doing what the premise of the book and movie suggest – skipping the usual trappings of the season and instead concentrating on enjoying time with family and worship with my church family.

Oh, it’s a safe bet that we’d still get presents for our children and grandchildren, but I’d be quite happy for nobody to have to think about getting gifts for me. There isn’t a thing I really need that I don’t already have. There are things I want, but I can get those myself when I decide. And it would sure be nice to have a December that wasn’t booked to the gills with non-stop events due to every possible group and organization with which we are affiliated thinking they have to have a Christmas event of some kind.

Christmas-With-The-KranksLike the Kranks, I’d be perfectly happy to book a cruise with family and get away for a while. I could still celebrate the reason for the season – the coming of Christ to earth in that most selfless act to bridge the chasm between sinful men and a holy God. I’d still be happy to put emphasis on the experiences of the season for the youngest members of the family. Other than that, though, it would thrill me to let simplicity, worship, and time with family be the focus.

I won’t hold my breath for that to happen, but with each passing year I’m more and more ready for that to come to pass. Traditions don’t last forever. Someone has to initiate change.

Stay tuned.

Merry ChristmasEach December we hear a mixture of greetings due to the various holidays celebrated. Not everyone celebrates every holiday, of course, so we tend to use the one with which we most identify. As a Christian, the holiday I’m focused on this month is Christmas, so if I greet someone with a holiday-related greeting, it will be “Merry Christmas.” I’ll have the good sense not to say that to my Jewish friends and colleagues or to those whom I know do not celebrate Christmas. I would not expect them to say it to me.

I have mixed emotions about the greetings used, particularly when companies, governments or institutions seem to go out of their way not to mention Christmas or even to ban any mention of it. I don’t like substituting the phrase “holiday tree” for “Christmas tree” or doing bizarre things like banning use of the colors red and green or banning use of the word “Christmas” during school “winter” celebrations as one school is doing so as not to offend anyone. (I guess offending Christians is deemed OK.) Last time I checked, the reason my company and nearly all companies let their employees off on December 25 is because it’s Christmas, so that tells me we’re celebrating Christmas, not “winter” and not a generic “holiday.” Not all celebrate it for its religious meaning, but even if many celebrate it as a cultural, gift-giving holiday devoid of Christian meaning, it’s still Christmas and worthy of acknowledgement by name.

I don’t begrudge others using the greeting of their choice, and neither should they begrudge me the same liberty. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s your call to make. Say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” or whatever floats your boat, including no seasonal greeting at all if you like.

As for me, I’ll be saying, “Merry Christmas.” When I do, I’m not trying to be belligerent, offensive, insensitive or preachy. It’s just the holiday I’m celebrating, and I do, indeed, hope you have a merry Christmas.

Christmas StockingsI have extremely good memories of Christmas from my childhood.  Forever locked in my mind’s eye are spending time at each set of grandparents’ house, exchanging gifts with the extended family, listening to my Aunt Nonie read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, seeing the Chrismon tree at the front of the church, and the Christmas morning excitement when my sister and I would find all kinds of things Santa generously left for us.

I don’t remember a time in childhood when those things did not happen.  They were ingrained traditions.

Fast forward to the time when I was out of college, newly married, and raising two young boys with my wife, Linda.  For many years, the Christmas holidays were spent trying to divide the time between her family in St. Louis and mine in Kentucky while we lived hundreds of miles from either location.  We couldn’t imagine not being with family for Christmas, so we didn’t mind the travel.

At some point as our boys got older, it dawned on me that they would have very few memories of Christmases at our own house with just the four of us.  That saddened me because I felt like I was cheating them out of memories similar to what I had experienced.  With not many years left with both of them home, we finally stopped using the holidays to travel to both locations.  Linda’s parents decided to come to Louisville and visit us for a number of years around Christmas, opening the door to having a few Christmas mornings in our own home.

You’d have to ask my sons what their Christmas memories are.  I can’t speak for them.  But now that one of my sons has a young family of his own, I want him and other young families to know that it’s OK to start your own Christmas traditions as a family and not always feel obligated to do what others want or what has always been done in the past.

Traditions are precious.  They are comforting.  They can also hold young families back from creating their own important memories.

Be it for Christmas or other holidays, leap year lesson #359 is Start your own traditions.

Yesterday was Labor Day in the U.S. – a much needed holiday for me after a very busy August.  If you had asked me last week my plans for the day, I would have told you that I would take the time to catch up on the nearly 100 emails that I have yet to address at work having been out of the office much of last week.  However, taking my own recent advice of sometimes letting work wait, I decided to do other things for the day.

For starters, I stayed in bed until mid morning enjoying the first long sleep on my new Sleep Number mattress since it was delivered last week.  Then, I took care of a few errands, some with the help of my son, Jason.  I enjoyed a little reading, a little writing, some study, TV, shopping, an afternoon nap, and a nice but muggy walk with my dog – all blissfully requiring very little thinking.

There are a world of people who have to work on holidays.  I hope they are appropriately remunerated for it and given time off soon to have their own unofficial holiday.  The body and mind need time away from work and routine to energize and build up enthusiasm for the return to the norm.  That’s what yesterday did for me, so now I’m ready to hit the ground running again.

Some people like to fill their holidays with nonstop activity planned from beginning to end.  That is their prerogative.  I don’t care for that, however.  I’d much rather chill out in my own man cave doing simple things.

Next week I will – to quote our British ancestors – go “on holiday” (vacation) for the week, taking time to stay at home and mostly do some long overdue reading and writing.  I’m looking forward to the “staycation.”

Whether the holiday is a national one observed for a day or a vacation for several days, leap year lesson #244 is A holiday is a much needed change of pace.

I never served in the military.  The U.S. discontinued the draft the year I turned 16 in 1973 and has had an all-volunteer military force since then.   I remember my mom crying with joy at the news since she knew that I would at least have the option of whether to serve or not, unlike my Dad and other men in my family’s past who served willingly, but also in obedience to the law.  Like many my age at the time, I went on to college and other things and did not serve my government in that manner.

This Memorial Day weekend, as we celebrate the lives of those given so that we might remain free, I again experience a deeper and deeper respect for the sacrifice they made for the rest of us.  I regularly regret that I did not serve my country in the military because I feel somewhat like a freeloader living off the sacrifice and hard work of others.  I can’t change the past and I can’t serve at age 55, but I can at least show respect and gratitude for what others have done and for those men and women serving today.

So to my father and the men of my family in previous generations who bravely served, to the countless heroes who knowingly and willingly put their lives on the line for a cause greater than themselves, to men and women who never came home to hold and love their family members again, and to the far too many serving overseas today in harm’s way, please accept my tear-filled, inadequate “thank you” for your service.  The world is not worthy of those who give such a sacrifice.  May you and your accomplishments never be forgotten.

John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (ESV).  How great is the love for someone to lay down his/her life for millions of others he/she never knew?

Tomorrow is not the unofficial start of summer.  It is not the day pools open.  It is Memorial Day.  Remember why.

May we never forget leap year lesson #139 – Freedom is not free.