Christmas Traditions Old and New

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Families around the world will soon be celebrating one of the most beautiful, blessed holidays of all…Christmas.  What is particularly special about this observance is that every family has their own ways of commemorating the day.  Usually the most important way is attending a worship service, either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day and then celebrating with family rituals that are part of the holiday.  When our children were younger, it was a family tradition to go to Radio City Musical Hall to see the Christmas Spectacular, featuring the marvelous, dancing Rockettes!  Then we would watch the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center and see the giant decorated tree there. Other entertainment favorites were watching holiday movies at home including A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch that Stole Christmas, the Nutcracker and my childhood favorite A Christmas Carol.

Many of our other traditions centered about decorating our Christmas tree and the food we’d enjoy preparing before and during Christmas day. Many of our tree decorations are used yearly and they are warm memories of creations our children may have made in kindergarten or from craft kits. We always bought a live tree and the aroma in the house added to the joy of the season.  The tradition of having a live tree in the house was introduced by Prince Albert of Germany, after he wed Queen Victoria of England. She loved the idea and when the local papers wrote about the amazing idea of a LIVE TREE inside the palace, Londoners began copying the tradition, of course on a smaller scale. Speaking of decorations, we learned of a cute one that we saw visiting relatives in Germany decades ago during the holiday season. Most European ornaments are made of glass, like was the tradition in the states in the 1940’s and ‘50’s before plastic ones became popular. Starting in the 1800’s, a delicate green glass ornament that looks exactly like a pickle is hidden in the Christmas tree, waiting to be discovered. The lucky child that spots it first wins a small gift as the reward.

The list can go on for pages about family traditions whether it is baking Christmas cookies, opening the little doors on an advent calendar or baking a gingerbread house. Again this idea started as a German tradition after the Brothers Grimm wrote Hansel and Gretel and children wanted to recreate their own candy house. Today prepackaged kits are available and make this task much easier for busy parents. No matter what you do to make your Christmas special, the most important part of all is being with family and friends.  Remember to try and include someone that you know is far from home or without family close by.  Think about inviting this person to join you for dinner or to come over for dessert during the Christmas season.  Call up that neighbor you have been meaning to see and have them over for some wine, cheese and crackers or for a simple pizza dinner Christmas week. Share of yourself and think about those that have lost a loved one or have nothing special planned to enjoy for Christmas.  There is always “room for one more” around the dinner table.

In closing this week’s column I would like to wish all of our Montauk Sun readers a wonderful, happy, healthy holiday season and a very Merry Christmas.   I send to you and all those readers and families with loved ones serving in the armed forces my prayers and thoughts during this separation. Here’s wishing everyone a New Year ahead that finds us in a better, more peaceful world. Merry Christmas!