The articles in the December Ensign stirred up many memories and rather strong feelings about the observance of traditions in the holiday season. After considering the objections to observing any Christmas traditions for “fear” of their pagan origins, it becomes abundantly clear that individuals who avoid the observance of Christmas traditions avoid the real basis of life.
I immediately began asking my “Question of the Week”: What Christmas or holiday traditions were observed in your parents’ home or do you observe in your own home that you may consider unusual or unique? Let me share responses which came from people in many walks of life—railroad men, fellow commuters, fellow office employees, salesmen, bankers, Church friends, and non-Church friends.
1. “My grandfather was from Wales. We had a beautiful and extended fireworks display on Christmas Eve.”
2. “We always observed Christmas Eve church services and afterwards had an early morning breakfast that would last until 9 or 10 in the morning.”
3. “The Christmas celebration in our home in South Africa was observed by the family gathering on our parents’ bed early in the morning, eating sticky buns and the usual hot refreshments. Later, at our holiday dinner, members of the family toasted each other for their growth, development, and successes for the past year and the forthcoming year.
“We always had a Christmas stocking filled with an orange, one or two special small gifts, and nuts.”
4. “I remember my mother placed fresh straw in the bottom of our stocking on which an orange or apple rested.”
I asked several, “Why was an orange placed in your stocking?” Their answers:
1. “I don’t know; we always did it.”
2. “To receive an orange at Christmas time is to receive a marvelous gift.”
3. “You could buy 3 loaves of bread for the cost of an orange.”
4. “We prized the orange—we only received them at Christmas time.”
I asked, “Did you observe Santa Claus in your home? and Do you think you have any scars from when you ‘found out’ about him?”
1. “Santa always placed our gifts in a shoe box beside the tree.”
2. “I remember how grown-up I felt when I learned the Santa “Secret.”
3. “We didn’t observe Santa in our home. The Elves brought our gifts: Cuddly Elf=Stuffed Toy; Warm Elf=Sweater or Housecoat; Smelly Elf=Perfume or Cologne; Secret Elf=Personal Item; Smart Aleck Elf=Gag Gift.”
All responses to the question about lives being scarred were negative. Most people felt it was a good experience.
Kenneth D. and Florence Wright
When my husband was in the bishopric a few years ago, he prevailed upon the brethren to dispense with the traditional visit from Santa at the ward Christmas party. Instead, the bishopric donned robes of the three wise men and gave the children a story book of Jesus with their candy. The spirit of reverence we had there was more noticeable than usual.
One of the most beautiful celebrations was when I was chorister of our Primary. I was asked to conduct the Christmas program. After a short time spent telling and acting out stories from the Friend and singing hymns, the program was climaxed by a re-creation of the nativity scene: the curtain was drawn at the back of the chapel where a young couple sat with their real baby in a manger, the shepherd and magi were offering gifts while the angels looked on—we even added a real lamb. The children were invited to walk right into the stable and touch the manger.
It was such an impressive moment for the children that we were asked to recreate the scene again for the ward party. And again it was a powerful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas—until someone less sensitive instructed the costumed Santa to sit down right in the middle of the “stable” with his bag of candies and his grating “ho, ho, ho.”
Mrs. E. R. Stoddard
El Paso, Texas
We really appreciated your discussion about Santa’s place in Christmas. We have never felt good about promulgating the idea of Santa with our little five-year-old and began by frankly denying his existence. But, as was pointed out in your article, children often have a need to believe, which she did. Last year she clinched her argument with the statement, “But he comes to church so he must be true.” Since then, frankly, we haven’t known how to deal with it. Families should be free to choose which approach they will take toward Santa. But it would make it much easier for those of us who do not feel comfortable with the idea if the Church would discourage Santa visits to ward parties. Then those parents who do wish to include him in their Christmas could also take their children to Santa sites, while the other children would not face possible confusion about what is true and what is not true in the Church.
In the August “I Have a Question,” the subject of success in missionary work came up. I would like to add what I think success is.
I was blessed to go to the California mission (South) a few years back. Our mission was number one in the world when I was out. People were eager to hear the gospel. But I never considered that my success; that was their success.
To me success can be measured by asking the following questions:
1. Did I treat my companion with love and concern?
2. Did I treat with kindness the problems of the other missionaries in the district and zone?
3. Did I give each person I taught a fair and just chance to understand the gospel? Did I use tact and diplomacy and remind them that their Heavenly Father cares about them?
4. Was I obedient to the rules set in our mission? Did I write uplifting letters to the mission president that his burden, too, may be lighter?
True success to me is to be a Christian when we return from our “mission.”
This Sabbath afternoon I absorbed the wealth of spiritual treasures contained in the December Ensign. I cried, I laughed, I rejoiced as my spirit was lifted and edified.
The article “A Passion for Painting—Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert” confirmed my hope that a mother can love family and still pursue artistic interests. The “Plight of a Church Custodian” inspired me to gratitude for all who help keep our church house in order.
The whole spirit of the December Ensign lifted me and caused me to praise God for so much goodness and light between so few pages.
Wichita Falls, Texas
I need some ideas for establishing family traditions for Christmas and other special occasions. Since my family and I are trying to cut down on sweets and eat moderately, I would prefer traditions that are not based on food. Can you help us?