Tag Archives: christian holidays

Advent

  • Context: The following informant, S, is a 59 yr. old man with three kids and a wife. Though the family does not identify as Christian, they celebrate Christmas and participate in the Christian tradition of Advent. This conversation took place when the informant was asked about any specific family traditions surrounding holidays. 
  • Text:

S: “So… for those who don’t know… Advent is a Christian celebration… uh… I think it’s tied in to the Twelve Days of Christmas too when you add it up, but I could be wrong… I don’t know about that… but, basically it’s the entire month of December it starts on December 1st and the day is December 25th… where you actually don’t get an advent… oh and each day you get a little… a little gift… sort of leading up to Christmas. But on Christmas day, you don’t get a little gift for Advent, you get your Christmas gifts. Um… and that… for me at least, started when I was… well as long as I can remember with my mom. And she would have an Advent calendar and we would open that up and… I think she had clues for us, if I’m not mistaken… and we would go find the little gift. It was was usually like a piece of chocolate for each of the three of us, I had two brothers… uh… nothing big… and maybe on the weekend a toy… but you know, nothing massive.

And that carried over when I first had, at least for me, I don’t know about my brothers, I’m sure it did, knowing my mom… but when I had my first kids, I started to get a box in November… from my mom… around Thanksgiving time… with all of the gifts and clues to go with them for the 24 days leading up to Christmas. So all I had to do was put the clues in the Advent calendar and run the process, and all my kids loved it… well of course my mom passes away a few years ago and… a couple years before that, I think actually, I started doing the clues myself and getting the gifts and what not.

Me: “What are the clues like?”

S: “Well, it’s a shame, I don’t remember what they were like as a kid. But what I do now… um… I either do a little sort of rhyming scheme sort of couplet thing… or I do a riddle… or I do something to do with the number of the day… umm or some combination of that stuff. Plays on words all the time ‘cus that’s sort of riddling. As [my kids] have gotten older I’ve tried to make it a little more challenging to figure out what it is and hidden them a little bit more… they used to be in plain sight way more often than they are now.”

Me: “And is it like each kid gets a clue or…?”

S: “One clue for the three [kids]. And [my kids] actually rotate, [they] decided to go youngest to oldest… uh [the youngest] does the first, [the middle] does the second, [the oldest] does the third and then [they] rotate through. Uhh…”

Me: “Reading the clues?”

S: “Reading the clues out loud. And then everybody… well it depends what kind of mood people are in… some days [my kids] decide to sit and not participate and sulk, but most days all three of [my kids] go and look, and of course mom, when she figures out the clue, can’t hold herself back and has to yell out where it is ‘cus she’s so proud of herself for figuring it out.”

  • Analysis: This version of Advent is similar to other versions I have heard of. Mainly, I have heard of pre-made Advent calendars with chocolates or small gifts inside each day. The main difference between this version of Advent and others is the addition of clues and hiding the presents. This type of Advent is more of a game, that includes riddles and rhyme schemes that lead to the hidden presents. This is the Advent I grew up knowing, and until I began to go over to my friends houses around the holidays I was unaware that Advent was not a game in all other households as well.

Holiday tradition

The following was recorded from a conversation I had on the phone with my mother, marked JS. She described to me a few holiday traditions as well as rituals she did throughout her childhood. Below is one of the rituals.

 

JS: “We always used to leave our shoe outside on St. Nicholas Day which falls on December 6th. The idea is that he will come by and fill the shoe with treats. Sounds kinda weird, I know…but it always got the family in the Christmas spirit pretty early.”

CS: “Interesting, and you did this every year?”

JS: “Yeah, every year. My mom was way more into it than us kids were.”

CS: “Is there a reason you didn’t continue this tradition with me?”

JS: “I guess I decided it wasn’t as practical as just waiting till the 25th. Gave me more work to do too. I don’t know, by then the tradition was less thought of.”

 

Context:

A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing rituals she did throughout her childhood around the time of the holidays.

Background:

JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.

 

Analysis:

I find this ritual interesting because it reflects the values my grandmother set for her family when it came to Christmas time. It is interesting that she decided to take a more unique path and doing a special ritual instead of the traditional and common Christmas traditions. What’s even more interesting is that this ritual didn’t continue into my mom’s adulthood and raising me. Instead, we do the very common Christmas and activities, and in fact, this was the first I had ever heard of this ritual. It is an interesting component of folklore to see how some of it sticks and is viewed with such importance in one’s life while others are simply forgotten over time.

Christmas Eve Soup

I asked my friend if she had any holiday traditions. She told me that on Christmas Eve, her mom prepares soup:

Me: Why soup?

Lindsey: My mom’s side of the family is Irish, so I think it’s tradition in Irish culture to have soup on Christmas. Maybe the warmth of the soup is comforting in wintertime? Also, I think soup is an easy meal to have on Christmas when people would rather be focused on their family than on cooking.

Me: What type of soup does she traditionally make?

Lindsey: It’s just a stew of different vegetables and beef. Really light. Really simple.

 

Analysis: Having soup on Christmas Eve is not a tradition I had ever heard of. I think the idea of spending time with one’s loved ones instead of cooking in the kitchen makes sense. It is more important to have Christmas with family and invest in quality time, than having an extravagant meal.

Christmas “Novena”

My Great Aunt Nora clarified that at Christmas, the main holiday ritual in Colombia to celebrate the “novena” or 9 days of Christmas, not the twelve days celebrated here in the US. Between December16-24th, 9 families will coordinate parties at each of their homes. Everyone is invited to all the parties especially those who are hosting at some point.  If you are invited but not one of the families hosting, it is customary to bring a lavish hostess gift.  The party starts with a prayer, then food, songs and candies. People are expected to dress as lavish and festive as possible. It is traditional that each home will have a “Natividad” a nativity scene with baby Jesus in the manger and the three kings. Ironically, even though Jesus was born in a simple manger, people like to spend lots of money to buy very elaborate and beautiful manger that can take up a large coffee table to show off, which is a cultural traditional aspect of most Colombians, to always want to show off as much as possible even when it is not called for.

Analysis: I find it especially hilarious when they incorporate English Christmas villages with fake snow as ground covering and glowing windows in the cottages. As if the warm arid climate of Bethlehem would have look like that. Baby Jesus is always depicted as white having blue eyes and dirty blonde curls. There is strong cultural bias that having white skin, light colored eyes and light colored hair is highly desirable in Colombia. I once traded out baby Jesus at my grandmother’s house with a African American baby Jesus just see her reaction, priceless. The practice of holiday rituals even for those who do not attend church or practice their religion except during the holidays make these rituals even more important since they have to make up for their lapse from the rest of the year.