Behavior, Traditions, and Rituals

“With only few exceptions, my family and extended family is entirely Christian of a certain variety, mainly Baptist, Roman Catholic, a few Methodists and non-denominational as well. I had the pleasure of visiting Nana’s hometown in Arkansas with her about a year before she passed away. I remember driving past a river and when all of a sudden she lit up and exclaimed: “I was baptized in this river!” Although she was baptized as an infant in her father’s Roman Catholic Church, she would later be baptized as a teenager in her mother’s church, which was Baptist. This was the tradition she practiced all her life. In those days her mother’s church did not have the resource to build or maintain a baptismal pool in the church, so when someone was to be baptized, the church community would gather at the river to pray. The baptismal candidates, dressed in white, were baptized by submersion in the river. They would then process back to the church to singing hymns of deliverance, thanksgiving and praise to God. We gather to celebrate christenings, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, graduations and marriages. We celebrate the lives of our departed loved ones, and gather during the major holidays to enjoy our family and close friends. One of my favorite traditions during Christmastime is eating gumbo on Christmas Eve. Made of a rich assortment of meats and seafood in a thick rue, it finds its in the rich cuisine of Louisiana with African, Native American, Spanish and French influence. It is perhaps my favorite meal. It has been a tradition of my family to gather on Christmas Eve with family friends and share a meal before we head to Midnight Mass.”


The contemporary Christmas celebrations described by J.S. have delighted him, and he shares what normally took place in his family. It is notable that coming from a Southern U.S. African American perspective, his Christmas culinary traditions are shaped by this. I am shaped by the Christmas traditions of my family, and extended relatives, much in the same way as J.S. is. His experiences, although different, are very interesting and cheerful. Different families may celebrate in different ways, yet he also religiously observes Christmas, which I share in common with him, despite being Protestant, and he a Roman Catholic.