W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. Ever since he was little, he has participated in his family’s Christmas Nativity scene (yes, even now). His father’s side of the family is all Mormon and extremely religious, whereas his mother’s side of the family is atheist. Although W is not Mormon, he is expected to contribute to the nativity as part of the family.
“My aunt S makes us do the Christmas nativity every freaking year. We pick our roles out of a bowl and then get a costume. All the girls wanted to be Mary. Most of the boys didn’t care if they were Joseph. It’s kind of weird since we’re all cousins. It used to be fun when we were young cause we dressed up and put on a show for our parents. But we’re like, old now, so it’s boring. We literally just stand in the living room in front of the family while one of us reads the scriptures or whatever it’s called. But like we’re five so we can’t really read. My aunt B loves the nativity because she leads everyone in song. She always makes my sister (me) sing a song with her. There has never been a family Christmas without the nativity. My dad and his sisters did it when they were kids, too.”
Christmas traditions are popular with many American families, even those who aren’t religious. Though W grew up in an atheist household, his extended family is Mormon, who means they all take part in a religious tradition of putting on the nativity. The reason they put on the nativity, like many other Christian households, is because it’s a chance to reflect on the past. Their religion is centered around Jesus Christ, so since Christmas is a time to honor him and his “birth”, they nativity scene is put on tell his origin story. In order to keep the tradition going, the nativity is passed down through generations. In doing so, the children grow up with the notion that this is a normal part of their Christmas, and once they have kids of their own, they will pass it on. This is how traditions are created and kept throughout generation to generation.