St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Session Two: Keeping the Holy Days Holy
Led by Adrienne Ingram and Judith Doran
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Adrienne Ingram and Judith Doran are leading a three-week series entitled “Keeping the Holy Days Holy” based upon the book “Unplug the Christmas Machine.” which focuses on the true meaning of Advent and Christmas. After Judith opened with prayer, a handout, as shown below, entitled “Christmas Traditions” was given to all the participants to read and discuss:
1. What are the traditional elements of your holiday celebration? Look through this list and cross out the ones that you do not take part in and add those that are uniquely yours. (You may wish to list specific activities in the spaces provided.) * Gift exchange * Christmas stockings * Advent rituals * Holiday baking * Home entertaining * Christmas activities at church * Family religious traditions * Ethnic traditions * Outdoor decorations * Decorating the house * Decorating a tree * Cultural events * Singing or playing music * Family games * Charitable activities * Other special family traditions (for example, going skiing after Christmas, visiting a nursing home, special food rituals, etc. 2. Underline those activities that usually give you and/or your family the most pleasure. 3. Put an “X” by the activities that you do not have time to fully enjoy or that seem to have lost their meaning for you or your family. 4. What special traditions did you do as a child that you no longer do? Star those that you wish you could add to your family celebration.
Some of the responses included family games, large family get-togethers, and watching their children open gifts seemed to be the most traditional elements. There was also discussion on how we miss the surprise of opening an unexpected gift as we grow older, the guilt of not writing Christmas cards and letters on time and how it’s nicer to get a card or letter with personal information to keep you updated on that family’s happenings during the past year.
Adrienne then took time to explain to everyone how some of our well-known Christmas traditions got started. Garlands were first used because man-made ornaments were not available until the 1870’s. In medieval time holly represented men and ivy represented women. Use of poinsettias actually began with the Aztecs in Mexico. Lighting of candles may have originated in Europe where it was tradition that the oldest family members would light candles on Christmas Eve. Luminaries began in Mexico to light the path of Christmas. The Christmas tree first became popular in the United States and England after Queen Victoria’s German husband decorated a tree. Judith then reminded us all that we need to keep Christ in the Christmas season. One good way of doing this is to try and associate a scripture reading with the tradition. Opening gifts: “And she brought forth her newborn son.” Company arriving: “And there was no room in the inn!” Candles: “And the glory of the Lord shone all around them.” Christmas card addresses: “And there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus.” Adrienne also noted that giving of gifts was not always a tradition. Until the 1800’s, Christmas was primarily a time for friends and family to get together with each other to renew acquaintances. After the industrialization of the western world and the rising living standards, it became more and more popular to give gifts to each other until it has become very commercialized in our day and age.
The next exercise was to rank ten Christmas values: Assign the numbers” 1 ” to “10” to each of these value statements. Place the number” 1 ” beside your highest value, the number “2” beside your next highest value, and so on until you have assigned all the numbers. ( Use each number only once.)
__Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, in my family and in the world at large. __Christmas is a time to spend enjoyable time with my immediate family. __Christmas is a time to reunite with my relatives. __Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. __Christmas is a time to create a festive, beautiful home environment. __Christmas is a time to show my love and generosity through gifts. __Christmas is a time to remember the poor, lonely, and needy. __Christmas is a time to be active in my church community. __Christmas is a time to celebrate with friends. __Christmas is a time to relax and be renewed. Discussion will continue at next week’s session.