A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Weird Christmas Traditions

There is the naughty list.
There is the nice list.
But let's not forget the nutty list.
Through the years,
many traditions have evolved across the world
to celebrate Christmas
Some are born directly out of the
celebration of Christ's birth in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.
Others have secular roots that
foster the seasonal spirit of joy and hospitality.
Then there are others that, well,
just might make your head spin.......
Try Christmas in Japan.
Good luck getting a seat at a KFC restaurant on December 25th.
A traditional Christmas meal in the land of the rising sun
is a visit to the fried chicken king.
You'd be smart to make a reservation.
Just be sure you know if you want your Christmas to be regular or extra crispy.
How about Norway?
Good luck finding a broom on Christmas Eve.
Brooms & mops are hidden by mommas so that evil spirits
can't take them to use as a mode of transportation.
For good measure, Papas go out
to the front lawn
and shoot  off their shotguns to scare those evil spirits into the next county.
Nothing says Merry Christmas like dirty floors and a round of artillery.
Speaking of evil spirits,
don't leave out Finland.
Where can you find most Finns on Christmas Eve?
At church services?
Around family tables?
No, try saunas.
Saunas on Christmas Eve are packed
as Finns believe that sweating helps remove evil spirits from the body.
Nothing says Happy Holidays like perspiring in a wooden box packed with friends and strangers.
Wrapped in swaddling clothes?
Oh no, the Finns will just take a towel please.
In Slovakia and the Ukraine,
they give a new meaning to food fight.
At Christmas Eve dinner,
the head of the household takes a spoon of Loksa
(a traditional Christmas dish made out of bread, poppy seed filling, and water)
and throws it up at the ceiling.
The more of the mixture that remains glued to the ceiling,
the richer his crops will be the following year.
Of course, it is the women that have to clean up the mess
and repaint the ceiling while dad is hitting the egg nog.
Let's not even think about
what the toddlers in the high chair are throwing to celebrate the nativity.
In the town of Gayle, Sweden,
they observe the beginning of the season
by erecting a 60 foot goat made of straw.
The goat is then burned on Christmas Day to the cheers of the townspeople
who are obviously anti-goat.
In recent years,
vandals have made it their goal to burn the goat before Christmas day,
thus instilling a new tradition of townspeople signing up on shifts to guard the goat.
Since 1966, the Straw Goat has survived until Christmas Day only 10 times.
People disguise themselves as Santa Claus or elves to get past the guardians and ignite the straw monument.
In some parts of the world, wise men follow a bright star.
In Gayle, Sweden, a burning goat will suffice.
Let's not think that the northern Hemisphere has the market on nutty.
Take a visit a to Caracas, Venezuela
and you will see parishioners headed to church services......
on roller skates.
Oh it doesn't stop there.
Children, as they are put down for the night
have a string tied to their big toe,
with the other end of the string dangling out the window onto the streets.
That's so all the roller skaters can whiz by and pull on the string.
So much for children all snuggled in their beds for a long winter's nap.
Let's not think that we Americans have completely evolved either.
In Los Angeles,
there is the giant mistletoe dangled by King Kong
so that lovers can get that extra big Christmas kiss.
I will just leave it at that.

Christmas traditions all have place and meaning.
Some honor the birth of Christ.
Others seem to have more to do with things far removed from Christ.
Traditions are not good or bad in and of themselves.
They are rituals that bind families and cultures together.
But they can also blind us to the very source of the celebration.
What traditions do you observe that just might seem nutty to Christ.....
Shop till you drop?
Max the credit cards?
Eat more calories than are needed to fuel a body for two months?
Put up enough exterior decorations to embarrass Clark Griswald?
Consume more alcohol that extends beyond healthy consumption?
We all have our traditions.
The question is, do your traditions encourage or discourage what is at the heart of Christmas
which is........
Let every heart prepare Him room.
That is after all, why He came.
Burn your goats,
skate to church,
enjoy extra crispy chicken...........
Just don't forget to embrace Him once again
so that you may live for Him.
Speaking of nutty traditions best avoided,
next time, I'll tell you about Aunt Bertha's fruitcake.......
"And the Word became flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth."
John 1:14

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