Christmas Daybook, 2: Rediscover family & cultural traditions

Welcome to my Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. Join me, won't you? 

 Polish Christmas Wafers (Opłatki) By Mario Carvajal ( source )

Polish Christmas Wafers (Opłatki) By Mario Carvajal (source)

I'm grateful to Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter for pointing me to this delightful peek into one Polish family's traditional celebration of Christmas Eve. Here's one Polish-American's take on the same traditions from the memory of his childhood:

"As the early evening gathered, the now impatient children were tasked with locating the first star in the sky, a symbol of the heavenly manifestation which lead the Wise Men to Christ; this was the official sign of the start of the vigil meal. On cloudy evenings, somehow Dad always managed to sight the star anyhow; I grew up thinking he had an eagle’s vision. The evening melted into deep candlelight, and the Christmas tree and decorations were lit for the first time. The home would be awash in the uncommon smells of dishes made only once per year. As the table was prepared, one additional symbolic place was always set for the potential traveler or unexpected guest, and as children we sometimes imagined the angel which would sit there regardless."

I hadn't heard of the traditions we see play out in the family's video, and was particularly intrigued by the little ceremony prior to their meal. I found a lovely 4 minute video that describes the traditional Polish Christmas Eve tradition of of sharing Oplatek, placing hay under the white tablecloth, and setting a place for the unexpected guest.

Also, here's a brief, helpful post at NPR about the family ceremony of beginning Christmas Eve with the Polish Christmas wafer.

What are some of the cultural and ethnic traditions your family includes in your Christmas celebration?

Today's readings (continuing from lectionary for Christmas Day): Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, 5-12, John 1:1-14

Prayer for today from Evening Prayers For Every Day of the Year by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt 

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3, NIV

Lord our God, we thank you from our hearts, from the bottom of our hearts, that you consider us worthy to work with you so that redemption may come to the world in Jesus Christ. Already today many are rejoicing in their Redeemer. They are full of hope and comfort because the end is approaching - that evening when your glory shall be revealed, when the whole world and all nations shall glorify you, O great God and Father in heaven. Come into our time, we pray. Help us, Lord our God. Day and night we look to you in the hope of beholding the time of your glory, in the hope of receiving the peace that is beyond all understanding and of finding redemption, the great redemption from heaven, through you, the God over all flesh. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt,

2. mama's rule.png

"While we feast, we savor."  

{An excerpt from my post Family liturgies for Christmas & my Mama's rule for feasting.}

My mother created a rule for feasting years ago. As a family, we'd often be invited into other people's homes for mouth-watering meals, but too many times the dinner conversation revolved around the fattening, unhealthy qualities we consumed. It felt like each dish spooned onto our plate came heaped with sides of shame and guilt.  At her own dinner table, my mother would not tolerate this sort of pious, joy-wrecking conversation.  This is how she taught us her motto for hospitality: While we feast, we savor.

This is no way to feast, friends. Keeping in mind that legalism kills, but order brings life to our family celebrations, Brian and I keep my mother's rule close to heart. While we feast, we savor. At Christmas, we savor every sort of gift - food, music, family, friends, and the boxes and bags we wrap up and hand to each other.  All of it -- the ones we give and the ones we receive -- unearned.  All of it, grace. 

(read more here)

(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)