The Swedish tradition is to celebrate the fullness of Christmas on Christmas eve so tomorrow is Christmas for the Swedes. While grocery stores will be open in the morning tomorrow, by noon, much of the outdoor activity will have ceased and people will be gathered together waiting to start their celebrations. Oddly enough, Donald Duck cartoons are shown on television at 3.00 p.m. and this marks the start of the Christmas celebrations for most Swedes! You'd be hard pressed to find a television in Sweden that isn't tuned into "Kalle Anka" which is what Donald Duck is in Swedish. Once Kalle Anka has been watched, the rest of their Christmas traditions can unfold. Most Swedes eat the classic Swedish Jul Bord, or Christmas Table, for their main meal. The center piece is the Christmas Ham surrounded by meat balls and loads of herring. Not my thing, but I'm happy for someone else to eat all of the herring in the world! Presents are finally opened later in the evening which is tortuous to most children. Many Swedes end their Christmas eve celebrations by attending Midnight Mass at a local church. Christmas day is for resting and eating leftovers and playing with the toys and gifts received the night before.
We are not too Swedish when it comes to our own traditions. We will have church at 6.00 p.m. Our service is a beautiful candlelight service where we hear the traditional story of Christ's birth told through scripture and sing beautiful, favorite, traditional Christmas carols. Then we come home to a delicious beef tenderloin dinner. My tradition has always been to eat beef on Christmas eve and while my husband's family is much more Swedish in their celebration, Doug has happily adopted my menu! We'll enjoy our associate pastor and his parents around our Christmas eve table this year. After dinner we'll play a game or relax while watching something on television. Doug and I love to stay up late enough to catch some of the midnight mass from St. Peter's in Rome on Christmas eve. It's a cozy family time. We miss our parents and siblings and long for them to be near to us. We go to bed waiting for Christmas morning when we will rise to open our gifts. The rest of Christmas day is spent preparing food and getting ready for the Open House that evening.
Traditions are great as they add rhythm and structure to our lives. They give us things that we can count on happening and events that we can eagerly look forward to. Traditions are special celebrations that don't happen all that often but when they do, they are treasured and savored.
One thing we know for sure...Jesus came into the world in the traditional manner...through birth. Because he humbled himself and joined us here on earth, we can count on his love, depend on his grace and live in his peace. I hope your traditions include savoring that wonderful truth.