Our Christmas traditions


Neil Strohshein
Neepawa Banner & Press

As I look back over my years on this planet, my one regret is that I did not spend nearly enough time living in the moment and enjoying the good experiences that came to me each day. For that, I have only myself to blame—something that I realized far too late in life.

In my college and early seminary years, I was urged to plan my preaching schedule at least six months to one year in advance (which is what I did) and then to begin my research for and writing of future sermons at least four to six months ahead (which I also did).

As a result, when I should have been focusing on Advent and Christmas and celebrating along with everyone else, I was thinking about and planning for Lent and Easter. Needless to say, my family was not impressed with my lack of Christmas spirit.

But some traditions from those early years remain deeply embedded in my life to this day. They are traditions my family and I work to keep alive. This week, I thought I’d share some with you.

First, Christmas decorations never go up before Nov. 11. Remembrance Day always has been a major event in our house. These days, we spend it with Legion comrades in Kelwood, where I lead the annual RD service. Even if I wasn’t leading a service, we would still attend. We are not about to change this family tradition any time soon.

From early December on, our house will be filled with Christmas music—Country Classics, for the most part, but we will also listen to the old and familiar Christmas carols. As for the growing number of Christmas movies, every one of them will either be watched when it airs or (and this is most likely) be recorded so that my wife can watch them later. And we will each be watching our favorite Christmas specials. My wife will be enjoying those featuring her favorite Country music stars. But, because of my addiction to animated cartoons, I will be watching specials featuring such immortals as Bugs Bunny, Charlie Brown, the Flintstones and Garfield the Cat.

Christmas shopping has already begun in our house. We’ve made our list, checked it twice and it really doesn’t matter if those on the list are naughty or nice. All of us are really nice—most of the time—so every person on the list will get something we know he or she can use.

Since my retirement from full-time Sunday ministry, we have spent our Christmas Eves at home. We will probably do that again this year. Family members will join us on Christmas Day for gift exchange and Christmas dinner; and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

The decorations will come down and be put away shortly after New Year’s Day and life will return to normal (whatever that is) once again.

Ours will be a very quiet Christmas—as they all have been since my wife’s mother (the last of our parents) passed away. I actually prefer it that way. A quiet celebration allows for times of solitude—times when I can think, reflect on life and say a few prayers for people I know. For some, this past year has had more than its share of pain and sorrow; and they will spend parts of this Christmas feeling very lonely and, at times, very much alone.

Next week, I will address some words to this special group of people. I hope we all will find them helpful, encouraging and where necessary, comforting.