The common cultural expressions and representations of Christmas are everywhere you look. From the tinsel and tidings, carols and cookies and the ribbons and reindeer, the Christmas spirit is certainly in the air. But we wanted to dust off some of the snowflakes and glitter and share some stories that might be easy to miss during this season of all things shiny and sparkly. We invite you to join us for this blog series as we share An Uncommon Christmas. (Articles: How To Buy A Cow, Finding Joy When Grief Is Heavy, Raising Uncommon Kids, Unwrapping Change, Christmas On The Mission Field)
We walked out to the middle of the front yard and turned around. It was cold. It was dark, but we had finally completed hanging the Christmas lights. The kids ran to join my husband and me and we all looked at the display of color before us. “Wow,” sighed my oldest. “It looks like Candy Land!”
We have other Christmas traditions as well, such as Advent candles and Bible readings. I prepare certain foods and treats. We gather with family, and church family, to enjoy fellowship and memories of Christmas’ gone by.
How do you celebrate Christmas? I’m sure it looks different than our traditions because your family is different than mine. Have you ever thought about how missionaries on the field celebrate Christmas with their families? What about missionaries in closed countries?
The Lord has blessed my family with the friendships of young ladies whose families are now leaving, or still on, the mission field. I asked them if they wouldn’t mind sharing their Christmas stories with the What’s in the Bible Readers. I hope you enjoy their traditions!
Christmas Lunch = Chicken Fajitas
Once the tree was decorated we would put up the other Christmas knick knacks around the house. We had a lot of old Christmas cards we had kept that had cool pictures on them, and we’d hang those up around the house in Christmas tree shapes. We strung lights in the kitchen/dining room area as well. We had an African nativity set we all loved.
Christmas morning we got up and opened presents together. We four girls all started with our stockings and then we’d open presents. We always got a new pair of flip flops.
Our traditional Christmas Day lunch was chicken fajitas. Another tradition we always do is sometime before New Year’s we would turn the lights off in the living room and sing Christmas Carols by the light of the Christmas tree. We always make cookies and have fun decorating them. One year we made cookies and took them to the neighbors. They appreciated that.
– Deborah (Niger and Nigeria)
Christmas was always a special time in Guinea. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, our family would start an advent book that had a story with a short devotional for every day leading up to Christmas day. Presents were also a lot of fun because our whole family made presents for each other. Creativity went into overdrive when we started thinking about what to get parents/children/siblings. With wood, cloth, clay, all matter of nature, and even some metal working, we came up with some pretty great gifts for each other.
The people we work among do not celebrate Christmas, but we still made it a point to make Christmas goodies and give them out. One of our neighbors’ favorites was when we would make homemade yogurt for them.
– Rebekah (Guinea)
No Christmas Tree?
We exchanged gifts, but tried to keep it simple to avoid the pressure of having to spend a lot of money on each other. In my family, we opened presents the night before and then our stockings on Christmas morning since Christmas day was focused on worship and outreach. We invited our other missionary friends over to eat with us, as we were all about community and connecting with each other like one huge family. We also sang Christmas songs for an hour or so, worshipped together, and read the Christmas story.
We did not have a Christmas tree. This was largely because in our first years living overseas, we had some local believers who wanted to have a Christmas tree like us, thinking it was necessary to be a believer. So Mom and Dad quickly got rid of the tree to take away the glitz and fluff of Christmas and keep it to the bare bones truth of Jesus’ birth. We also did not grow up believing in Santa. Another thing my family did was buy a lot of oranges and go out and deliver them to the families in our neighborhood on Christmas morning. This was our way of sharing our joy with nonbelievers. We would tell them “Eid-e-Christmas mubarak” which means “Congratulations on the Christmas holiday”. Over the years they came to see our holiday as one of theirs too, and there were Christmases where they gave us gifts as well.
– MaryEllen (Central Asia)
Crazy Sweaters in the Heat
Christmas in the Middle East isn’t exactly the picture perfect, white Christmas with twinkling lights, and evergreen pine trees all in a row. In the Muslim world the sun shines like always, the air is dry and arid and every business runs as usual. As expats in a land that didn’t celebrate Christmas, we had to make our own Christmas. We had crazy Christmas sweaters (even if they made us sweat), a little Christmas tree (an old plastic one that shed!) and most importantly time with friends and family.
We went Christmas caroling to expat houses so that when their Muslim neighbors asked why they had people singing at their door, they could tell them of a Savior born into the world. We had our Muslim friends over every year for popcorn and tea to tell them that Christmas wasn’t really about “Baba Noelle” (Santa Claus), but about a King that came to earth to save the people He loved.
– Meg (Middle East)
Singing Christmas carols, eating certain foods, gathering with loved ones… there are many similarities when you compare missionary families with mainland families. But making sure that Jesus is the focus of the season seems to be something that all Christian families strive to so.
Think about your neighbors, the people you work with, or come in contact with on a regular basis. Does the “glitz and fluff” of Christmas get in the way of your spreading the gospel during the Christmas season? Do your kids see presents as a “right” or truly as gifts?
Simplicity. The gospel is simple. Christmas can be one of the most stressful and loneliest times of the year. Let us take a step back and look at our Christmas traditions. Make sure someone outside your family can say, “Wow! That family reflects the true meaning of Christmas.”
Additional Christmas resources from What’s In The Bible?
- Buck Denver Asks… Why Do We Call It Christmas?
- Who Is Santa Claus?
- 10 Best Christmas Coloring Pages
- Christmas Family Bible Reading Plan
- An Uncommon Christmas: How To Buy A Cow
- An Uncommon Christmas: Finding Joy When Grief Is Heavy
- An Uncommon Christmas: Raising Uncommon Kids
- An Uncommon Christmas: Unwrapping Change
- An Uncommon Christmas: Christmas On The Mission Field
- Creating Family Holiday Traditions
- Christmas Traditions Around The World
- Celebrating The Season Of Advent
- Understanding Hanukkah From A Christian Perspective
Anne Marie has a Masters Degree in Education with a focus on Christian Education. She is the author of the blog Future.Flying.Saucers. Anne Marie has a passion for biblically equipping parents and teachers so children can fly for Jesus.On Wednesday nights you will find her teaching Biblical concepts to Awana clubs at her church. All of her Awana and Bible lessons can be found for free on her blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.
Your family can learn more about the history of Christmas, and how Santa Claus, Christmas Trees and many of our modern holiday traditions point back to Jesus in Phil Vischer’s Buck Denver Asks… Why Do We Call It Christmas?Now streaming on JellyTelly!