AA per_(.)(.)_tive : Quakers / Christmas - 4

Mary Calhoun moriah at preferred.com
Mon Dec 20 10:47:48 JEST 1999

per_(.)(.)_tive from the Administrative Assistant's inbox--

Quakers on Christmas

_(^)(^)_ the following seemed worth sharing...

from Chattanooga Friends Meeting's "Friendly Voice:"


Part 4 of 4
"Love and companionship, imagination, humor, inventiveness, joy...."
    After his name at the end of the previous e-mail, this Canadian Quaker
identified himself as "fighting the 'humbug' in the frozen north."  Another
Friend responded, "Hear, hear!  Following a similar discussion on another
Quaker forum a couple of years ago, I took another look at the Christmas
celebrations of my own family of origin, celebrations which (despite a
certain amount of dysfunctionality then and always) I valued very deeply.  I
asked what it was that we are celebrating, how we celebrated, and whether or
not it was appropriate for me now than I am a Quaker (as I was not when I
was a child) I decided that for me, the question was this:  what is born in
us at  Christmas time?  Is it a child of God?"
    "I felt that I could definitely answer 'yes' about our family's
traditional celebrations.  We kept our gift-giving (though not always our
feasting) within quite modest bounds; at the time we each had $5 to spend on
each of our family members, and my parents usually got us a main present
costing about $20 and a few small odds and ends. These days one might double
or triple the amounts to stay within the same general range.  But the most
important thing was always the stockings, in which we all participated."
    "Our tradition, passed down from my mother's family, was that we would
assemble a collection of cheap odds and ends, as silly as possible, which
tended to be recycled from year to year.  We would wrap these up and write
poems about them.  Children sometimes started writing rudimentary poems when
they were young enough to need help writing them down, and they grew more
elaborate with age.  Various sub-traditions developed:  certain recurring
themes, certain poems that were parodied year after year, certain punch
lines for limericks."
    "What ended up happening, once we were old enough to appreciate it, was
that we would spend all morning taking turns reading the poems out loud and
opening the 'mathoms' with much fanfare, hooting with laughter and
congratulating each other on our wonderful inventions.  This always came
first and by the time we got to the 'under the tree' presents they were an
anticlimax (though we enjoyed them too)."
    "What was born in us on those Christmas days?  Love and companionship,
imagination, humor, inventiveness, joy, a sense of belonging, and
unbreakable bonds with most of our family.  Was it a child of God?  Indeed
it was."
    "We also had some more serious traditions, like a quiet Christmas Eve in
which we sang carols together while taking turns filling the stockings, and
my father (later my mother, when they were divorced) read from the Bible.
And in the morning we children had to stay in bed pretending to sleep until
our parents came in and 'woke  us up' by singing 'Joy to the World.'  When
they came to your room you got up and joined the procession from room to
room until everyone was officially awake, and  then we started
downstairs--youngest first."
    "These traditions were always continued by mutual agreement and never
seemed to lose their meaning for us.  If a tradition got stale--a family
choral recitation of 'The Night Before Christmas,' for example--we would
agree to drop it.  I can't say our family functioned very well most of the
time, but our Christmas traditions kept us bound in lasting love that has
remained strong to this day."

Concluding Queries
    And so what can Chattanooga Friends conclude from this Quaker discussion
of Christmas?  For one, is it not obvious that Friends are a thoughtful
people who care deeply about things?  And even in "dysfuntional families"
and during a perhaps "dysfunctional" holiday, should we ask and then
remember an answer to a basic question:  "What was born in us on those
Christmas days?  Love and companionship, imagination, humor, inventiveness,
joy, a sense of belonging, and unbreakable bonds with most of our family.
Was it a child of God?  Indeed it was."  And do not Friends often tell
themselves that there is that of God in everyone?  Does this not mean that
the potential of God exists in everyone?  Should Friends say the same thing
about  Christmas?  Should they remember that there is that of God, the
potential of God, even in Christmas as in all of the other 'holy' days that
occur every day throughout the year?


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