Ice Breaker Questions
- What are your favorite Christmas traditions?
- How many of these traditions have been handed down from one generation to the next?
- Like Mary, what kind of things do you reflect on at Christmas?
- Do you decorate your home? If so, when and how?
- When do you exchange gifts—Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
- Do you go to church on Christmas Eve?
- Do you have a favorite Christmas song?
There are many things to reflect on and ponder at Christmas. Also, many Christmas traditions are celebrated around the world. Consider how many different traditions we discovered in our group. Let’s look at some other traditions around the world.
The Giant Lantern Festival is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando, which is known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Filipinos place significance on the symbolism of light. The lantern reminds us of the Star in the East and is a sign of hope. Eleven villages take part in the festival that attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe.
Icelanders observe the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Thirteen troll–like characters, known as Yule Lads, come out to play. They visit children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window, and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.
Nikolaus (not to be confused with Father Christmas) travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6 and leaves little treats like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys in the shoes of good children all over Germany.
Here Christmas comes towards the beginning of the summer holidays, which occur from mid–December to early February. As the weather is warm, some families might be camping at Christmas. Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas trees and lights, much as we do in America.
United States of America
Because of its multi-cultural nature, the United States has many different traditions to celebrate Christmas. Often the traditional meal for Western European families is turkey or ham with cranberry sauce. Families with Eastern European origins favor turkey with trimmings, kielbasa, cabbage dishes and soups, while some Italian families prefer lasagna. Tamales are a favorite in the homes of those of Mexican heritage. Some Americans use popcorn threaded on string to decorate their Christmas tree. Making gingerbread houses is also popular. Christians will go to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Many have special carol services and events where the story of Christmas is sung and celebrated.
These are just a few traditions from around the world. For more information check the website: https://www.momondo.com/discover/article/christmas-traditions-around-the-world.
Ponder These Things
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, NAB).
We have many rich traditions around the world associated with Christmas and the birth of Jesus. But on that day so long ago in a stable, what was Mary thinking? For her there were no bright lights and celebrations, only a promise from an angel and the prospect of a difficult life. Can you imagine how a young teenage girl like Mary could grasp that she was to be the mother of the Messiah?
Ponder this: He was God’s Son, the Messiah, but He was also human. He would need diapers. He needed to be fed, burped and clothed. Can you imagine Mary trying to come to terms with the fact that this little baby was the Son of God? She had to ponder and understand that she was in the presence of a miracle. She must have reflected back to the day nine months earlier when she was visited by an angel. On that day she learned that she, a virgin, would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and that the child in her womb would be the very Son of God
Mary held and nursed this little helpless baby, who could not even hold up His head. But she had to come to terms with the fact that this was God in the flesh come to make us whole. One day this very real human being would choose to give His body over to be crucified. And Mary would be there to ponder that too.
Watch the music video “Mary Did You Know?” which can be found at: https://youtu.be/ifCWN5pJGIE
How much do you think Mary knew and understood? Put yourself in her shoes. So much of what happened to her must have felt like a dream.
As I look back on our Christmas as a family, I think about our traditions. I love reliving the memories. Can you imagine being Mary and receiving the news that she was going to give birth to the Savior of the world? During the time leading up to His birth and even after, I don’t think Mary could have known the full implications of what was going to happen in the future.
This Christmas season take some time to ponder and reflect on the miraculous gift of Jesus and on God’s work in your own life.