Monday, November 28, 2011

Tradition and Christmas

I guess "Traditional" is a more personal word than I had thought, in this case especially when it comes to Christmas. People have told me about their Christmas traditions ranging from placing a pickle on the tree, decorating a log for the fireplace, eating fish on Christmas Eve, to putting up thousands of outdoor Christmas lights, attending all the movie premiers, spending every waking hour hunting and even an annual trip to Disney world. I have my traditions and you have your traditions and sometimes we have the same traditions. And then along comes someone to spur my imagination and admiration by doing something rather unique, at least in this modern age.

Berl, a fellow I've known for almost all of my adult life, and his family live in Northern Michigan. They are a self sustaining family, much like a family featured in the Grand Rapids Press a week or two ago. The only electricity is provided by a generator and then only in emergencies, unless you count the solar panels with battery backup for little things. His car runs on methane gas he makes from organic waste, table scraps and dung and their hand built home is heated by wood. They raise chickens and sheep and cows and rabbits and grow a huge garden plowed by their team of horses. They are not Amish although they know, work and socialize with them. That alone is unique enough but when they tell me stories about how they spend Christmas I really feel they are special. It is their Christmas tradition to make food baskets for the needy and deliver them secretly by horse drawn wagon. Christmas presents, in their opinion consists of something made with their own hands for each other. I suspect there is little or no pressure for greater material gifts without television. Beginning with Christmas morning after church they put up the tree and have a special meal every day symbolizing something in the Christmas story until Epiphany when they celebrate with a goose for dinner and take down the tree to burn in the fireplace. The parents and each one of the kids also do something special for each other every day. Not a big thing mind you but rather a simple action to show love and caring.

I don't know if I could adhere to such stringent ideals and traditions but they are one happy bunch so I guess it doesn't matter what I think does it? The news reported a story of a guy here in town who is celebrating the new heart he had transplanted in his chest a year ago that saved his life. I'd say that's the beginning of a fantastic tradition don't you?

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