Good morning from Jacksonville, Florida. It is a fine, chilly morning here – especially for me. I am surrounded by my grandchildren, which are always a delight, even if they can sometimes be a lot of work – work that an old Nona is not used to anymore. As we age, we don’t realize that what once came so easy, is now a chore; one that wears us out more than we think it should.
But this was a good thing for me. It gave me the rest I needed to get my internal clock back on track. I slept until 5am, with only a glance at the 3am clock that has been my morning bugle call. And the cloud that has enveloped my brain finally feels as though it is lifting. And the thing I’m thinking about is family traditions.
You see, yesterday the family and I headed to one of Jacksonville’s malls to visit the man-in-red and have our annual photo taken with him. I say annual, but through the years there have been times when we’ve missed the opportunity – or chose not to do it for one reason or another. But in 1961, my mother started something that has passed from her to me to most of my children.
Knowing what I know about Christianity and it’s departure from Judaism, I have to wonder if this is a bad thing. Am I encouraging a perpetuation of a lie around a time that the world is celebrating the birth of the King?
That’s when my thoughts turn to Sukkot, the time when the Savior came to tabernacle with us. I’m thinking about the joy I experienced this year when three of my boys (they will always be boys to their mom) came for dinner in the sukkah. My table was full of family, and laughter, and hardy appetites.
As I looked around the mall this year, seeing all the Christmas decorations, I felt a bit of culture shock, having just returned from Israel. My son and daughter-in-law recently changed their mode of dress – not for religious reasons, but because my son decided he likes to dress in shirt and tie, and have the family dress up (by today’s standards) when they venture out. As I looked at them, my son with a fedora, shirt and tie; my daughter with a long black skirt and black flats; the boys with button down shirts and slacks, I couldn’t help but think ‘Orthodox’.
In Israel, the streets are full of people dressed like this. In fact, it’s quite easy to pick out the tourists – most of them dress less modestly. Here in the U.S., even in this cool weather, many had body parts hanging out for all to see. I guess it’s been that way for a while, but I just never noticed – like the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water.
I sit here wishing I could go back in time and instill in my children traditions that line up with the Word of God. Sukkot would have been a week long celebration, focusing on the King and all His provisions, rather than the man-in-red and his gifts. We could have maintained the tradition my grandfather had of setting up a ‘Christmas’ village, because the manger certainly belongs in the celebration of Sukkot.
No, I can’t go back in time. But does that mean I just quit walking in some of the traditions that make this time of year special for my children? Right now, I don’t think that’s the answer. I could change my mind next week, or next year. God could convict me that I shouldn’t participate anymore. But right now, continuing to build memories of family, of love, and of family times together is what I should be doing.
Just as the Lord slowly introduced the Torah and the Sabbath into my life, I believe I am called to slowly introduce new concepts to my family. It’s a lesson I must remember as I walk in Christian circles. I tend to be a ‘bull in a china shop’ when it comes to my understanding of right and wrong. There is a time and place for that, but not every time, nor every place.
So for now, the tradition of Santa photos with the fam will remain. In fact, this year I am going to pull them all out and hang them on the wall, reflecting on all the good times we experienced, along with the challenges we’ve overcome as a family; always aware that God is in the midst of it all, and He’s not finished with us yet.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. – Joshua 24:15