Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trapped in Traditions

Thanksgiving Day is now over and people are gearing up for Christmas.  We don’t have too drive to far off of our farm to see glistening lights and embellished trees taking their places in the homes all around us.  Many are getting ready for their community’s best decorated homes contests, Festival of Trees and Christmas tours of homes.


I recall, as a young girl, that we put-up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  We weren’t getting ready for any sort of contest; instead it was a preparation of the heart for what we believed the next day signified, the birth of Jesus.  While I have a very different understand of and stance regarding “Christmas” today, decorating our home was a very simple and enjoyable family event.  We went into the woods, chose the best looking scrub cedar that we could find, cut it down and drug it home.  In the warmth and quietness of our home we made popcorn and cranberry garlands to adorn our specially selected tree.  Once the garland was in place, it was time to hang the homemade ornaments that we’d constructed through the years.  Each ornament carried with it a special meaning and stirred memories.  As we tranquilly decorated, we reminisced.


Today, many people rush to decorate their homes immediately after Thanksgiving and the process is often anything but simple, family oriented, peaceful or Christ-centered.  Every room in the house is decorated to the hilt, a perfectly manufactured “tree” comes out of storage and every bough is embellished “just so”.  Children are often excluded from the activity because the d├ęcor is too expensive for their clumsy little hands, besides they aren’t thoughtful enough in where they place the decorations on the tree!  If children are included at all, the entire process often and unnecessarily becomes a nerve-wracking fiasco at which Jesus is never mentioned.


A number of years ago, I took our son, Jake and some of his friends to a concert in the city.  Afterwards, we drove to the “rich” section of town to see all the Christmas lights.  The homes were enormous and the decorations were elaborate!  As we meandered through the avenues and cul-de-sacs, we “oohed and aahed” over all the pomp.  Eventually, we came to a place that was absolutely astounding.  It looked like a park with a highly-structured fence all around it.  Beyond all the spectacular yard decorations, we could see a massive building off in the distance. 


The towering ornate gate at the entrance was opened

and we followed the car in front of us in.

As we drove through,

one of the teens noticed that the gate was closing behind us and squealed,

“Oh my gosh!  We’re trapped!”


The further we made our way up the long drive, the more we realized that the gate was not open for the public, but had been purposely unlocked for the car in front of us.  We just happened to be there at the “right” time.  This was not a park, it was a private residence!  I couldn’t turn around and it wouldn’t have helped if I could.  I had no way to open the gate.  My only choice was to meander up the lengthy drive to the mansion in front of us.  Once they realized what I was going to do the teenagers were beside themselves, yet giggling all the way, “I can’t believe we are doing this!”  “This is so embarrassing!”  “You are really going to do this aren’t you?”


I drove under the graceful canopy, got out of the car, walked up to the extravagant front door and rang the door bell.  I could hear merriment of a party coming from inside.  It seemed like forever before anyone responded.  Finally a sophisticated, middle-aged man came to the door holding a toddler dressed in her Christmas best.  While I wasn’t invited inside, I can’t even begin to describe the splendor that I saw from the door step!  The one thing that stands out in my mind is the four foot tall luxuriant Santas which lined the steps of the spiraling staircase seeming to rise to the heavens!  Each St Nick was dressed according to customs from all over the world.  I wonder if the little girl helped to set them into place.


Christmas traditions often leave us feeling as though we are trapped in a circle drive, surrounded by unfathomable materialism, with no way out.  While the obtrusive gate is intimidating, turning around and driving back through it is an option.  Just ask the “Owner” and the gate will be opened!  There is no man-made tradition worth the freedom that you’ll experience when you drive through to the other side.  While others along for the ride may not understand the direction that you’ve chosen, often they are just waiting for someone else to make the first turn!





P.S.  Please feel free to contact me with questions, thoughts, topics you’d like to ponder or to read past articles at:  You may also contact me at:

             Bonnie Jaeckle

             In Search of the Whole-Hearted Life

             Diagonal Progress

             505 Jefferson St.

             Diagonal, IA 50845


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