I read a passage from The Approaching Storm in September which has taken up residence in my thoughts. It describes a Czech Christmas in 1937.
This was a feudal Christmas. Castle and estate people joined in its celebration, as has always been the custom here. They were all Czech. They came to the tree gorgeously dressed in silk and satin of lovely colors, finely embroidered. The men and boys were as handsomely garbed as the girls and women. There was no servility in these people. I liked their quiet self-assurance.
The celebrations were opened by the children going up to their parents and thanking them for their love and care since last Christmas. The eldest, a son of fifteen, spoke first. He was followed by his brother and sister. This is an annual custom. […] Then we had the presents.
My first instinct on reading this was to clap my hands together and plan a new custom in our family. Then I paused. This Czech annual custom was rooted in generations of thankful attitudes. Can we turn that around with a simple prelude to opening gifts? No, I debate myself, that is not the way to change a culture. Just another band aid fix. It’s hard enough to get some of our kiddos to say “thank you” after they’ve opened gifts!
I’ve mulled this over. Thankfulness has to be inculcated in kids from the get go. I’ve seen parents teach thankful habits in tiny tots using Baby Sign Language. Long before they can talk, they sign “Please” and “Thank you”, the cornerstones of good manners.
I’m still pondering, still admiring this custom. Wanting the heart felt version, not the formulaic one. Thoughts, anyone?
I often wonder when our culture started separating liturgy and heart. Just because something is rote doesn’t mean it can’t be from the heart. 🙂
I love liturgy…the phrase “family liturgy” was in the first draft of this post. So I don’t disagree with your well-made point.
The tension I feel is that importing a custom like this, one deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of the Czechs, won’t have the same depth without the roots underneath it. It is too easy to imagine the eye-rolling if this was planted without working the ground first.
One has to start *somewhere* in recovering lost traditions.
I was thinking about that after i posted but was in the middle of Christmas wrapping and whatnot and couldnt get back to the computer. :). Im still thinking. Lol