Within our family celebrations, we are trying to keep a balance between the religious and secular parts of the holiday. On one hand, Jesus Christ is indeed the "reason for the season," as this is after all about celebrating the occasion of his birth and his unlikely origins in the stable in Bethlehem. On the other hand, there are gifts to give, songs to sing, and fun to be had.
Here's some of what we do:
- We set up a Nativity scene, based on the exact setting of Jesus' birth. The children have one of their own made of dolls. In addition, the Jesus and Christmas stories are told in plays at Mrs. Crabtree's schoolhouse which Belinda and Bryson attend.
- We set aside one night a year for a caroling pageant that harks back to the Victorian era in England, where much of what we associate with Christmas celebrations began. The Barefoot Boys will be joined by Jennifer and Brandy to carol with the McLambs, and in turn the McLambs visit us, specifically Shayla, Shawnelle, Rebecca and Rachel. (For some reason, only the ladies of that house have the good singing chops.)
- The families also come together on Christmas Day, where about 50 people (all current residents of both families and some distant relatives of both) attend a massive church service. Ralph Barefoot and Jerald McLamb are co-pastors, with us hosting in even-numbered years and them in odd-numbered years. Christmas is one of only three times all year that the families participate in common activities; the others are at Easter and the annual summer block party.
- In mid-December, we have a parade of little boats on the pond of our property. The idea came from a similar parade I once saw in Myrtle Beach, SC - ironically at Barefoot Landing. (The name of the mixed-use development comes from the carefree attitude of beachgoers, not our own family name.)
(What you see at right is a picture from the boat parade in Huntington Harbour, CA, about 10 miles from my house. No, I haven't been there. - D.H.)