Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jennifer Hallmark | Spread the Christmas Joy

The Joy of Celebration…Twice

Two Christmases a year. Our family has had a special way of linking traditions of today with the culture of past generations. Celebrating our parents’ and grandparents’ cultures has been an important link in the upbringing of our children. In the early 1900’s, a ship carrying immigrants from Austria and Poland made its way across the Atlantic and through Ellis Island. Along with their few worldly possessions, my grandparents brought with them to America their traditions and a strong Russian legacy.

My mother passed along her appreciation of that heritage to me, and I’ve worked to instill it in my children and grandchildren. Our favorite celebration of the culture they left behind was Russian Christmas. During this holiday, my grandparents would put straw under and on the eating table to remember Jesus’ lowly birth. They blessed all the members of the families that gathered. However, they lived in Pennsylvania, and we resided in the Deep South and didn’t get to be with them during the holidays. My mother would plan to celebrate regular Christmas on December 25 and Russian Christmas on January 7.

Christmas Eve and day were spent with my dad’s family and my husband’s family, sharing traditions familiar to them. Southern food, presents galore, and catching up on the past year were an important part of their holidays. The New Year would come and go. Russian Christmas would finally arrive.

My family would drive to my parent’s house on January 6, which was the eve of the day Christmas was celebrated on the old “Julian” calendar. The excitement would build as our children, Mandy and Jonathan, looked forward to the small, decorated tree, presents and a special supper to commemorate this second Christmas of the year.

On Russian Christmas Eve, Mother would set up and decorate a small tabletop tree. We would prepare a special seven-dish Russian meal, which included salmon, stuffed potato pies, borscht or beet soup, stuffed cabbage, polish sausage, boiled cabbage, and special rolls filled with raisins and prunes. We ate by candlelight and recelebrated the birth of Jesus, then exchanged small presents as we shared stories of culture, heritage and family. I’m glad to remember and share my heritage with my family.

Two Christmases. Two times to remember the birth of Christ, a beginning that eventually led to Calvary and a new beginning for us all. This is truly worth celebrating.

Jennifer Hallmark: writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. At times, she writes. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

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