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Fading Christmas Traditions

The Nordic immigrants in my family arrived in America in the early 20th century. They brought with them their way of celebrating Christmas.

In this tradition, families gathered on Christmas Eve to share holiday food and exchange gifts. Santa Claus (Julenisse in Norway and Joulupukki in Finland) would knock on the door to leave a special gift for each child in the household.

The next morning, on Christmas Day, these devout people attended their Lutheran church to mark the Savior’s birth.

I have always loved celebrating the Christmas holiday this way, but it is becoming harder as the years go by. The Scandinavians have assimilated into the American way of life, and their former practices have given way to the dominant culture.

Yet even as most people seem to have switched to opening Christmas gifts in the morning on the 25th, I would rather attend church then. This presents a problem for me because most Lutheran churches no longer hold a service on Christmas Day. On the day before Christmas, they bend over backwards to have services all day and evening, and then tell you to stay home on Christ’s birthday.

This year my own congregation has decided to follow the new pattern and skip a Christmas Day service. I asked the church office to point me to another congregation in the area that still schedules a December 25 worship service. They could not.

After some internet searching, I finally found one. Only one. You can bet I will be in the pew there on Christmas morning, even as this tradition fades away all around me.

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