Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 6, 2005



Traditions Are Important for Families


          Traditions are important for families. Children learn values by sharing annual traditions with their family. This is especially true when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions.

          Growing up, Thanksgiving Day was always a sacred event for our family. Fall harvesting gave way to a day with family. There was a sumptuous meal topped off with ambrosia, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie.

Somehow Mama always managed to offer everybody’s favorite – toasted pecans. And often Daddy shared his beloved Cocoanut Cake with us; he was not a chocolate lover like the rest of us.

After stuffing ourselves with far more than we should have eaten, most of the men would go hunting in the afternoon – but not before preparing Mama’s green house for winter. For 25 years this was a Turkey Day chore – covering the entire green house with polyurethane sheeting. I can still see Johnny and Mark on top of the roof pulling the sheeting from one end to the other. 

          As a very small child on Christmas Eve I helped my parents leave milk and fruit cake for Santa. We placed it in front of the fire place before we went to bed. Sure enough, the next morning the glass and the plate were empty. Santa had enjoyed our treat when he came down the chimney.

          Mama continued this tradition as my siblings and I grew up. Later Dean and I revived this tradition with our children. We altered it slightly. Neither of us likes fruit cake very much so we left milk and cookies for Santa. When not a crumb remained the next morning, our young boys felt sure that Santa loved chocolate-chip cookies as much as they did.

          A few days before Christmas, our family would drive in to Montgomery, and then drive around residential areas to see the lights. That was always fun. There was always a yard or two decorated with a thousand lights. We were satisfied at home to have a lighted tree and a few candle lights in the windows. Gaudy was never Mama’s thing.

          We wrote letters to Santa and listened to see if ours would be read on the radio. The radio was important back then in the days before television. Without the radio I would have never become a member of the Lone Ranger Safety Club.

I can still see Daddy adjusting the dial on the radio while trying to hear one of the Joe Lewis boxing matches. Reception was poor at night and the Lewis fights did not last long. He usually knocked the other guy out in the early rounds and our entertainment was over all too soon.

          As we grew up Mama would gather us together around the Christmas tree and read to us stories about Santa and his reindeer. And she never failed to read to us about the baby Jesus. Even with a lot of emphasis on Santa Claus we were also learning that Christmas is about the birth of the Christ Child. Looking back I do not think it hurt us to believe in Santa for awhile. In fact, the Santa years probably taught us a lot about the value of giving gifts to others, especially the needy whom we can bless with our generosity.

          In 1957 I began a new tradition – sharing a poem written by Bishop Bill Cannon and printed on a Christmas card he mailed out that year. I have recited it now for almost 50 years to friends at Christmastime. The marvelous poem is titled, “Love is All We Need to Know.” It is a rare and beautiful message about why Jesus was born.

          Twenty years ago I began another tradition – singing “Sweet Lil Jesus Boy” in worship just before Christmas. That plaintive spiritual says for me what Christmas is all about. I plan to continue singing it as long as my voice holds out.

          Traditions are important. Holidays take on new meaning for every family member, no matter the age. Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions, for Christians, are perhaps the most important of all. They work like glue to hold families together and teach little children the core values of a family’s faith. Mom and Dad are wise to establish and practice traditions that can bless their children for a lifetime.

          Give this matter some serious thought as you make plans for this year’s celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas. + + + +