Our cold, South Dakota Christmases were always warmed up by the excitement of gathering with our large family of cousins at my grandmother’s house on Christmas eve. Besides a multitude of squirrely children of all ages, there were wonderful Norwegian treats such as krumkake and lefse, and a dinner consisting of lutefisk smothered with melted butter. And every year, after dinner and before opening presents, one of the granddaughters would be selected to read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke, Chapter 2.
There was a cluster of granddaughters within four of five years of age of each other, of which I was the youngest, and then a few more younger than I. And every year I watched as one of the older ones was hand-picked by Grandma to read the Bible story. What an honor! I watched in awe as Sheila flawlessly read the verses; and the following year it was Julie’s turn, and again, I was so struck by what a beautiful job she did, and how “grown up” they both were. Then, it was Cheryl’s turn; Cheryl was a little closer to my own age. Cheryl did a wonderful job too, but I was a little miffed that I hadn’t been selected myself. The following year, Cindy was the chosen one. Of all my cousins, I was closest to Cheryl and Cindy. So I was mad. Really mad. I’m sure they both managed to shine beautifully in their moments of glory, but I never noticed, because I Was Mad. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time that Grandma had started this tradition with the oldest granddaughter, and was working her way down. But I suspect I would have been mad anyway.
After Cindy finished her reading, Grandma approached me and gave me the honor for the following year. I went from mad to terrified almost instantly! I fretted for a few weeks, then put it out of my mind until the following Thanksgiving, when my anxiety began anew. And, a few weeks before Christmas, when I took a look at the passage in the Bible, and saw words like Cyrenius, Judea, and a lot of others I couldn’t pronounce, I was ready to leave the country and come back after the holidays were over!
But my moment of honor came, and I did fine. I really don’t remember who got The Nod for the following year, or the year after that. Once my feelings of adoration, anger, terror, and glory came and went, who did the reading didn’t seem all that important anymore.
Despite the mix of emotions I had over this tradition, two years ago I decided to revive it within my own granddaughters. I’m up to three of them now, although only two can read. And I sincerely hope that as the years go on, none of them get jealous or angry or stressed about it. Because this is the unparalleled story of hope and redemption for all people, and that, after all, is something to celebrate.
Have a Blessed Christmas!
Graphic courtesy of Atlantic Fish