All American Christmas
Rachel: For Christians around the world, Christmas is one of the most important religious holidays of the liturgical year. That’s a pretty obvious statement, but in our secular culture it’s easy to forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. While devout Christians struggle to keep the spiritual meaning of Christmas alive and central in our culture, they also embrace the fact that everyone, including non-practicing Christians and non-Christians, loves Christmas!
I love how much my non-Christian friends looked forward to Christmas. Not believing in Jesus never deterred them from buying and trimming trees and decorating their homes. Indeed, our more secular traditions, such as cookie exchanges and watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, do something similar to what those fundamental beliefs in Christianity do; they unite us through common practices while also pointing out that we come from different backgrounds and celebrate the holiday in unique ways. It’s also so American! E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. One family’s way of doing things isn’t better or worse; it’s just different. And adding other people’s traditions to our own is part of the evolving joy of Christmas.
Marriage, especially interracial marriage, is another way Christmas traditions evolve and meld into something new and beautiful. For us, that meant bringing Irish and Spanish/Mexican Christmas and Catholic traditions together.
Sean and I don’t just come from different ethnic backgrounds, we also come from different parts of the United States, which presents some interesting regional (and weather!) differences too. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, Sean would tell you that no self-respecting family would have a fake tree.
Sean: When we got married, the very first tradition Rachel embraced from my family was a live, freshly cut Christmas tree. Rachel’s Mexican-American dad is from the land of saguaro cactuses in the Arizona desert. Her mom grew up in a big city, Madrid, the capital of Spain. On top of that, Rachel was a military brat who lived most of her life overseas, so growing up, artificial trees were all she knew.
Rachel: I remember being so amazed that we could just drive a couple miles into the woods, pick out a tree, and take it home. Now, every year, not long after Thanksgiving, we set a date, load up Sean’s chain saw, and go together as a family to cut down our Christmas tree. We blast Christmas music in the SUV and argue the whole way about what tree species we should pick this year.
Sean: Shortly after Rachel and I were married I had a Christmas tree mishap. Let’s just say our fresh blue spruce looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That’s when my dad stepped in with a great piece of manly Wisconsin advice. His advice wasn’t about the birds and the bees. It was about the trees. Specifically, tree stands. “Sean,” he told me, “you get what you pay for, and size matters. Get a big stand with a wide base and you’ll never have a problem.”
And you know what? He was right! Ever since I got a big tree stand, we’ve never had an issue with a Christmas tree leaning or falling again.
Rachel: Over the years we learned to adapt and adopt our Christmas traditions and, in some cases (mincemeat pie comes to mind), drop certain ones altogether. Settling on what traditions fit your particular family and lifestyle is just part of the process, and every family has the same trial-and-error journey in establishing traditions that are worth continuing.
Sean and I share a real passion for Christmas and we fully embrace the whole holiday season from Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) all the way through to Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, which is on January 6, when we celebrate and open gifts again. On January 5, our children put their shoes under our family altar table in the living room. Instead of leaving cookies and milk like they did for Santa, they fill their shoes with sugar for the camels. In the morning, the Three Wise Men have left each of them three gifts, just as they brought the baby Jesus three gifts—frankincense, gold, and myrrh.
In this book, our FOX Family members share stories that will delight you, surprise you, make you laugh, and sometimes cry, but more than anything else, they will virtually welcome you into their homes, their past, and their presents—in both senses of the word! They share stories of their secular traditions as well as the role that religion plays in their lives and celebrations of the Savior’s birth.
It should come as no surprise that as journalists, they are wonderful storytellers, so we’ve included these stories in their own words. And they didn’t just supply us with exciting and memorable stories.
Inside this book you’ll find tantalizing recipes from the wonderful All-American Chex Mix (thanks, Dana, for her sister Angie’s take on this one!) to Sandra Smith’s Scandinavian Krumkake.
We’ve also included play lists and mentions of our FOX Family members favorite holiday tunes. Whether it’s a secular classic like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” or the joyful hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” or a few less familiar that you’re going to want to check out for yourself—they make up a grab bag of good listening.
No matter what part of the country our FOX Family and Friends were born in or now live, or from what part of the world some of their traditions originate, whether they were an only child or one of a large brood, the members of our extended FOX Family had a few things in common—Christmas was a time of year they all associated with family, food, fun, and childhood memories that brought joy into their lives.
You’re about to learn a bit about the gifts we loved, the songs we sang, the decorations we hung, the church services we attended, and the people and places that mattered most to us on Christmas.
As you put another log on the fire, curl up with a warm blanket, and settle in for a midwinter’s read, we thought we’d kick things off by sharing with you how our FOX Family and Friends get into the spirit of giving. There are no ghosts who will visit upon you, but we will be reliving some of our favorite moments with you. We wish you all a merry Christmas wherever you are and however you celebrate this most blessed and joyous holiday.