Holiness in our midst – Session 39

Holiness in our Midst


From kindergarten through high school, our family lived in six different communities in three states. Among the continuities—whether we were in Burlington, IA, Duluth, MN, or Lakewood, CO—was the way we celebrated Christmas. Christmas Eve supper always featured oyster stew, made with the freshest oysters my father could find. Several of us were not fond of oysters, but, the rule was, we had to eat at least one oyster before we could open presents. The dinner conversation every year centered on how to tell boy oysters from girl oysters, a distraction to postpone the inevitable “Downing of the Oyster.” After supper dishes, we opened all of our presents; then we set out for a midnight church service. Once it was a spectacular Festival of Carols and Lights at historic Montview Presbyterian Church in Denver.

I spend Christmas Eves these days with my sister Janet and brother-in-law Bill in Des Moines. We have fried chicken or ham with lots of mashed potatoes, then we open most of our presents…after dishes! At “half time,” between rounds of presents, Janet makes us malted milks. On Christmas morning, we have yummy fried patties, made from leftover mashed potatoes, and lots of bacon. Then we open the “Santa gifts,” which are neatly placed underneath our stockings.

(Our Santa gives us lots of candy, as well as a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste each year…and floss every other year.) My sister Jill, who lives in a Denver suburb, carries on our family-of-origin tradition by making clam chowder from scratch on Christmas Eve for her clan; they’re not oyster aficionados.

Did your family open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning…or both? Do you have traditional family meals during the holidays?

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Remember a holiday tradition.


  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write a journal reflection about a holiday tradition in your family or congregation. Why is it meaningful? Will you pass it on?


  1. Read aloud Session XXXIX.
  2. Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.