A Peale Family Christmas Tradition

The faces and voices may have changed, but this holiday tradition keeps family connected.

Posted in , Dec 20, 2014

Norman Vincent Peale began a family Christmas tradition.

Traditions. You might have them for birthdays, annual family vacations, back to school. But I think Christmastime provides a pretty terrific tee-up for traditions to be continued and for new traditions to be made.

Holiday traditions can be bittersweet if you have lost someone you love, yet they can still bring fulfillment. Knowing there’s a get-together you can count on every year gives a sense of connectedness and stability.

My family has a tradition that has been celebrated in my parents’ home since before I was born, and I hope will continue long after I’m gone.

Following the annual Christmas Eve Pageant at Christ Church on Quaker Hill, Grandma and Grandpa Peale would come to our home, which was once theirs, in Pawling, New York.

Before dinner, we would gather in the “Christmas Room,” all of us dressed in our festive finery.

Grandpa Peale would sit in the same chair, with his legs crossed characteristically, open a Bible my mother had been given by Marble Collegiate Church when she was a child, and read from the Gospel of Luke 2:1-20.

Even as very little children, squirmy as we could be, we knew this was a sacred story, that these were sacred moments together.

As we became more aware of the important work Grandma and Grandpa did and the places they went and the lives that they were able, so gratefully, to touch, we understood that in those Christmas Eve moments we were truly blessed–blessed by the story being read, blessed by the presence of peace and togetherness and blessed by this tradition.

After Grandpa Peale passed away on Christmas Eve 1995 at 93 years of age, my father took over the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve, and after my father passed away in 2002, my brother, Andrew, took on this honored role.

With long-running traditions, faces and voices inevitably change. There is surely some sadness in this, but the sweetness lies in experiencing the tradition each year with eyes and hearts open to the people (present and past), the place, and the actions that make each year’s celebration meaningful and uplifting.

This Christmas Eve there will be 22 people at my mother’s home, the same house in Pawling. Our dear family friends, the Smiths (three generations of them), will join us as, as they have for more than 40 years.

There will be reconnecting, memories shared and traditions honored (not to mention delicious food eaten!). Even our six-year-old son is looking forward to those moments all together in the Christmas Room on Christmas Eve…and not just for the presents he will receive after listening to the Gospel of Luke.

Merry, Merry Christmas to each of you. May your Christmas traditions, long-standing or brand-new, bring you a reassuring sense of wonder and joy.

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