Chaplain’s thoughts …

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The blending of family holiday traditions

It’s the holiday season, and many newlyweds are discovering the harsh reality that not everyone celebrates the same way. A few years back I experienced this in my life. I was an incredibly happy newlywed about to enter into my first Christmas season with my beautiful bride. I thought it would be glorious … I thought it would be just like my family’s celebration … it wasn’t.

I quickly discovered that I had married into a family with rituals and traditions that were steadfast. These traditions, passed down from generation to generation, were observed with great devotion and exuberance. One such tradition was the eating of Lutefisk, a traditional Norwegian dish. Being from North Carolina I had never seen nor heard of this particular dish … I was about to be educated.

I learned that Lutefisk is a freeze-dried then reconstituted fish which is the centerpiece of the Larson family’s Christmas Eve menu. Preparing this meal takes skill, if done well, it almost resembles fish. If not, it resembles Jell-O that hasn’t quite “set.”

At my in-laws, Lutefisk is mercifully served with boiled potatoes, drawn butter and a yummy white sauce. The final complement to the dish is a shower of salt and pepper — the pepper is especially nice as it adds color to the dish.

But Lutefisk is not just food; it is a way of life. The very mention of it evokes sentimentality and nostalgia into the hearts of my in-laws.

I quickly discerned that this meal was the key, the portal, to acceptance into my wife’s family. Yes! Eating Lutefisk and strategically timing my request for “more Lutefisk,” so that my mother-in-law would hear my request, was the trick. In one instant, with my request, I clinched my standing with the family. I sealed the deal. I was in the family. I had earned my mother-in-law’s undying affection. I was part of the tribe, heck, I was three quarters Norwegian by marriage. It was glorious! Thirty-one Christmases later, with God’s help, it’s still glorious.

Newlyweds, as you blend your family holiday traditions together to make your own, please remember that “holiday” is the blending of the words “holy” and “day.” So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or some other holy day, I invite you to remember the deep religious and spiritual foundations of your observances.

May your hearts and homes be strengthened as you celebrate and exercise your faith this holiday season.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.