In my family, as with many families, we have many traditions surrounding the holidays. Christmas Eve dinner, for example, is usually an attempt at the Italian 7-fish dinner (although we end up substituting in different fish, because the traditional ones are expensive). All of us have the Advent calendar memorized, because it's the same one we've used since we were kids. There's usually a viewing of Charlie Brown's Christmas at some point. We can harmonize to the "For unto us a child is born" in Handel's Messiah (and yes, I know it's really for Easter). And then there's the usual stuff, like the tree and the presents and everything.
We have slightly unusual traditions as well.
My brother once said that he waits until finals are over (he's in college) and then he starts playing The Chieftains' album "The Bells of Dublin." That's when he knows it's Christmas, he says. "The Bells of Dublin" is also my favorite, and we play it so often that we get sick of it by Epiphany. A lot of the album is Irish music, but my favorite song on the CD is "The Rebel Jesus" by Jackson Browne:
Well, we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus.
We also usually end up watching "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." I had the book when I was a kid, and at some point, my parents bought the movie. It's this funny story about the Herdemans, the "bad kids" in town, invading the church Christmas pageant. Here's a clip (don't mind the hair and the clothes; it was made in the '80s):
There are some gems in there:
Imogene: What's a pageant?
Alice: It's a play.
Imogene: Like on TV? What's it about?
Alice: It's about Jesus.
Imogene: Everything here is.
You could say that "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is about redemption--for the Herdemans, who find themselves in the midst of church, and for the church members, who are more than skeptical about these kids coming in and taking over their pageant. But there's also some interesting social commentary in the movie and book: the kids have no father; their mother works two jobs; the kids get pushed along without really learning anything in school because no teacher wants to have them twice; no one really lends a hand to this family that is obviously struggling (except, in the movie, for the poor social worker, who seems underpaid and overworked).
I don't know if this commentary was intentional or just a convenient plot device. But I do think that both "The Rebel Jesus" and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" point to a theme that runs deep in Christianity (even if it often gets lost in the voices that scream and shout): this longing for justice, and this reminder that God became incarnated in a poor carpenter.
I think that matters.