“Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”

Kris Kringle, “Miracle on 34th Street”

By the Rev. Miguel Bustos

Beloved Community,

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

As the festive lights twinkle and carols fill the air, December brings a unique blend of joy, reflection, and celebration. In this special month, we embrace not only the sacredness of Christmas but also the rich tapestry of diverse traditions that enrich our church and our lives.

This Christmas season, we are especially reminded of the beauty and importance of cultural diversity. Each tradition, with its unique customs and stories, is a thread in the vibrant fabric of our shared humanity. In recognizing and honoring these differences, we find deeper understanding and appreciation for one another, fostering a spirit of unity and love.

In this spirit, we have invited members of our community to share their special cultural traditions. These stories are not just narratives; they are invitations to journey into the heart of our community’s diversity. They are opportunities to see the world through the eyes of others, to learn, and to grow. From the candles of Kwanzaa, from midnight Mass to the melodies of Advent, each practice carries a profound significance, weaving a story of faith, hope, and love.

My dad is a brilliant storyteller whose stories of my Norwegian ancestors have helped shape who I am. Christmas has always felt like a time when those stories come to life. They ground our family traditions, like opening presents on Christmas Eve to baking at least some of the traditional seven types of Norwegian Christmas cookies. Many of the ornaments on our tree have been passed down over the generations. They represent family and the shared history and traditions that keep us connected to each other and those who we love but no longer see.

Elizabeth Boe, mission personnel officer, Office of Global Partnerships

During the Christmas Eve service on the reservation, the children would sing a carol, such as “Silent Night,” in Lakota. Afterward, we would gather at the parish hall for cider and treats. Soon, boxes arrived containing small brown paper bags filled with peanuts in the shell, hard ribbon candy, and an orange. Each child would receive a bag. For many children, it was one of the few times in the year that we could get fresh fruit. These bags made Christmas special and were one of the things I looked forward to every year.  Today, on many of our reservations, this tradition continues.

The Rev. Shaneequa Brokenleg, staff officer, Office of Racial Justice and Reconciliation

Growing up on the Mexico-United States border, my public elementary school celebrated Las Posadas. In first grade, we welcomed Mary and Joseph to the inn. We had pan dulce and hot chocolate prepared for our guests. The response we sang for those outside of our classroom door was carefully written in Spanish on the chalkboard so that we could sing it aloud. I wore a special dress that day of my first-grade Posada. Being raised in Ambos Nogales (Sonora and Arizona) allowed me to become bilingual and bicultural, a duality that I embrace today. Celebrating Las Posadas brings me back to my hometown roots every Christmas.

Luisa E. Bonillas, Ph.D., Sociedad Episcopal de Evangelismo

As Indigenous people, when we refer to “all our relations,” the phrase evokes a keenly felt spiritual connection and obligation to all Creation. Though my mother held traditional beliefs, we celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday out of respect for her Indigenous father, who was Christian. She told us a traditional tale of the belief regarding the night of Winter Solstice (which she transferred to Christmas Eve)—that at such time of year, the animals could speak in ways that humans could understand. From the belief that all beings reflect and honor the Creator in their own way and wanting very much to bridge the traditions, on Christmas Eve night, the last thing that I would do as a child before getting into bed to await Santa Claus was to go out into the snowy night to leave special foods for the woodland creatures (a forest abutted our backyard). I would walk a little ways into the woods and set out a dish of birdseed, apples, and other animal-friendly foods—in recognition of our kinship in life and in the Spirit that we are all held by the Creator and count on the rebirth of Light.

The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, vice president, House of Deputies

One of the beloved Christmas traditions at our local Episcopal Church is Cocoa and Carols. Held close to the feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (Dec. 6) each year, the congregation gathers in the parish hall to sing one to two verses of beloved Advent and Christmas hymns that members call out while they enjoy hot cocoa and treats. The children all leave their shoes in the hallway outside and find a small bag of treats in them when they leave. At some point we are all treated to a visit from St. Nicholas, who shares his story (often in a poem) and gives gold chocolate coins to each of the children. Then all gather round for a Christmas story and one final song. It was always a wonderful start to the Advent season, and as a parent I really appreciated how it connected the Santa of popular culture to St. Nicholas for all of us. From the poem:

Here stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St. Nicholas soon will come there.
Dressed as bishop or Santa, he’s one and the same—
Jolly, friendly, good man, we’re glad that he came.
Call him “Santa” or “saint,” they both mean the same,
For his nickname is Claus, short for Nicholas’ name.
Giving gifts was his custom—we still do today.
Deeds done in Jesus’ name forever will stay. (unknown author)

The Rev. Canon Meg Wagner,Becoming Beloved Community Advisory Group member and canon to the ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

As we gather with family and friends, let us cherish these moments of togetherness and joy. Let us open our hearts to the lessons and blessings of this season. And let us carry forward the message of peace, love, and reconciliation that lies at the heart of Christmas and of our mission as a church.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas filled with love, joy, and the warmth of shared traditions.

In Peace and Unity, 


The Rev. Miguel Bustos is the manager for racial reconciliation and justice.