Families celebrate the holidays in many different ways. This local Ocoee family puts their faith first in their celebrations.
To some the holiday season is synonymous with a celebration of faith. To others, it may be the singular time that person reflects on God. Either way, one thing is the same; God gets major props during Christmas time.
The Gutierrez-Delgado familyof Ocoee, wife Chamaris, husband Eduardo and children, Paula, 7, and Fabian, 5, are a strongly committed Catholic family. Chamaris, full of fun and faith for her God, makes it a point to not only reflect on her faith during the season, but also share it with others during this time of year.
Bringing Santa and Jesus Together
The family established a tradition that invites Santa to celebrate Jesus as well. “We focus on Jesus all season,” says Chamaris, who is originally from Puerto Rico. “Since we live here, we incorporate Santa as another element.” Expounding on a story told by the family’s priest to the kids one time, the Gutierrez-Delgado family knows that Santa comes to adore baby Jesus in those houses where people believe. It’s become a tradition that has been working very well for many years.
The Gutierrez-Delgado family decorates their house in a manner that exemplifies their faith – complete with every element that reflects Christmas with the exception of one key player. Beginning a couple of weeks before Christmas, Chamaris lovingly sets out the manger and adds to it as the days come and go. Eventually, Mary, Joseph, the wise men and the animals stand and kneel, waiting for the arrival of their king. Yet, Baby Jesus does not lie in the manger until his arrival the night of his birthday party.
Every Christmas Eve, the family hosts a big birthday bash for Baby Jesus, inviting friends and family to celebrate their Savior. The house is adorned in holiday décor and a Christmas tree, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor.
Consistent with her passion for her family and passion for her God, Chamaris is also passionate about doing things grand. Her birthday party for Baby Jesus includes presents, games, a piñata, and big festivities – as any good birthday party should – and of course, birthday cake. Since the family is celebrating Jesus, who can’t be there in physical form, the family asks guests to bring wrapped presents that are placed under the tree. Then the presents are handed out to the guest children as a way to exemplify the love of Jesus and the gift He gave to the world. The Baby Jesus birthday party is a tradition passed down in Chamaris’ family from generation to generation, dating as far back to her grandmother. The event culminates with Baby Jesus arriving at midnight, in the manger, as the party guests sing Happy Birthday to Him.
Keeping Santa in the Celebrations
In Puerto Rico, Santa is celebrated, but mostly with decorations, whereas in the United States, Santa is a much bigger deal. The Gutierrez-Delgado family also includes Santa in their holiday celebrations by leaving him cookies. However, the children write their wish list letters to Baby Jesus. They remind their children that because Jesus is still just a baby, he can’t travel by himself, so Santa brings him to deliver the presents to the children who believe.
During the advent season, the Gutierrez-Delgado children are asked to find items in their rooms: clothes, toys and books that they can donate to children in need. “In our faith, we’re taught to clear our hearts and minds in preparation for the Messiah”, Chamaris says. The selection of items to donate by the children helps to clear their minds in preparation for the celebration of the arrival of Jesus.
The family also celebrates Three Kings Day with a large party for adult friends and family. Three Kings Day celebrates the coming of the three kings and is held in early January. “The three kings promised Jesus three things with their three gifts. So we each think about promises we want to make to Jesus as well and commit to try to uphold those promises,” Chamaris says. The children leave food for the kings’ camels and the three kings leave three presents for Paula and Fabian under their beds.
Relieving Holiday Stress
So many festivities, along with the financial impact of party hosting and present purchasing, can cause anxiety and stress in many families during this time of year. Julie Wolf, licensed mental health counselor and owner of Hope Counseling Clinic in Winter Garden, says that those who have a faith, and remember to reflect on their faith during the holiday season, hold the opportunity to relieve some of that holiday stress. “When we remember that Jesus came and died for us, and that is what the season is about, it makes the pressure of hosting the perfect party or making the best meal, less stressful,” she says.
She also says that as families spend hours decorating the Christmas tree and striving to get our gazillion holiday cards mailed, their stress can increase and they often lose focus on the true value of the season. “Sometimes we get so caught up in the ‘what’ we are doing that we lose the ‘why’. Then it becomes meaningless and irritating,” says Wolf. “Even just reminding myself that ‘Oh yeah, Jesus was born in a stable and didn’t even have a proper crib’ helps to bring things back into perspective.”
As a counselor, Wolf encourages people to identify faulty beliefs that cause people to feel like they have to get it all perfect. “Once you identify the error messages, you can then replace them with the truth, and as a result breathe a little easier,” she says. Personally, the Wolf family attempts to keep their children and family centered on their faith during the holiday season with a special family service, written by Julie’s grandfather, when her mother was a little girl. The family reads the Christmas story out of the Bible together, sings songs and prays. After the service, Julie’s heart is focused on Christ and her faith… the true reason for the season.