Christmas Customs, Part 2 :: Waffles & Strawberries

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had waffles and strawberries on Christmas morning. Come hell or high water, not matter what else we did that day, we always launched the morning with this diabetes-inducing feast of carbs and sugar. Some years my dad made the waffles from scratch, others we just popped the Ego’s in our toaster (truthfully, I generally preferred the latter). It is a custom that I have continued ever since moving out, and intend to pass along to my kids as well.

I’m sorry, what’s that? You think waffles and strawberries for Christmas seems random and not all that special? Ahh, let me explain…

My great grandfather, Roy Benton Edwards, lived during the Great Depression. During the “dust bowl,” when the top soil of American farms across the country was finally used up and simply blew away with thousands of families’ livelihoods, he sold farm equipment. That’s right, he sold expensive farm equipment to the single poorest class of citizen during our country’s most dramatic economic free fall. 

I never knew my great-grandfather, but he is spoken of as a near-legend in our family. He was “the kindest man you ever met,” and was so impacted by the love and grace of God that he beggared himself to help keep struggling farmers afloat – frequently without making a profit. When a family couldn’t afford to buy the equipment they needed to make a living, Roy would take out loans in his own name and buy the equipment for them, telling them to “just pay me back when you can.” Don’t get me wrong, very few families in that economy were flourishing, but there were also not many who lived so generously as that!

In the back of their house was a pretty modest strawberry patch. Every summer my great-grandmother would pick and can the whole lot of them. Because fruit out of season was impossible to come by (much less afford), they saved it especially as topping for pancakes on Christmas morning. In an age when no one could afford eggs, milk or meat, pancakes were an extremely cheap and daily meal that would fill your family’s stomachs, but not provide much in the way of nutrition. Strawberries were a rare treat, and one that transformed ordinary pancakes into an extraordinary delicacy. On a cold Christmas morning, in a house without heat, they would huddle around a feast fit for the King to celebrate His coming down to earth in a similarly cold manger, into a family also struggling to barely make ends meet…

The birth of a child, while undoubtedly special and cherished, isn't exactly uncommon… but flesh and blood birth of the Creator of the universe? Extraordinary! I don’t know when or why my family switched from pancakes to waffles, or if my great-grandparents saw a parallel between pancakes and babies, and strawberries and Christ, but for me it is a beautiful reminder of just how unfathomably special and unique the Christmas season is. This Edwards Family Christmas Tradition reflects both the extreme normalcy and historical uniqueness of Christ’s birth.  My great-grandmother’s strawberries are the fruit of radical, sacrificial generosity. They point to a similar, if far more profoundly unconditional love of God made flesh.