By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - Christmas isn’t complete at pastor Russ Doebler’s home without a birthday cake for Jesus. Doebler is the pastor of Howard Lake’s Blessed Hope Church.
What started out as a tradition to drive home the true meaning of Christmas to he and his wife Becky’s young children, continues to be a tradition as the children get older.
“We talk about how commercial Christmas has become,” Doebler explained, “and we intentionally celebrate Christ’s birth by making a birthday cake for Jesus.”
“It (the cake making) was designed for when the kids were younger. My youngest is now 12, but we still bake a cake for Jesus,” Doebler added.
The family also reads The Christmas Story from the Bible both Luke and Matthew, “because one talks about the wisemen, and the other, the shepherds,” Doebler said.
Trimming the tree is also a favorite activity, and Becky purchases a new ornament every year for each child. The intent is for the children to take those ornaments, and establish their own traditions when they’re grown.
Because Christmas is spent away from home, the Doeblers celebrate the day before they leave for their holiday destinations.
They break out the nice China, and enjoy not ham, not turkey, but tortellini.
“We know this is unusual, but we like pasta, and we know that we’ll get ham at our relatives,” Doebler laughed.
Doebler’s mother is famous for making an incredibly large spread of sweets, so the family doesn’t do a lot of baking before Christmas, except homemade Oreo cookies.
“Those are our favorite. They’re not crunchy like Oreos, they’re a chewy cookie. We add food coloring to the filling. Half the batch we make red, and half is green,” Doebler explained.
Christmas Eve for the family involves a trip to Wisconsin to celebrate with Becky’s family. Christmas Day is spent with Russ’s family in northern Minnesota.
Doebler said that he, his brother, and sister look forward to a competitive Boggle tournament every Christmas.
“We even have a traveling trophy,” Doebler laughed. “We have established rules for challenging words. I know more three-letter words than most people should probably know,” he added.
To top off the Doebler’s Christmas festivities at his mother’s house, all the grandkids put together a musical program.
“My mom really looks forward to this,” Doebler said.
“It was probably cuter when the kids were younger my brother recently dug out his clarinet and he’s nearly 60,” Doebler laughed.