The clash between family tradition and the American protestant tradition was even more plangent with my sister’s new church.
The Polish tradition is to have a large meal on Christmas Eve and then go to midnight mass. The American protestant tradition is to have a church service on Christmas Eve, and then the large meal on Christmas day.
Since my sister has been a church organist in protestant churches, we’ve had to reschedule the large meal, usually to be after the service. But this year, she had to play two services: one at 5 and one at 10, so she didn’t get home until well after midnight. Her current church is an hour’s drive away, so she had family dinner with the pastor, and my mother an I ate a fairly simplified version of the Wigilia meal, and we exchanged presents after midnight.
One church she played at had a large population of Liberian immigrants, who also have their large family dinner on Christmas Eve. So they just didn’t come to church at all. So I never saw the whole choir or heard the wonderful congregational singing my sister kept telling me about, because it didn’t happen on Christmas Eve.
I tried telling them about the Mexican tradition of having the large dinner after Midnight Mass and then exchanging presents and then going to bed on Christmas morning, but they weren’t interested in adopting that one. It probably works better for people who normally eat late in the evening than for people who eat at 6.