I converted to Orthodoxy two years ago and, while I do not regret my decision, I have to admit that during the Christmas season, I find myself missing the Protestant church I grew up in and raised my sons in. I feel guilty about this, but truly, there were very good times and many precious memories of those years.
We have a small Parish which is predominantly older. I ask myself if this is why I grieve for the past. I miss the Christmas carols, the children’s Christmas plays and pageants, but mostly the music.
Do you ever hear of this? Surely I am not the only person that experiences this?
While I have never encountered anything related to what you have written, it does indeed seem possible that one may have a nostalgic attachment to one’s past experiences, and it is quite common in most parishes to have Nativity pageants and other celebrations in conjunction with the celebration of the Feast of Christ’ birth. Perhaps your parish has no such things, but most do, especially those in which there are many children.
It is important to realize, however, that our participation in the Nativity of Our Lord is fulfilled in the reception of the Eucharist on the Feast and in our participation in the liturgical services. While pageants and tree-trimming ceremonies and carol sing-alongs help to capture the spirit of the season, they are quite secondary to the liturgical services, which offer our worship to God and express our thanks to Him for the Supreme Gift of His Son, rather than merely providing an entertaining way to observe the season.
Our Nativity celebration focuses on worshipping the God Who took on our human nature to bring us into His eternal Kingdom; other celebrations are more focused on us and our enjoyment of the holiday season. While there is nothing wrong with such things, as evidenced in many parishes, they are indeed quite secondary to our liturgical celebration, especially the celebration of and participation in the Nativity Liturgy.
I might add that in the Christian West, Christmas has in some respects taken precedence over Holy Pascha, the Feast of Feasts. While Western Christmas celebrations may be a bit more “glitzy” than ours, it is our celebration of Holy Pascha that is second to none, and that stands at the very heart of all we have and all we do as Orthodox Christians.