I’m wrestling with how to put Christ into Christmas for my sons.
This is Ellison’s (3yo) first Christmas where he “gets” it. But I’m afraid “getting it” means only, “Santa brings me Rocky and Peter Sam!” (*Friends of Thomas)
I’m concerned he’ll be a kid who tears through gifts, ungraciously casting aside Uncle Terry’s educational puzzle, and demands, “Where’s Rocky!?!” (*FOT)
At the risk of sounding FOX-like, I’m waging my own war on Christmas. I won’t allow my kids to take part in our seasonal consuming frenzy without understanding what’s important and why we celebrate.
To me, those are:
(Disclaimer: I’m of the “spiritual, not religious” camp. I believe there’s a higher power distinguishing between right and wrong and endowing humans with purpose. We’ll debate religion another time. Or not.)
The first goal isn’t hard. Ellison playing Santa. Behind his back he hides a “friend of Thomas” or handful of magnetic letters and shouts “Surprise!” He revels in watching me gush over the gifts.
I’ll continue to drum into him how good it feels to give, not just receive.
But then, there’s Jesus.
Truth is: Christmas exists because a child was born, perceived to be the son of God, and three kings brought him coveted spices and priceless metal.
And some kid banged a drum, pah-rum-pum-pum-pum.
I want Ellison to understand there’s an historic reason for the season. But I wrestle with my own knee-jerk liberalism.
I once bought a used car that had a Christian fish symbol on the bumper. Before driving away, I removed the fish. As I did so, I thought, “It’s so sad that I recoil at this. I think Jesus was a good guy with wonderful teachings.” But I believe the “Christian” label has been hijacked by literal Bible interpretations leaving no room for questioning, loving, and evolving.
And because of my beliefs, I have to fight my anti-religious-establishment in teaching my son “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
So without reciting scripture, I stop at nativity displays in the neighborhood and say, “The baby in the middle, there? That’s Jesus. And we celebrate Christmas because he was born.” And then, (I punt, here, because when are Santa and Jesus ever in the same story?) “And Santa brings gifts in that tradition.”
Then I wonder if Ellison will soon think, “Because I’m the son of God?”
And that makes me…?
Anyway. For now, Ellison is more interested in naming the animals in the display. So be it.
Eventually he will recognize the bottomless love from his family, peace on earth, and giving gifts are an amalgam of the reason for the season; and that it started with a religious movement celebrating Jesus.
Later, after he’s gained a religious education (eventually we will find a church so someone else – besides me – can lecture to him about right and wrong), he can believe what he wants. He might end up Muslim or Pagan. But IF he takes part in Christmas rituals from SantaCon to watching Love Actually, by God, he will understand from whence it all came.
And he will be grateful for the reason and the season, damn it.
So wish me luck instilling that this year.
Next Christmas we can explore the possibility that Santa is based on a Nordic tradition of tripping on red ‘shrooms growing under pine trees, making Arctic people hallucinate that their pet reindeer were flying. Seriously.
What are your thoughts? Other than church attendance, how do YOU give reason to the season for your kids?
I’ve learned from my sons that they only learn from what they see me do, not from what I try to “teach” them. It’s good for Ellison to learn about these religious and cultural traditions, but as you say, he learn from watching the love he gets everyday.
Thanks, Joel. I often think about them learning from my actions when they see me grumbling and throwing my own (repressed) tantrums. 🙂 But there’s the good lessons, too.
Just yesterday, one of my 10 year old girls asked me if I celebrate “3kings day” or “8 lights day” (Christmas or Hanukkah). I told her I celebrate any holiday that involves loving other people, family and togetherness- including kwanza. I followed it up with- “I like a good time”. I meant it to sound more mature than it did. But she got what I meant.
Also a perfect approach. Good times and love. 🙂
This morning my 4-year-old son was giving his teachers their gifts. As he did he said, “any gift given is a gift from the heart.” Yeah – so I didn’t tell him that. But he’s right on. Because they’re so young, our kids have the benefit of boiling this stuff down to a purity we just can’t imagine. What you’re doing is all you need to do. A few Rankin & Bass cartoons never hurt either. 😉 When he’s older, DO NOT go to a church where someone lectures him about right and wrong. We found a church that does not do that…so I know they exist. 🙂 Have him study the person of Jesus. If the people who label themselves “Christian” did that more often, the stereotype wouldn’t be the way it is. But for now, he’s a kid, and that’s a graceful thing to be.
We used well chosen children’s books constantly to convey the values we hoped our children would
embrace….and we watched for teachable moments….always…..to integrate important
messages into the days’ events.
I love this blog entry. Thank you for writing. We are the fathers of a 1 year old, and while we go to church (a Presbyterian Church which is a member of the More Light GLBT affirming ministry), we also know that we will deal with Christmas traditions (Santa, trees, lights, etc.) on a daily basis once he is older. This gives us some great ideas in that regard. Thank you.
Thanks for commenting, Murray! It really burns me when we get lost in holidays-as-sales-events. From Veteran’s Day to Labor Day to Christmas Day. And with a little bit of religious education, we can get back to the real meaning behind celebrations. I hope my partner and I can find the right religious home, sooner than later. We are on the search, rest assured.
We are actually Christians, but I hope I am never obnoxious about it. (I am one of those people who put the Christian symbol on my car.). We have the Nativity scene on the mantle & all that.
In case you ever wonder, the WordPress editors recommended your blog to me; that’s how I found you. 😊
Hey, there! Glad you commented, again. Hey, I don’t have anything against core Christian values. I was just wrestling with how to approach celebrating Christmas in a way that a 3-year-old can relate and that’s not corporate consumerism. It’s too bad Christianity has been given a black eye by religious fanatics who don’t live according to Jesus’ teachings like “love your enemies” and “love one another.” So keep spreading joy! We’re right there with ya. And have a Merry, meaningful Christmas!
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