During this Santa-obsessed time, I’ve been thinking a lot about how things have changed for our family holiday since last year.
Christmas 2014 was the first for my older son to obsess over receiving presents. It made me nervous to think he’d become an unappreciative, acquisitive kid lacking any appreciation for the reason for the season. I fretted about it, but we made little progress beyond, “Why do we celebrate Christmas?”
This year, we’re reading books about Jesus, as well as Santa and Rudolph.
As I’ve alluded, I’m a believer in a higher power, a worldly energy, a united human spirit. But I don’t think there’s a grandfatherly figure with a white beard deciding whether or not we get into pearly gates. And Biblical stories?, word-for-word?…not so much.
Of course we embrace the spirit of Christmas, spreading joy and good tidings and all that jazz. But (as with appreciating Veterans’ sacrifices on Veteran’s Day – and that it’s not just a day off from school, and that Labor Day celebrates sacrifices made by people once working in deplorable factory conditions – and that’s it’s not just a day off from school), the birth of a baby named Jesus is the reason for Christmas – not just getting presents from Santa.
That’s the origin of this holiday; the why. I want my sons to know why we celebrate Christmas and why we give gifts in the same spirit of the wise men and kings bringing gifts to Jesus.
I won’t allow my kids to go through life not understanding the why.
No need to lump me in with people who get freaky-outy about keeping the “Christ” in Christmas. I really don’t think Jesus would (is?) insulted by secular shopping mall decorations or red Starbucks cups lacking snowflakes. If He weren’t so full of forgiveness, I’m sure he would be rolling his eyes at us…like incessantly.
The “war on Christmas” just sells more advertising on FOX. Christians are not the victims. And if you’re really that pure a religious observer, you should be able to separate your authentic & personal celebration from consumer frenzy.
Sorry. Stepping off my soap box.
To keep the season all the more in perspective, recently I read an interesting tidbit in the NY Times about how Washington Irving (he of Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame) crafted a Christmas tradition for America and basically helped invent Santa Claus. (There’s a Christmas tradition to make patriotic FOX combust with sanctimonious pride…’Murrica invented Santa. You’re welcome.)
Until the early 1800’s, there was no national Christmas holiday, like…anywhere; let alone the United States. Christmas was even approached differently by Episcopalians and Unitarians and every other Christian denomination. (Some saw it as blasphemy. WTF?) But in a book parodying the history of NYC, Washington Irving made the Turkish St. Nicholas the patron saint of NYC. Then Irving’s neighbor wrote a poem for his daughters describing St. Nicholas as a “ripe jolly old elf.” Until that time, Alexander Hamilton and Mayflower refugees weren’t dreaming of sugar plums or fretting over any war on Christmas. It was a religious holiday celebrated by some, not by all.
Isn’t that fascinating?
I’m excited to pass this history on to my kids and help them understand the why, plus the crafting of traditions from mistletoe to crèches and mangers to Coca-Cola Santa Claus.
For this year, my kids still see Santa and say presents presents presents. But when I nag, “Why do we celebrate Christmas and give gifts?” my older son parrots, “Because Jesus was born.”
“And what do we do besides get presents?”
He’s regurgitating my words. I’m ok with that, for this year.
Next year we will work on generosity, world peace and virgin births.