This post may seem untimely; it’s not Christmas yet. I know. We have to do the whole Pilgrims and Indians thing first. But for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas meld together into a month-long megaholiday, a bonanza of family and gluttony and gratitude and travel and stress and spending and peace and eggnog. It’s all in there.
I love Christmas, I do. At the same time, I hate a lot of the things that have come to be associated with it. I mean, consumerism in general gets to me. I feel slightly ill when I allow myself to think about the volume of goods contained in the box stores up and down my town’s commercial main drag: enough, it seems, to feed and clothe just about everyone, everywhere.
And here, in my own home, my two- and five-year-old are hard at work compiling their Christmas lists from items in the catalogs that have begun to fill our mailbox. “Can I circle this, mom?” Maggie asks, pointing to a blow-up slide and ball pit. “You can circle it,” I say, “But it doesn’t mean that’s what you’re going to get.” (Which really means, circle away, but if you think you’ll be playing in a ball pit in our living room on Christmas morning then you’re not as bright as I thought you were.) “Ceci! We’re getting this for Christmas too!” she cries, as she scribbles a huge circle around it and marks it with an “M”.
When I was younger, I had no issue with the way we do Christmas. Heaps and heaps of gifts under the tree, many of them toys or games or clothes for me, that was just fine. Santa was this amazing guy who spoiled me rotten every year, and my parents were alright too. I’m sure that in some way I was involved in the act of giving as well, but I honestly can’t recall. I guess my memories of all the Christmas gifts I picked out for others were immediately replaced in my brain by the robotic voice on my new Electronic Mall Madness game, which I can still hear clearly saying, “Ooooohhh, long line. Try again later!”
But bringing three little beings into the world has caused me to closely examine my ideals. I don’t take anything for granted anymore as “just the way we do things”. So I guess it was becoming a mom that made me think twice about Christmas and the way I want my children to experience it.
My husband and I, thankfully, were on the same page about this. We sat down early on and went over some Christmas rules that we would abide by and share with both our families. Here they are, in a nutshell:
- Santa will bring each child three presents. If our kids ever questioned this, our response would be, “Oh, so you think you’re better than Jesus?”
- Each child will receive one gift from mom and dad. Ideally, this gift will be the coolest ever and will totally eclipse anything that old elf-labor-exploiting Santa could come up with.
- Each family member that wants to give our children gifts may give each child only one gift. Note: In the years since making these rules, both grandmas have tried to get around it by wrapping up a whole bunch of stuff in one package. I’ve realized there’s only so much I can do to control a grandma, and this year we’re giving this rule up as a lost cause.
- Santa fills the stockings. Grandmas may not try to get around the one gift rule by cramming lots of little toys into the stockings. Note: See above note.
- We highly discourage toys with batteries. This isn’t because there’s anything inherently wrong with battery-operated toys, it’s because all of the battery compartments on kids toys need to be opened with a screwdriver, and mom and dad are way too busy (or possibly lazy… nah, we’ll go with busy) to be fetching a screwdriver every time Baby Cries-a-Lot runs out of steam.
Why the rules? Why can’t we just let our kids enjoy being showered with capitalist goods and bask in the glorious light of their dozens of new battery-operated gifts as a way of celebrating the birth of Christ the Savior? Why do I have to be such a big bah humbug Christmas meanie?
Because raising kind, generous, unselfish, grateful people is no joke. I’m not even sure I’m doing a very good job at it. I do know that I want to steer my children away from the “What do I get?” mentality. And in the end, I want them to understand this one thing: Christmas is not about you. That’s right. I love you, but you already have a birthday.
Here are some things that Christmas IS about:
- Jesus, if you subscribe to the belief that the whole holiday is based upon
- Peace on Earth
- Good will to all people
- Heartfelt giving
- Quality time with loved ones (When we celebrate with my family this comes in the form of watching Point Break after the little ones go to bed)
- Good-naturedly mocking the fact that the priest gives the same Christmas homily EVERY YEAR
Electronic Mall Madness
And on that note, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgivstmas.