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How We Do CHRISTmas

After reading First Time Mom and Dad's post I wanted to write about how we're trying to teach Little L about the true meaning of Christmas. This is the dilemma that I suspect many parents face, and we're all just sort of figuring it out as we go along.

For us, I am thankful that up to this point we have been able to shield her from the commercials and ads that dictate what a kid "needs" at Christmas time, so Little L has no preferences or wish list for gifts. This makes buying her something a truly fun and easy process (unless you're an auntie or uncle or Nana, in which case maybe it makes things harder). It has helped to reduce the focus of the holidays on "things" because I genuinely don't believe that Little L expects *any* gifts on the 25th. Weird and wonderful, this ignorance is.

We have also chosen not to pretend that Santa is "real," opting instead to introduce her to the historical Saint Nicholas. I know that this is not a popular approach, but it is one that Hubbs and I had decided long ago that we would take with our littles. We don't sing a lot of Santa songs, we avoid books and shows that portray him as a real, North-Pole-dwelling, omniscient Christmas gift-giver, and we simply don't discuss him very much. When we hit the mall, Little L knows that the Santas there are just people playing pretend, and as a result, she has never shown any desire to sit on the strange bearded man's lap (thank God!) or meet him. We have really appreciated how, by taking "Santa Claus" out of the holiday equation, we can bring the focus back to God, who was the original St. Nick's inspiration for giving to the poor. It also reinforces our other message of staying away from strangers :P

By extension, things like flying reindeer and the ever-popular "Elf on the Shelf" are also excluded from our Christmas traditions. I believe the whole concept of the Elf is that he is supposed to be Santa's "spy," so it makes little sense to pretend that he is real and causing mischief when we have already told Little L that the mythological Santa doesn't exist. Even in the spirit of fun, I fear that misleading Little L for the sake of introducing "magic" into her life could be very dangerous because it would undermine our trustworthiness, and fabricate an experience and feeling that is wholly unnecessary in light of the true wonder of Christmas time. We very much want Little L to know that we will only tell her the truth, especially as it pertains to Jesus and God and matters of faith. To pretend that something is "real" when Little L doesn't understand that we are pretending would cause her unnecessary confusion or doubt about our sincerity when we speak of Jesus being real.

Nana's Charlie Brown Christmas book has been a favourite since her first Christmas
Reading about Christmas and the nativity seems to have really helped focus Little L's attention on the birth of our Savior. Our current favourite books are Christmas in the Manger and the Nativity, although she also likes reading about the wise men's gifts in the Candle Bible for Toddlers. We've talked about what Baby Jesus did with the wise men's gifts, and have been able to tie it in to the Easter story, which Little L is already familiar with. Another source of her learning has come from  the Bible App for Kids; it is a free, interactive program with several of the most popular Bible stories available for download.

At this age, I'm finding that Little L's understanding is still very concrete; she is quite literal and will take information at face value. We have tried not to overwhelm her with the bigger concepts of incarnation and redemption, focusing instead on the factual details of the nativity story and on the fact that God loves us enough to let His baby be born into this world. It's a tricky thing to teach a little person; I don't want to oversimplify or reduce the magnitude of Christ's birth, but I also don't want to overload her with details beyond her understanding.

I do, however, want her to know the true meaning of Christmas. I want her to be filled with wonder and excitement and joy, not because of some jolly fat guy in a suit or because of lots of wrapped gifts under an ornate tree, but because the King of Kings did the most unthinkable, extravagant and scandalous thing ever in His desire to redeem His lost creation: He sent His only Son, perfect and good, into this imperfect place.

In light of that Truth, the idea of a flying reindeer with a red nose or a benevolent fat elf-man jumping in and out of chimneys on Christmas Eve just seems really really ridiculous to me.

Joy to the world, indeed.



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