ControverSunday: Happy Holidays

The first Sunday of each month is ControverSunday! Check out the list of people participating at Kathleen’s place – and thanks, Kathleen, for reminding us.

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I come from a Christian background. A middle of the road, not too fundamental, not too progressive, Baptist Christian background. Some members of my family have taken the road to High and Mightiness. Others have taken the low road to a more moderate embrace of the Lord and his teachings. I, for one, am not too interested in organized religion, though I do believe the same things Mr. Jesus Christ did: that we should treat the lowest with the same respect as we do the highest, that we should forgive and be forgiven.

So, it’s Mr. Jesus Christ’s birthday at some point this month. I am not going to talk about Jesus because I don’t know much more than the preceding few paragraphs.

I am lucky, in that I am married to someone who comes from a similar background. His Christian religious subset (genus? phyllus?) is Anglican. So there are more robes in his past but that’s about the only difference.

(feel free to correct me, anyone in the world who is shocked and offended by my cavalier descriptions of organized religion)

It is especially handy that we are on the same page about religion now that we have kids, because when Special holidays come around, we don’t have to argue about how to celebrate them, which can make up a lot of people’s holiday stress.

Because really, holiday traditions are very personal. They are the things you remember from your childhood, they’re entwined with flavours and smells and excitement and sometimes trauma. Pulling out the little china Christmas tree that used to be my grandmother’s reminds me of every single time I have seen that little china Christmas tree on a shelf, right back to when my grandmother lived in my parents’ basement when I was a 6 year old.

And it can be very difficult to reconcile another human being’s total failure to understand that gifts from Santa must be appropriately labeled, which, so far, is the only real “discussion” SA and I have had about Christmas. I think.

Things that have come to mean Christmas at our house:

Lights.

I need lights. Here is a great post about holiday lights. I think of it every year when I light candles and plug in the string of lights outside. This year, because it was so dark and horrible that weekend, I put up our outside lights the weekend after Remembrance Day. And since Fresco was a baby we have gone out for walks between 4 – 6 pm before SA gets home, so that the kids can see the houses with lights and all the animatronic reindeer on peoples’ lawns. The dark and cold calms them and the sight of houses bedecked with lights makes them squeal and run down the street.

Christmas Elmo, as ridiculous as he is, means Christmas to the children. When he comes out of the mysterious box in my mysterious closet in my mysterious bedroom, it is ON.

Santa

This is the first year anyone in the house has really believed in Santa. Last year there was some interest, mainly because Santa came to Trombone’s preschool Christmas party and gave him a candycane and a pencil (he remembers the pencil very clearly) but we don’t line up in the mall to see Santa and we don’t pay $85,000 for a picture with Santa. Good thing, too; the other night at this year’s preschool Christmas party both boys sat on Santa’s knee and the photos of that look like maybe the children are walking the wrong way down a busy freeway.

Now that they “believe” in Santa, I realize what a rip off it is. I have to buy two presents – one from Santa and one from me. And I have to let Santa top me because he’s Santa. I have to basically declare myself inferior to someone who is fictional! And then, in a few years, he will be proven fictional and will my children remember that Santa = best gift ever = mommy = best person ever? No, they will not. Harumph.

Like so many other aspects of my parenting – getting Trombone hooked on the expensive kind of Parmesan cheese, for example – I didn’t think this through.

And I get the arguments against Santa – creepy dude coming in your house much? Touching your things? Don’t talk to strangers and don’t forget to lock the door when you go out, but if he’s in a red suit saying HO HO HO it’s all good?

Also we have a gas fireplace and this is MESSING TROMBONE UP.

I also get the arguments for Santa – fantasy life is important. Excitement is important. Collective imagination – being in on the same in-joke as everyone else your age – is important.

So we come down in the middle. We don’t overdo Santa. We don’t use Santa as a threat because I think that’s all kinds of wrong. But we act excited when we see him. And we talk about whether or not he will actually bring a medium sized drum kit down our non-existent chimney or whether he might bring something else.

Tree!

Thankfully, SA and I also agree that a real tree is the best tree. We had a tree the year Trombone was 18 months old. He was the kind of 18 month old who stood in awe of the tree and never touched it. I am totally serious. The next year, we had Fresco, who had just learned to crawl and pull himself up on things, so no tree. Last year, Fresco was almost 2 and already kind of a poor listener. No tree. This year, TREE. The smell of tree, the prickly needles, the sap on your hands, the way it sits in the corner of the room and waits for you to switch its lights on and make the room glow, the little “ahhh” I feel every time I see a tree sparkling with lights and laden with ornaments; I don’t want to consider any alternate arguments, I love real trees, the end.

My approach to the holidays, like my approach to the rest of my life, is not child-centered. There is more at stake than my child’s experience of Christmas; there is also my own, continued experience of Christmas to consider. And so, I continue to ignore everything that offends me (like the Mall, the commercials, the other parents at preschool) and focus on the things I like about this time of year. The shortbread, the goodwill, the little oranges, the new socks without holes in the heels. Hint. Hint.

I love the process of, year after year, building our own traditions and making our own memories. It really, more than a lot of other things we do together, feels like family to me.

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8 Responses to ControverSunday: Happy Holidays

  1. Amber says:

    My husband and I agree on most everything EXCEPT the tree. Which is how, when I was sick and had a newborn and wasn’t up to handling things, we ended up with an artificial tree. And now that we have that thing, I feel compelled to use it, because it seems to me that using the existing artificial tree is the most environmentally-friendly option, even if buying it in the first place might not have been.

    But still, every year when we put it up, I feel sad.

  2. Lisa Sunbury says:

    I’m smiling. I love this:My approach to the holidays, like my approach to the rest of my life, is not child-centered. There is more at stake than my child’s experience of Christmas; there is also my own, continued experience of Christmas to consider. And so, I continue to ignore everything that offends me (like the Mall, the commercials, the other parents at preschool) and focus on the things I like about this time of year. The shortbread, the goodwill, the little oranges, the new socks without holes in the heels. Hint. Hint.

    Ignore what you don’t like, and focus on what is important to you. This is what makes the holidays meaningful, and enjoyable. Also children learn what they live. So if you aren’t driving yourself crazy, doing more, and buying more trying to live up to some “ideal” of what it’s all supposed to look like, your children will likely absorb those values, and enjoy the meaningful rituals you share each year. They will also benefit from not to having a stressed out Mom, so in this case your “non-child centered” approach is really a gift to your children. It’s always about finding the balance isn’t it? PS If your kids DON”T absorb and adopt your values around Christmas, they will be free to create their own traditions when they grow up. Ride to the mall to see Santa, anyone?

  3. Liz says:

    Thanks for linking. I’m glad you have a real tree. We can;t have a tree because of Baxter, but at least once this season I’m going to walk into a house and smell that smell and something inside me will grin like a seven-year-old.

  4. Laura says:

    You are so right about building traditions (and I like that you admit that you are not child-centred about them). Building our own traditions has been my favourite thing about becoming a parent. Like the fact that we always have Panetone around the house at Christmas even through we are far removed from any Italian ancestry. And we celebrate Solstice on the 21st. Over the years, the 21st has started to feel more important than the 25 and I like that. Which is why your section on the importance of lights resonated. Now I’m feeling all in the spirit – thanks!

    -Laura

  5. Perpetua says:

    I just followed the links back from Elmo to the Christmas photo. That was pretty much the best link-follow payoff ever. The eyebrows! He can win contests with those eyebrows.

    I am finding myself swayed to the side of santa, especially since you used the term “collective imagination.” Didn’t think of it that way before, but you’re right. Being in on the joke is a huge part of being a kid and learning how society works and enjoying being a part of it (before you get to the age where all those attendant issues start to suck).

  6. Ginger says:

    A real tree is the only way to go. We had a fake tree when we lived in New Jersey (no car, no delivery, no way in hell were we going to drag a 6 foot tree 8 blocks), and it just is not the same. Though nice if you get the prelit ones, it’s just not the same.

  7. Megan says:

    I refuse (REFUSE) to go artificial. I need the real tree. I don’t begrudge anyone their artificial tree, in fact I am a bit jealous sometimes that they can bring their tree out so early in the season and not worry about it dying, but I have had a real tree every year of my life, and it is really important to me.

    Of course, if I were in a situation like Ginger’s I might have to do without. I’m lucky that it’s always been an option.

    Oh, and I love your Santa philosophy. I have always been positive that we would do Santa, but I never gave too much thought to how we would handle all the details. All the posts lately have been freaking me out, like if I don’t do it exactly right, I’m going to damage my child and our relationship forever. Your attitude is so calming and refreshing. It doesn’t have to be that hard.

    You know, Clara, you have a very Zen effect on me. Not sure why that is. 🙂

  8. Jen says:

    We have a fake tree. I’m actually kind of embarrassed to have that much petroleum by product artificial blah in my house. BUT! It was given to me for free by a friend of a couple who divorced and who were planning on tossing the thing. I feel I rescued it so now I feel obligated to use it. (Also, strata said no real trees allowed in our last place).