This is three-year-old Ellison’s 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!?!”
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?
Gavin Lodge is a Broadway performer, father and blogger. This essay was first published on Daddy Coping In Style.