This is the time of year where we see pretty Christmas trees in beautifully decorated homes, lit reindeer on well-manicured lawns, elves hanging upside- down on the mantle, hand-crafted Christmas stockings on the wall, mistletoe strategically placed around homes, and cinnamon spice candles burning. It’s Christmas and the holiday wouldn’t be complete without Santa! Or would it? As a parent, I’m torn between allowing my children to see and be a part of the “magic” and sensationalism of Christmas and sharing the “true” meaning. In many ways, I feel we have lost the real meaning of the season which is a time set aside to give to others. It’s a season of sharing our time and resources with others. It’s a time of celebrating Jesus’ birth which gives hope to those who believe and will one day live in Heaven. It’s a time to re-visit our actions–have we brought peace on earth? Have we given joy to those in despair?
Don’t get me wrong. We have a Christmas tree with presents and stockings hanging on the wall, but I believe if the only message my children get out of Christmas is “what is Santa bringing me for Christmas?”, I have failed as a parent. There is a much bigger and important message I hope to teach them. There are people in our world, and our very own community, who won’t get one gift for Christmas so surely that can’t be the only meaning of Christmas. There are people who will wake up Christmas morning so lonely that they won’t make it to see the day after Christmas. There are those who will spend Christmas Eve, amidst our caroling and sipping Apple cider, under a bridge without a home. What have we done to help this year? I am not saying we should feel badly for those who are less fortunate than we are to the point we cannot enjoy the holiday season, but I am saying we should step back from our lovely decorations and think about how we have helped others.
The magic of the season is thrown in our faces from the endless commercials that advertise you need the latest Barbie doll or the newest version of your cell phone; the billboards that scream spend more money than you have because “‘this the season for giving”; the expectations from family that you need to exchange gifts because it’s been a tradition for years; the “unwritten rule” from friends, neighbors and co-workers that you need to buy them a gift or you don’t really care about them; and the Christmas cards with beautiful family pictures that are sent merely out of tradition so you can have one more thing added to your overly full plate. Schools encourage children to purchase a “picture with Santa package” which further instills the magic of the season and elves are placed in their classrooms to encourage good behavior. Even if you don’t want your children surrounded by the commercialism of Christmas, it’s hard to avoid it. So as a parent who wants them to have a little Christmas magic, where do you put on the brakes? How much is too much?
At the end of the day, I want my children to know Santa may have a place in Christmas, but the season is not only about “let me see how many presents I can write on my wish list and see how many things I get”. I would much rather they spend that time and energy helping someone participating in the true meaning of Christmas. I want them to be givers. I want them to be difference makers. I want them to set their own rules for the season and not be forced to take on someone else’s holiday rules. My Christmas wish for them is to understand it is more blessed to give than to receive.
~Coletta Jones Patterson