42 thoughts on “Reflecting”

  1. For me, the most important part of the next five weeks is celebrating Christmas with my children. I want to teach them that God loves them so much that he sent Jesus to live with us and then die for us. And that means that every day is a new chance.

  2. Quite honestly… that regular life goes on. I mean sure, also that we cherish time with friends and family and singing of carols and all that.But I am so unconvinced that the relentless, longer-every-year hype about the holidays is a positive thing. The ever-more elaborate pageantry to me is a bit out of whack. We are trying to rein it in.
    So we’ll make and send some cards, bake some cookies, have stockings and gifts, talk about the roots of the holiday – but mostly we’ll just be us, I think. Hope.

  3. I love Christmas, and I want my daughter to love it in the same way that I do – singing carols, making decorations, planning the food we’ll eat, planning the walks and winter activities we’ll do.But I was brought up to believe a bunch of fantasy stuff that I don’t want my daughter to believe in.
    So I’m working on teaching her that, though we need to respect other people’s belief in Jesus or Santa Claus, we simply enjoy them as pretend stories.

  4. I bought a beautiful Advent Wreath (http://adventtolenttoascensionwreath.blogspot.com/ which I want to start as a family tradition (I don’t want to give up some semblance of Candletime, either!). I also got a neat book of Jesse Tree readings for kids that we’ll do with the lighting of the nightly candle.Now that she’s 4, I feel like she has enough awareness that we can get into the rhythm and ritual of the seasons (not just at Christmas but throughout the year). I also feel like she’s getting so ego-centric, it’s time to combat that with showing her how much larger the world is!
    So, in addition to whatever (hopefully small and tasteful) presents she gets, we’ll be doing a shoebox for needy kids, as well as choosing out orphans to sponsor with World Vision!

  5. Oops, you can see why I’m worried about teaching my daughter how to be respectful of other people’s beliefs, ’cause clearly I don’t do such a good job myself. I could have phrased my comment better.I happen to believe that it is important for my daughter to know the difference between pretend and reality, even though I was brought up to believe things that I no longer consider real.
    Maybe my love of Christmas is due entirely to my having been taught to believe in fantasies, but I’m really hoping I can teach her to love Christmas without the fantasy.

  6. To spend time with family and to not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. We’ve decided not to exchange gifts this year as adults. Instead, we’re going to get a little something for all the kiddos but that’s it. It’s amazing how many people spend these weeks in extreme stress (look at all the faces in the mall or people rushing around arguing with each other and stressed about getting all their shopping done in time!) and how many commercials are aimed to make you buy, buy, buy. I’m all for helping the economy, but not in a state of madness. This should be a time to relax, enjoy, celebrate and connect with the spirit of Christmas while being with your loved ones.

  7. We don’t have a strong faith of any sort in our home so I’m playing around with some ideas this year.December will be special because we will travel to see family that we don’t live near.
    There will be gifts, but within our immediate house we each get each other one thing (grandparents are allowed to overflow, but none of them do the day-to-day ‘get a new ball’ stuff).
    Many traditions have games for the season and I’m learning about all of them just to see what we enjoy.
    Shortstack is obsessed with birthdays … so there is a good chance we’ll have a birthday cake on the 25th.
    Now I will just wish and wish and wish that Georgia had a decent Tuba Christmas because they are amazing and y’all should try it.

  8. Wow, Laura–that is a cool wreath! I just have the regular four-candle (one for each Sunday) Advent wreath.Yeah, HappyMama, calling someone else’s beliefs “fantasy” is a little offensive. Maybe “stories” instead? I get where you’re coming from, though, and am having some of the reverse–I’m all about Jesus and not into Santa, but my younger son is entranced with Santa and really wants to believe. So I’m trying to be respectful of that without compromising the core meaning of Christmas for us as Christians.
    Heather, what’s a Tuba Christmas??

  9. My focus this year is on establishing traditions that we actually enjoy and stripping away the ones we don’t actually care for. My son is young (20 months) so now is the time to begin our OWN family traditions instead of just following along with whatever the generation before did (or is still doing).And for my son, I want to teach him the specialness of the season- why we celebrate it, how it is important in our faith and religion, and what others are celebrating, too. (This is a long term goal, as he obviously won’t get much of it until he’s older.)

  10. Most important part of the next five weeks for me personally is to reflect on God humbling himself to become a baby (and then then a man who dies on the cross so that we can have new mercies everyday.)The thing I want to each my 2-year-old (who is currently a bit young to get the significance of the birth of Jesus) is generosity and sharing. I want to instill in him an awareness of how much joy it brings others when we give, and how much joy we can experience when we are generous and giving towards others.

  11. I want to drop some of the things that caused us stress. I made an Advent calendar that had a little pocket for each day and it went sour on me with an expectation that there should be a gift of increasing value in each one. This year there will be trinkets…but maybe one per week. The rest of the days will have a little love note, or a maybe a piece of candy, or a promise of something fun to do together that day.I make quilts and give them away to loved ones. However any Christmas quilted item I make, I keep. They will one day be my daughter’s and hopefully they will give her some happy memories. She’s never come out and said she wanted a quilt of her own (preferring fleece blankets all her life) but I’m in the final stages of construction of a Christmas quilt to fit the antique family bed she sleeps in (which she will also inherit). It’s a charm quilt, which means it’s made of little squares of all different fabric; these all have a Christmas theme. There is a mix of secular and non-secular fabric as well as some plainer ones that just have a traditional Christmas look. It’s my wish that she will use this every year for the month of December and always have it as a Christmas decoration in her own home someday.
    So mostly I want to build Christmas memories and traditions that have very little to do with the mall or blaring requests to buy.
    I’m also going to sign up and get background checked to be a driver for Meals on Wheels, so that my daughter and I can do this together in the year to come, even if it’s only for one meal on one Sunday a month. I think it will be a gift that keeps on giving.

  12. I always hated Christmas as a kid. There was way too much pressure for everything to be perfect. Up until now I’ve never done anything at Christmas with the bops. Maybe this year (she’s about to turn 3) we’ll put up a tree and start our own tradition, like baking and decorating a gingerbread house. I also am trying to figure out how to respect others’ beliefs while being honest with our child about ours.

  13. I just had this converstion with my husband the other day. Our son is only 4 months old, so we have a lot of time to come up with our own traditions. I was/am a Christmas fanatic. I love everything about it. The music, the decorations, baking. As a kid we did crafts and spent a lot of time with extended family. Church was also a big part of it, growing up.My husband is not at all religious, but I think that church and faith will be a part of our traditions. And we don’t have much extended family now, so that’s not really an option. But I hope I can pass along the joy of the season, and not have all the focus be on the loot (even though that’s fun, too!)

  14. Most important part? Keep food intake to a minimum!Teaching the kids the correct spelling of Chanukah (< -is that right?) and that it's not only about getting gifts and going to Miami... Sam twitter.com/thecoffice facebook.com/thecoffice

  15. Family and friends, especially since hubby’s family is so far away. I love having almost 2 weeks together as a little family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends to visit every other day.Baby is just 13 months old, so I don’t know if we’re really going to be able to teach her much about Christmas this year, beyond seeing lights and trees. Even gift-wise, it seems silly to spend much when she’s still at the stage where the wrapping’s more interesting than the content.

  16. In the next five weeks we have Hanukkah, my twins will turn 6, and then Christmas. So it gets a little crazy.We don’t really address religion too much because my husband, although Jewish, is agnostic, and I am Christian although I don’t go to church. I think I would like to start again though, I miss it.
    So for me it will be about getting gifts for the kids (although not excessively, considering the three major events), and then making sure everything gets done for all those events. The little teaching we will do with be about tolerance for everyone’s beliefs, and answering questions as they come up.

  17. You’ve caught me in an interesting state – listening to the family sleep in after a late Thanksgiving, disgusted by all the commercial emails in my inbox, extra reflective given my sister will be undergoing chemo during the holidays, realizing I need to give up a project that I’ve had in mind since last xmas.About that project, maybe explaining will help me figure out what I want here. So, for background, I’m happily unreligious as is Mr. C – I was raised by lapsed Christians, he by lapsed Jews. We both grew up celebrating secular christmas, but neither of us is from a family that goes bonkers commercial with it. So my childhood traditions are about decorating the tree, making popcorn garlands, singing old carols (even if we’re not religious, we love religious music), and surprise gifts. Last year around this time I was just horribly out of the spirit – I wasn’t interested in doing anything for the holiday, I had been looking at christmas decorations since before halloween and I was just, well, out of sorts about it. Then my FIL took us to a cool performance called the Christmas Revels in Berkeley and for some reason I connected the meaning of the season (for me) with the idea of singing in the darkness.
    Lights and singing at the darkest time of the year, which I think may be closer to the old pagan purposes of Yule. (Pagans correct me.) The smell of pine, tiny lights, songs, right? So I had this idea that this year I would start a community caroling night in my neighborhood, the walking around kind, and we would go out carrying lights and sing in the dark and it would be both fun and a little bit of ancient meaning. But with everything else, I think it’s probably too late to pull it off (doing it right will require a bunch of work that I would have had to start a few weeks ago). So I’m postponing that until next year.
    But I still want some of that spirit of swing and wonder, and I want to sing with my sister, who is really in the darkness for a little bit right at this time. And I also want Mouse to write a cute letter to Santa, and to wake up and smear chocolate on her face and find something that she’s really excited about…and I maybe want not to travel although maybe we might. I’d like to have my own tree again though, which we haven’t in a couple years because of going visiting.

  18. @Moxie – Tuba Christmas is all carols and winter songs played exclusively on tuba. Usually they will do shows in the malls or Christmas tree lightings.The best part is that it is 8th grade tuba players and grandpas and hipsters and everybody just puffy cheeked behind a tuba.
    Many of them register here so you can find yours … http://www.tubachristmas.com/selectloc.php
    It is about 1,000x more wonderful than what you can imagine.

  19. My 3.75 y.o. is just old enough to really get into Christmas. He remembers last year and is excited about making decorations and getting a tree. My goals for this season are:*to transmit our culture (German) to my son through our holiday celebration: the songs, the baking, celebrating St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6th), lots of candles and lots of evergreen; (my husband is Turkish from a strongly secular, atheist family– he’s fine with doing Christmas for the kids, but is not that into it (or any Turkish religious holidays, for that matter) himself).
    *to teach my son a bit about “the real spirit of Christmas”; we’re not religious, but I feel it’s a bit disingenuous to celebrate a holiday without even discussing it’s actual origins and meaning. I take the Joseph Cambell approach: talk about the stories and what they symbolize about the human experience rather than focusing on literal truth or religious dogma.
    *to avoid CPC (cheap plastic crap) like the plague.

  20. What @Shandra said – that regular life goes on, and we are just going to be us.And also that perfection does not exist, expectations should be kept low; that children are only little once & they only believe in Santa for such a short, sweet time; that little kindnesses like handwritten thank you notes still do matter to people, and that even for a snarky atheist like me there is a certain undeniable magic about this time of year…I just want to enjoy it for what it is and not take all of the pomp and circumstance so seriously. Pass the eggnog!

  21. @Charisse, I wish we were in your neighbourhood next year. Love your caroling night idea. It sounds so fantastically Dickensian. When we were kids we’d get the odd carolers come to our door, and I always loved it. Though I’m an awful singer and don’t like to sing to anyone but my son, doing something like that is a good way to celebrate the season for me – a way to spread joy, warmth and kindness with your neighbours who you may or may not know. You never know who needs a bit of cheering up at this time of year.It’s so hard going through difficult times and situations at this time of year. Talking of your sister going through chemo during the holidays reminds me of the first Christmas after my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was not well, and we (Mom, bro, me) ended up eating Xmas dinner with my Dad in the living room. He laid on the sofa, my mom sat in a chair and my brother and I sat cross-legged on the floor with our plates on the coffee table. I might have even been wearing pyjamas. At the time it felt a little demoralizing to not do the traditional dinner and celebration we normally did. We were all fragile emotionally (esp. my Mom) and really it was exactly what we needed. Just to be together, eating a quiet dinner. Some years, the holidays are just about something else.
    As for us, the important parts of the next 5 weeks for us are doing our Christmas rituals that we’re developing and evolving over the years – decorating a tree, having friends over for a drop in (we’ve been paring down the food we prepare every year…though we love cooking we just don’t have the time that we used to sans DS), exchanging gifts on Xmas eve (DH’s family tradition) and Xmas am (my family tradition). We’ll do the big dinner with my family who lives 2 hrs away. We’d love to have them here, but my Dad doesn’t travel well.
    Basically, I want to pass on to my son what’s important to me about the season: spending time with family & friends, sharing a good meal or three, laughing together, beauty in all it’s forms, the magic and the wonder, the warmth of home and like @hush said, little kindnesses to appreciate the people in our lives and to make the lives of others that we know (or don’t) a little bit easier or happier, even if for a moment.

  22. Interesting question, and a bunch of interesting response so far!We’re not religious at all, and have decided to hold off on explaining the Christian aspect of the holiday until my kids are a bit older. But we have accepted Santa, and we aren’t going to tell the truth on that for awhile yet, either. Our plan, when the time comes, is to explain that Santa is really the spirit in everyone that makes us want to see other people happy at this time of year.
    So most important to me: having my kids (and my husband and myself) enjoy the holiday. I want to bake some cookies with Pumpkin (who is 3.5), and figure out how to have a tree that Petunia (who is almost 14 months old) won’t destroy.
    I want to let go of my sadness that we can’t do our usual adopt a family tradition, because I was laid off and we have to conserve our cash until I get a new job. I’m thinking maybe I can volunteer some time somewhere, instead, since I have more of that than usual right now.
    And Christmas has always meant more to my sister than to me, and every year, she seems let down by it. Often, I am the reason for her disappointment- I don’t take the holiday seriously enough, I guess. I want to try not to be the reason she is disappointed this year. She is such an awesome aunt to my girls all year round, I figure I should suck it up for a few weeks and try to figure out what would make the holiday special for her.

  23. I am a non-believer who love, love, loves Christmas. The HOMEMADE decorations, treats, gifts, candles, snow (well not in this city). I want to teach my daughter almost 5 to make the treats my mother made. I want to teach her the carols, pop songs, stories that make it so special for me. Have you read A Child’s Christmas in Wales? Sheer bliss….BUT my daughter has more grandparents and anuts and uncles than the usual 2 sets. I don’t want to deny them the joy of giving something to her (an only), but she gets something in the mail it seems every day from Thanksgiving to her birthday and beyond in Feb. SHe is asking for every little thing “can I have that?” and its a screw, or a milk jug ring, etc. toys, what would be traditionally trash, fabric scraps, she wants it all. ANy insights? Everytime the doorbell rings she thinks its a package delivery for her. HElp.
    She has lots. We neither heap, nor deny, but she has lots NOT from us.
    SO LOVE Christmas, LOVE shopping for gifts that are appreciated, but small, LOVE getting gifts, but don’t know how to address greed. Also wonder if its humiliating for impoverished families to be given gifts, served food, “helped,” by a wealthy little blonde girl. WHat do you think?
    Also, what’s become of caroling? I’m 43 and we did it and so did neighbors growing up in our newish suburban subdivision in the 7os. Miss it!

  24. I love all the holiday traditions, and I find the season really fun. What do I want my daughter (19mo) to know about this time of year?1.) Less is more — our gift-giving and traditions are simple and fun. That’s the way we like it, and we think it’s better for everyone involved. That also means there’s less stress.
    2.) We have more than we need, so we give to others. We buy Angel Tree gifts for less fortunate kids. I hope to do some volunteering when she’s older. And gifts come from people who love her, not from Santa.
    3.) That Jesus came and Jesus is coming again. We want to focus on Jesus’ birth and death — the sacrifice He made for us. But we also focus on the day Jesus is coming back to set everything right, and our part in that work until He does come back. It’s a time of hope.

  25. I normally read but don’t post but tonight my 9yr old niece told me that her dad (my bro) told her Santa wasn’t real and she’s basically crushed. I tried reiterating that while “Santa” is a part of Christmas, he’s not everything. It sounds cheesy but believing in the spirit of giving of yourself, of helping others, spending time with family your normally just too busy to make time for. All of these things make up Christmas and just because Santa isn’t everything the commercials and stores make him out to be, we should all enjoy and embrace what the season stands for. Give some time to others, if you are going to spend money, donate if you can afford it. It’s time to scale back and remember to be kind. I now have a 14 month old daughter and it’s amazing how much it has changed me. What I want vs what I need has changed and while I want to give her the world, even more I’d like to give her strength and confidence and a big heart. In all the gifts I’ll give her, I hope that those are the ones she will keep forever.

  26. I am actually craving a tiny bit of commercialism! Being so far from home, I miss all the decorations….what I don’t miss is the craziness of the shopping,and the rudeness of the shoppers!This Christmas will have it’s challenges, being so far away from family. My 4.5 year old knows that Santa goes all over the world, he will find us here in Okinawa, and she seems comfortable with that. We will be lucky enough to go with Marines to hand out Toys for Tots to a local orphanage Christmas Eve.
    The biggest gift I hope to give her this year, is the love of Christmas music. I have been going crazy downloading on the Ipod. I LOVE Christmas music, in every form. I hope to pass that on.

  27. The babe is 15mo and couldn’t care less about the season but my 3.5yo son is IN LOVE with Christmas. (When he turned 3 in march and I let him pick a theme for his birthday party? yep, Christmas.)We have this crazy idea that we’re not going to lie to the kids about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc. We never talk about Santa and eschew decorations with Santa. But now he’s in school… we told him a lot of his friends play “The Santa Game.” We told him they pretend a nice man with a beard comes, blah, blah, blah. So when it comes up, he’ll know what they’re talking about and hopefully play along.
    We’ll teach them that the season is about love, togetherness and God’s grace toward mankind. And we’re making gifts so hopefully that’ll hold off the buy!buy!buy! sentiment.

  28. by the by,Candletime was a massive hit in our house! I think we’re keeping it. And on Thanksgiving the extended fam was blown away when he decided to bring a candle to each person, one by one, and ask “what are you thankful for?” Seems to go right in line with Christmas too.

  29. I’m in an interfaith marriage and am happy to celebrate Christmas but my husband and I are not into the whole ‘Santa is real’ thing.My husband believed until he didn’t but he is the third of four boys and when the firstborn figured it out the rest followed. For me it was easy because most of my friends were not Christian so it was a non-event. We knew it was a story and loved it and enjoyed it as a story. But now we celebrate with family who do teach their kids that it is a real thing with lots of bells and whistles (the cookies and carrots, watching Santa in the sky etc). Uber tricky.
    How do I explain this as a great story while also trying to keep my 5 year old from(a)blabbing in front of cousins and (b)deeming their aunts, uncles and grandparents untrustworthy as he watches them go through the ruse with the other cousins?
    Lots of land mines as my kids get to that tricky age of big mouths and impressionable opinions.
    Any tips seriously welcomed at this point.

  30. @Jilly – in our family the last child to know the real deal about Santa was given a Santa task to do for the younger kids each year until the next child found out. This helped the older kids keep their yaps shut because if they told then they had to also hand down the task.Ours was a tradition of putting on my dad’s old boots, stepping in flour, and leaving Santa’s footprints around the house (Santa’s snow doesn’t melt, you see…). Once you got to be the one doing it, you wanted to do it for as many years as possible.

  31. Multi-cultural holiday festivities this year. We celebrate Christmas, and my parents will celebrate a Hindu festival this year in which we will go and participate. For our whole family I feel that this time of year is for being together as family and enjoying and cherishing each other and eating good holiday food, and to give to others.

  32. When I was growing up, my mum tried to balance the Santa / Jesus question by teaching us that Santa Claus was inspired by the miracle of Jesus’ birth to share gifts with all the children in the world, and that on Christmas Eve, Santa and parents (and grand parents) work together to celebrate Jesus’ birthday by delivering small presents.My mother elaborated on this by saying that it would be mean and even untrue to tell my (then) baby sister that Santa doesn’t exist – almost like saying the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist. In other words, though we can’t see these wonderful forces for good in the world, like Santa or Jesus or God, they still exist and we should respect them and believe in the good work they can do and gifts they can bring. According to this explanation, Santa is not a person in the sense that we normally think of people on Earth, but more of a spiritual emanation, or loving force.
    Looking back, it was quite a creative solution to resolving the difference between two extended families, one religious and one not at all. The two traditions were not mutually exclusive, but woven together in a really beautiful Christmas narrative which made complete sense to me as a child. Since I already understood God and Jesus as being special and invisible and good, Santa fit easily into that paradigm. Hence, at Christmas we went to Mass and also left cookies for Santa (with a cold beer!!) and all was right in my small world.
    I hope to achieve a similar balance and sense of joy for my daughter during the holidays, since (like my mum) I celebrate the religious side of Christmas, and my husband (like my dad) does not.
    Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season everyone, whatever you celebrate and however you do it.

  33. @ Sam, correct spelling is: חנוכהSeriously, anything in English is just transliteration 🙂
    Chanukah is Israel is school vacation and jelly donuts. I want it to be low key, a time to see family and friends. And also going to manuever things so I can stash each kid somewhere and do something special with the other individually based on their interests. (6yo to an art museum via train; 4 yo to the open-air food market, special lunch, and home to cook with me without his sister interfering.) Hope that will keep the gimmes at a minimum.
    My kids are in religious schools and learn a lot–it’s great to see them so excited about candlelighting and the history of Chanukah. We’re looking forward to it. (I was a bit miffed when my 6 yo came home with a bday party invitation for the first night, exactly when candlelighting should be. It’s not a good friend of hers, though, so I think we will skip it.)

  34. @G’s Mum, we are not religious, but I LOVE the way your mom wove the two beliefs (Santa/Jesus) together. Fantastic.@Elaine, though we only have one child (and probably will only have one), the way your family handles the discovery about Santa is likewise great.

  35. Most important part of the next 5 weeks: my husband coming home from overseas after a 3-month absence.As the sun reaches it’s lowest angle in the northern hemisphere and then begins its ascent toward spring, I want to teach my son that this season is about gratitude and renewal.
    The darkest days of winter are a great time to think about the lights in our lives for which we are thankful and to remember that brighter days will always come again.

  36. To all of those worried about whether or not to tell your children whether Santa is “real” or not, keep in mind St. Nicholas did in fact exist. I’m married to a Turk and as any Turk loves to tell you around Christmas time, St. Nicholas was born in Turkey and you can visit a shrine and museum there in the town of Demre. He is the patron saint of children for his acts of kindness to children while he lived. Turks call him “Noel Baba”, i.e. “Father Christmas” and have promoted him so much to tourists and pilgrims that now the Turks themselves put up Christmas trees and exchange gifts on New Year’s.Of course, the modern version of Santa Claus is heavily influenced by the Dutch and German weaving together of Germanic pagan ritual with Christian lore regarding St. Nicholas… Christ’s birth + St. Nicholas Feast Day (Dec. 6th) + Yule Festival (evergreens, lights, etc.) + a bunch of stories about Odin (the pagan god who lived in the north, flew across the sky and left children sweets and food in their shoes in exchange for them leaving food for his horses or reindeer) = the beginnings of modern European Christmas.
    I also once read an article that Christmas was a very minor feast day until the Victorian era; mostly, people went to pubs and got shellacked on Christmas until, in an effort to fight public drunkenness, several Victorian era folks (including author Clement Moore & cartoonist Thomas Nast) worked to turn it into a family holiday.
    All of which goes to say that there are parts of the Santa story that are “real” and there are parts that are made up but that’s true about Christmas (and just about any other holiday) as well. Small children take just about everything literally anyway, and symbolic or spiritual truth is hard to convey to a kid under five.
    Besides, isn’t it kind of cool that Santa, the Easter Bunny, Halloween, the Tooth Fairy, etc. are totems around which virtually our whole society gathers around to engage in fantasy play– adults and kids alike playing pretend together and acting out comforting rituals and stories. It’s one of the basic elements of childhood (and the human experience) to understand our world through play and fantasy, and it’s always wonderful children when their grown ups join in with them.
    Hmmm, didn’t realize until this moment that I’m kind of a staunch defender of Santa. The only question in our house is whether he’ll come on Dec. 6th (like he does in Germany) or on the 25th (that’s when the “Christ-child” brings presents in Germany). Tough to sort out which fun story to follow.

  37. Realize I’m pretty late to the discussion but wanted to thank Bluebird Mama for the great comment.I was very on the fence for the whole Santa thing but am a big believer in play. I love how you connect the two.I’m sold.thanks!

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