Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bring Back Old St. Nick

Christmas is exciting with or without presents.  I truly enjoy picking out presents for people, but have wondered to what extent we, and I, should go at Christmastime.  I believe Christmas to be a celebration of Jesus' birth.  Therefore, it is a joyful time and a time we share as a family to outwardly show an inner feeling.  I believe that kids should have fun and get gifts.  I believe that even gift-giving mirrors the Christmas story with the wisemen's gifts to Jesus.  However, this year my children swallowed the secular Santa Claus myth hook, line, and sinker.

Now I am no Santa Claus myth buster.  I like the fun of Santa Claus, too.  It's fun to use our imaginations, to play, and to dress-up.  It's fun to have Santa Claus sightings around town.  I can even remember as a child that we had hoof prints on our fireplace.  But, I really resent the popular culture's presentation of Santa Claus to our children.

This year, my children were asked if they had made their lists yet.  We have never made "lists." I do not want to emphasize that gifts are all about getting--and getting more.  However, then my children were asked if they had been good this year.  Tough question for a six year old and a four year old, right?  Sometimes they answered yes, but other times they blithely answered no and both answers were true.  I explained that I hadn't been good all year long and that nobody is good all the time.  But, I assured them they would still get presents because presents are gifts.  They come from people who want to give them to you.  But, then what about all the children who get nothing on Christmas because of poverty or scarcity?  And what about all those children who get piles and piles of comsumeristic crap on Christmas?  For me, the secular Santa Claus myth establishes this strange concept of a meritocratic Santa Claus, which is false.  In fact, the real St. Nicholas was a bishop who gave to the poor our of the goodness of his heart and because he saw a need.  We, Christians, call that grace.  I would like to reclaim that sense of grace.

Now much to my surprise, my oldest child wrote a letter to Santa disclosing his wishes for a Wii, a DS, beyblades, and a Kindle Fire.  He kept asking me if he had been good enough to get those things.  I knew he would be a bit disappointed on Christmas because he was going to get nothing electronic.  However, we chose to get him the Beyblades.  Interestingly enough, when he opened his stocking on Christmas morning he was most thrilled by the gum  and exclaimed with glee, "I must have been really good because I got gum."  Now there's grace when a pack of gum makes up for the lack of "teenager" toys.  Meanwhile, Adelaide spent the day collecting her presents in a Trader Joe's shopping bag.  She then arduously carried it around where ever she went and it is still being dragged with her on this 7th day of Christmas.  Finally, little Jed was delighted with the wrapping, the cars, and still innocent enough not to want anything more.  This year, our kids got three presents from us and we were still opening presents up until the 4th day of Christmas.  So, there was plenty.  But, I'm hoping to find that happy medium that inlcudes the joy of giving and receiving and celebrating the birth of the Christ child.  Santa is fun, for sure.  But, a little more of Old Sant Nick wouldn't be bad, too!

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