Clearly, this isn’t my first Christmas; this will be the 30th one I have under my belt. Nor is it my husband and I’s first Christmas together; this will be number five for us (third as a married couple). However, it is Henrik’s first Christmas and because of that, it’s the first time I’ve considered HOW we celebrate this holiday.
Growing up, Christmas was an experience for my brother and I, with roots grounded firmly around WHY we celebrate. My parents did a great job of making sure we have nothing but great memories of Christmas – from the extensive baking that started two weeks prior, to the Sunday school classes prepping our little minds for the reason of the season with the grand finale of participating in the children’s choir at Mass. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were family time – potato soup and friend bread Christmas Eve with the excitement of Santa coming. Christmas morning, my brother and I were always under strict instructions NOT to open our bedroom doors until my parents were in place with cameras to capture the look on our faces. Looking back, they never went over the top, but to a seven and five year old, it felt like we were the luckiest children alive, and we were (and still are) incredibly lucky and blessed to have parents who put these traditions in place for us.
Clearly, at the ripe old age of five months, Henrik will not remember this Christmas. But we will, and we want to start putting our own traditions in place for our family. And with these new traditions, I want to make sure he understands the meaning of Christmas – something as I got older and moved away, I lost for a while.
From the age of 16 through my late 20’s, I would call this my “materialistic phase”. We all have one of those, right? (No?) I lost the meaning of Christmas during this phase – it was all about how I could maximize my Christmas money to get the most new clothes. I would put up a tree, but not a nativity set. I had “HoHoHo” signage, but not “Joy” or “Noel”. You get the picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gifts – both giving and receiving. I put a lot of thought into every gift I give as it is one of my primary love languages. Henrik will have more than his fair share of gifts as Santa is bound to go overboard every now and again. But this year, I find myself looking for a nativity scene for our house so I can teach Henrik about baby Jesus. When looking for a Christmas book for him, I put down the “Fa La La La” book about opening presents Christmas morning and bought the one that explained the story of the baby in the manger. I’ve put away my “HoHoHo” sign and bought one that says “Joy” instead.
I am the first to admit I like material possessions – I have a shopping addiction that I have trouble reigning in at times. Henrik’s arrival has made me take a step back and think about how I want him to grow up. Christmas ads start the day after Halloween anymore, as do the threats of “You better behave, Santa is watching.” I know I will utter those exact words all too soon. I feel it is my job to find a balance for Henrik (and any future babies) between the excitement of gifts and the true meaning of the season.
What Christmas traditions have you put in place for your kids to help them see past the glitter and gifts? As Henrik gets older, I would like to find a volunteer project for us to do as a family – any suggestions on this for kids of all ages?