I admit to having a general BAH HUMBUG attitude towards many commercialized holidays,
including especially Christmas. (Disclaimer: Just to be clear, I am talking about the American tradition, not the religious holiday; in fact, this post really has nothing to do with organized religion, unless your religion is shopping and then I am sorry on many levels but make no apologies for opinions shared in this post.)
For the first three years of our daughter’s life, we didn’t really do much for Christmas and she had no idea what she was missing. (Oh, the deprivation!) Then she started pre-school last year, and our reign as her primary influencers ended. Sigh. Once pre-school begins, then all those other children and their families now have some portion of our child’s attention. And wouldn’t you know it: they told her about Christmas!
We knew it was coming, so we had spent much time pondering and planning how we wanted to do Christmas. (Recall this essential truth: If you don’t actively chose how you want to do something, then it is decided for you.)
We knew what we did NOT want:
- A focus on gifts, presents and material things
- Hectic running around to see (much loved!) family and friends in a short amount of time, expecting the child(ren) to be happy and well behaved through it all
- Wasting lots of money on toys that are forgotten in a few days/weeks
- Hours in airports and security lines during the ‘happiest’ and most germ-sharing time of the year
- Creating or contributing to the “where are my gifts?” mindset for our child
We knew some of the things that we did want:
- Quality time with family and friends
- Peace, relaxation, and time to reflect
- A focus on activities and relationships that are NOT centered on gifts
- An opportunity to teach our child about traditions and the greater meaning of life (Whoa! As if I have even figured out that last part, but you get the idea)
Seems simple enough but it isn’t always easy to create a holiday experience that honors all of those things. For one thing, we don’t live in the same state as any of our relatives. We would love to see them, but that requires a lot of driving or airports and airplanes. Then, we try to squeeze in visits with everyone in the short span of time we have, and everyone ends up being stressed out, especially — understandably – the littlest person in the group.
We’re trying to carefully craft our own tradition, while putting the emphasis on the things that are most important to us. It is still a work in progress and I am sure it will evolve with time. This year, I was almost giddy with excitement about these simple things, which are – without a doubt – my favorite Christmas traditions: luminarias and caroling in the park with our friends and neighbors.
What is a luminaria, you ask? Basically it is a little light or lantern, also referred to as a farolito in parts of northern New Mexico. Luminarias are put out on Christmas Eve, to light the way for that famous Christmas family (you know, those Middle Eastern refugees looking for shelter). This tradition has been practiced for centuries in this part of the country. (Yes, centuries. Did you know that Santa Fe was settled by Europeans years before Plymouth Rock? No, the Native Americans didn’t put out paper bag lanterns to celebrate Christmas until those oppressive white folks arrived and ‘shared’ their practices.)
Besides being a centuries old, quaint tradition, they have a few other things going for them: luminarias are lovely to look at; they create a sense of bonding and community when placing, lighting and admiring their beauty; they are easy to buy (every church and scout troop sells them) and almost just as easy to make (what toddler doesn’t love a construction project involving sand?); and — perhaps the best part — they are not related to cheap plastic crap and have nothing to do with the grossly commercialized, consumer madness shopping ‘holiday’. My kind of tradition!
Caroling has similar perks: nothing to do with material things, accessible to anyone interested, and it is just genuine happy-making activity. (And, yes, caroling must be a centuries old tradition, too!) Every year at least a few cars stop by and roll down their windows, first in awe that anyone still sings carols, and then with a bit of appreciation for the old fashioned fun. We have the coolest neighbors!
Those two things alone make for a great holiday. This year, we added another tradition: making and delivering cookies to many of our neighbors. Our daughter was actively involved in every step of the process. Shockingly, this did nothing to expedite the process in any way though it did provide lots of opportunity to talk about doing things for other people.
Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and that you sincerely enjoyed your chosen traditions. Do you have favorite traditions or stories of holiday evolutions? If so, please share!