Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas

One of my favorite memories of Christmas as a child was the little tradition of Santa returning to our house Christmas morning. Oh, he'd stop by overnight, drop off a few small gifts...but I knew he'd be back with something big at some point on Christmas day. I'll never forget the year when my cousin and I found that big gift hidden in our basement, and my nosey little self just couldn't wait to find out what it was! A torn edge of the paper revealed my ULTIMATE gift that year, twin Cabbage Patch Kids (I later found out my mom and aunt would scower the stores in two different states trying to find those silly dolls! Yep, I was definitely a child of the 80's). So the next morning, when "Santa" stopped by, I finally figured out that my dear mother was eating the cookies, singing "ho ho ho" and wrapping all the presents. You would have thought that I would have clued into the small detail of all the gift tags being in the same handwriting. :)

This year, with a rambunctious puppy in the house, I have to admit, we don't have our normal Christmas tree up. I was so scared he would either knock the whole thing down, or just chew it up like he's chewed everything else up (carpet, outdoor trees, toys, wood name it!). So we have an itty bitty tree up on our kitchen counter. Not that I'm being Scrooge or anything, I've been fanatically listening to Christmas music since November 1st. My son has been sporting Christmas pajamas since about that time as well. But I know some people think I'm not in the "Christmas spirit" just because I don't have a tree up. That makes me wonder when a TREE became a staple of the Christmas season. What about Christmas lights? I have two neighbors up the street who compete every year to have the best display. I'm beginning to think in a year or two, we'll be able to see them from space.

So, I decided to do a little research. Did you know the Christmas tree is dated back to the 1400's in Estonia? Interestingly, one detail is that men would take a tree into the town square and dance around it. I would LOVE to see my husband do that. In the 1500's, a new tradition was started, where the dancing would end when the tree was set aflame. I'm thinking in today's day and age of eco-friendly times, there would be a gazillion organizations that would be reeeaaaaally irritated.

In another flame-worthy note, Christmas lights were first used in the 1800's, when candles were glued onto trees. I wonder how many house fires there were when animals or children jostled the trees!! The first "electronically illuminated" tree was created in 1882.

 Saint Nicholas

A portrayal of Father Christmas riding a goat...I think I can understand why he transitioned to a sleigh!

Now comes my research of Santa. I have many friends who are Catholic, so I've already been versed in St. Nick. For those of you who don't know, he was a 4th century Greek who was famous for giving to the needy. St. Nick was modernized by the British in the 1800's to "Father Christmas", and then onto Santa Claus by the Brits and Americans. Originally he was supposed to be small, as his "miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer" show in the "Night Before Christmas" poem. Slowly he has evolved into an overweight jolly man who knows all the kids in the world.

As a parent myself, I have found it difficult this year to think about what traditions I want to continue or start with my family. We live 13 hours away from my family, so its up to me to keep the spirit of Christmas continuing. But what is the "spirit" of Christmas? I find it hard to believe that our generation has gotten sucked into the spirit of "too many gifts and spending too much money" on Christmas. The news on Black Friday was dismal. Pepper spraying other customers to get to the sales racks first? Standing in line for 24 hours? How on earth does this teach our children anything good?

I debated on starting the "Elf on a Shelf" tradition this year. A friend of mine, however, pointed out something extremely important. She is teaching her children to be good EVERY DAY, not just during December. Who is looking over them for the remaining 11 months? She feels her children need to learn good from bad, making good and respectful decisions and doing that through the entire year. This really hit a chord with me.

To me, the "spirit" of Christmas has always been giving. Yes, getting things is nice...but I really enjoy giving to others and seeing the thankfulness in their eyes. This is something I want to teach my son. I want him to appreciate how good we have it, and that we should give to others just like Jesus gave to all of us.

Some of you know my son has special needs. He has a genetic condition called Velo cardio facial Syndrome (VCFS), which is when there is an area of the 22nd chromosome missing. He (thankfully) has a very mild case, but is delayed in many areas. He didn't crawl until 14 months, walked at 26 months, and at 3 years still really isn't talking. But he is the most beautiful thing in the world to me, and I thank God every day for giving him to me. I truly believe God gives things to people He knows they can handle. My son might run me ragged quite often, but he is the best gift in the whole world. I am so lucky to be part of his life.

My goal this Christmas is to bring more CHRIST into CHRISTmas. I want my son to be well aware of why we celebrate Christmas. How fortunate we are to be saved, and how lucky we are to be blessed with good people in our lives. I have started talking to him every night about God, how God created everything (thanks Awana for helping me to learn how to teach this concept!), and saying prayers every night. While he can't talk, I know he's listening and processing this information.

For my followers, and those of you who have come here from the World Vision page or other blogs, I want to tell you about an amazing opportunity to give. Imagine having nothing. And when I say nothing, I truly mean NOTHING. No toys, no shoes, no writing utensils, and hardly enough food to live off of. Would you like that? Do you want to help? You can make donations through World Vision to help those in need HERE. You can provide animals, school supplies, water, and other things. And if you'd like to adopt a child and help them through monthly donations, check HERE. It is such a small amount and can easily be budgeted. You'll create a lasting bond with a child and his/her family.

This blog is part of World Vision's 12 Blogs of Christmas. For more information check out World Vision. To see the other blogs, check here.

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