This Christmas: Is the Best Gift a So-called Christian-like Conversation?
I remember, as if it were yesterday, being genuinely excited about Christmas. I specifically remember one Christmas when I was about six years old. My mother bought me a yellow Yogi Bear record and I thought I had the best gift ever. Why that gift stays in my mind, overriding all other gifts I ever received at Christmas times before I don’t know, but it does. Am I the only one who remembers a certain gift they received?
What is even more interesting about that one Christmas was that I don’t really recall my father’s presence. I had no context of what was really happening in the world around me. Yes, it was all about me! My mother was still in her twenties, my siblings were nine, five, and three. I am sure we were on some type of state-federal assistance, though my mother was working and her sister was watching my non-school age siblings. I’m pretty sure Pops was incarcerated but I only know that in retrospect since Mom isn't interested in revisiting specific aspects of all that drama. I don't blame her!
Holidays are really difficult for me now. I love to see my children excited about receiving gifts. I love to have the opportunity to teach them about giving. But I don’t enjoy knowing that the sentiment behind Christmas is far too often lost in its commercialization. Of course I don’t tell my children this. It would be too Scrooge like. But there is no doubt that they will reach an age where we will talk about it. How many of you are prepared to have that conversation with your children?
I also struggle with the concept of Christmas decorations. Since I am not excited about the conflicting messages of the holiday, my not contributing to the decorating of our home is a clue for my children that something is up with Dad and Christmas. Maybe I am subconsciously planting a seed in my children so that our Christmas conversation happens sooner than later. Of course my conversation about Christmas becomes more complicated because of the black holiday celebration Kwanzaa. My children will no doubt ask me why is it necessary for black people to have a different holiday (as Jewish children are apt to do with their parents, I imagine). That conversation won’t be easy.
My children have asked me about Santa Claus and his decisions. Someone help me answer my little girl’s question: Why does Santa give better gifts to rich kids than poor kids?” Does the Santa Claus story--wherein Santa checks his list to see who is naughty and nice--somehow contribute to a devaluing of the poor, who may be less apt to receive multiple-high end gifts due to the finanicial struggles of their family? The kids know the story and may subconsciously see one another through a Santa Claus influenced, reward-based, constructed lens that at a young age they are incapable of deconstructing (as if all adults have this ability). In other words, is it possible that our society exacerbates the distance between wealth and poverty with holidays that hint at behavioral rewards (gifts) based on merit when in actuality Santa's going to hook you up based on what she/he can afford.
Does the Christmas - Santa Claus story further promote patriarchy? How so? Is the Santa Claus story problematic across socio-economic lines when you consider communities like Plattsburgh and Peru? We live in a community where at any given moment you can be in line at a store sandwiched between a wealthy family and an impoverished one. Since our children go to the same schools, what is the reality after holidays? How many of us/you talk to our/your children about being appreciative of what they receive, but also aware that everyone isn’t having the same type of Christmas that they are? How many of us are overcompensating with our children by giving them a Christmas that we subconsciously wish we had in our youth? How many of you consciously witness how deeply immersed our society is in the marketing of certain holidays to the point of the actual meaning of the day itself being lost in translation? Have we somehow lost sight of the Christ that is supposed to be essential in Christmas?
What do we do about this Christmas holiday? Do we keep the Christmas marketing machine in place with all its flaws, or one by one, family by family, friend to friends/associates do we cautiously, logically, systematically debunk the Christmas hype? What are your thoughts?