My Mom always made the holidays special. We made flower baskets to hang on our neighbors’ doors for May Day. Easter was a big day of hidden eggs and lots of chocolate. Whether Halloween, Valentines Day, or New Years, my Mom made a big deal about them and created family rituals that created great childhood memories that cannot be clouded out.
Thanksgiving was a big family time which we often spent with my Dad’s family on the old family homestead near Waldport. The smells of a grand holiday meal lie deeply embedded in my soul. Thanksgiving most likely remains my favorite holiday due to the low-pressure family gatherings.
The granddaddy of all holidays was Christmas. There were cookies and treats, music and decorations, and lots of gift-giving (receiving?) anticipation. We always went out and cut our own tree. The family decorating party was filled with love and Rockwellian joy. Christmas music became the soundtrack of our lives for a month. And for the days surrounding December 25th, we drove back and forth across the Portland Metro area visiting family and friends.
Listening to The Cinnamon Bear story on KXL/1190am was a big part of our lives between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Often we would find time to visit the Cinnamon Bear at the Lipman’s Department store. Then, of course, we’d make a big deal around the visit to Santa Clause at Meier & Frank’s!
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things”
Christmas is different for me now. Fortunately it’s not all about me and what I get. Now, more than ever, I understand the reason for the season. But it is more than that.
I would like to repeat all the rituals that made Christmas fun. I would like to share the joy I experienced as a kid. The cookies and treats, the Christmas Morning excitement, and the Santa Claus mythology. In many ways, I’d like to repeat these experiences for my kids. But I can’t – or I should say, I don’t want to.
Instead, I want to bring the simplicity that surrounds Thanksgiving back into the Christmas holiday. I’m tired of the commercialism; I’m tired of the crass marketing; and I’m tired of myths of Santa Claus and the greed and misnomers he represents. I see too many people stressed and too many expectations that people try to meet. For me, it isn’t worth financial and emotional debt.
Jesus came to show us God’s true character. He is about giving, not receiving. He stands for grace and forgiveness, not whether we’ve been “naughty or nice.” The love of God far outshines the jolly of Old St. Nick. This is what I want to teach my children. This is what I want to share with those around me. I want them to experience God’s love, in real, practical ways. I want them to experience God – not rituals.
It is a difficult tightrope one walks when deciding to put Christ back into Christmas. I don’t want to be perceived as some right-wing, religious fundamentalist. I don’t intend to be a kill-joy. I just want the simplicity of an unselfish, commercial-free Christmas season.
The last thing I want to do is emulate Scrooge. To me, Dickens was trying to emulate the true spirit of Christmas through Scrooge’s conversion and kindness to the Cratchit family. But somehow we remember the pre-dream Scrooge and not the post-dream kindness he came to appreciate. What if we had similar conversions and replaced the commercialism with compassion?
This year, in our family gift-giving encounters, we have asked for some simple gifts. Instead of exchanging gift-cards for big-box retailers – for stuff we don’t need. We’ve asked our families to buy gifts for less fortunate World Citizens, in honor of the love they have for us.
In short, this is our Christmas list:
- Buy a Goat for a Widow in Rwanda
- Protect a Mozambican Family From Malaria with a Mosquito Net
- Give Medicines to a Rural Family in Nicaragua
- Give a “Life Straw” to a Survivor in India
- Provide One Family with Water Purification Supplies
- Or, any of these great needs…
There are plenty of organizations out there. One can support local, regional, national, or global organizations. It really doesn’t matter. Either way, let’s replace commercialism with compassion.