By STEPHANIE PRICE
My children won’t experience the magic of Christmas. No presents, no sugar plums, no twinkling lights or mythical, big-bellied ho-ho’er breaking and entering into our house to deposit Lego sets or ponies. Probably no special cookies, even, though we sometimes buy leftover candy canes when they go on clearance.
Have you gasped in horror? My poor, underprivileged children? Well, don’t worry. I’m writing to remind you not everybody celebrates this season — and those of us who don’t are perfectly healthy and happy, even, or especially maybe, the children. I might even suggest we’re faring better, on about Dec. 26, than some do. No hangovers — the food, alcohol, credit-card or emotional kind — and no “Is that IT?” or “I have to clean all this up?” letdown.
And just because of the makeup of the season — breaks from university for me and days off from the sawmill for my husband — we do often get to enjoy more time together than we normally would. We pass the days, then, like we would any time we have hours together: talking, playing, painting, reading, sledding, napping, learning, singing, eating, snuggling, working. Just not “Christmasing.”
I DON’T MAKE A BIG DEAL about the fact we don’t celebrate most U.S., Pagan, Christian or others-sanctioned holidays. I just don’t do it and don’t really talk about not doing it. But sometimes it comes up in conversation and people figure out that I’ve not once said, “Happy Holidays” and definitely have never worn reindeer antlers on my head or a red bulb on my nose.
And occasionally someone will ask, “Why not?”
It’s a super-simple question with a super-simple answer, but no matter what I say, it’s sure to be misunderstood, so I often answer this way: “Just can’t find a good reason to celebrate but have lots of reasons not to.” If I elaborate, especially if I mention the Almighty of the Scriptures and His words to His people, most people will relegate the rationale to a religious category: “Oh, they’re kind of Jewish, and they’re not allowed to celebrate” or “They don’t believe in Christmas.”
Neither is it, by the way, but I don’t argue. Our religion — by which I just mean a set of mores by which one lives, so all people, even atheists, have a religion — doesn’t include “not allowed” in its vernacular. No list of rules and regulations here, and when it comes to Christmas and other holidays, frankly, I think of it as, “Whew! I don’t HAVE to!” rather than I don’t GET to.
Truly: I can’t tell you how often I hear people talk about the hassle, hustle, pressure and frustration they feel around these holidays as they work hard to drum up feelings of wonder and to please people, especially children. Suicide rates are said to go up around Christmas. We don’t have those frustrations, and let me tell you, I do not miss them.
BUT YOU ALSO DON’T have all that magic, all that precious time with family, you say with concern. True, true, we don’t. But we don’t do “magic” with our children any time of year, really. I’ve found reality to be enchanting enough. My children never say, “I’m bored” they’re so engaged with life and all there is to learn.
And they’re far too smart to be duped by Santa Claus and his elves. We’ve always told them the truth about most everything, so rhetorically: Why would I lie to them about the mythical intruder Santa Claus when I insist they can TRUST me?
We do miss out on family get-togethers, and sometimes that can be a little touchy. But we’re available ALL YEAR LONG for dinners, parties or just hanging out. Frankly, I often found some of the holiday “family time” to be incongruent anyway. Many families have very real, painful issues — so many families don’t even like each other — but they’re expected to suspend everything for a couple of hours and act happy for the sake of Christmas? I’m far too practical for that. No wonder people are suicidal.
BACK TO THE CHILDREN. They’re fine. They’re happy, healthy children. And I asked them what they thought. Christmas is no big deal to them, either.
They know most of their peers will wake up Dec. 25 to a boat load of presents under a twinkling tree. “That would be fun, Mommy,” my daughter said to me. “Sure it would,” I affirmed. Then I reminded her of all the gifts they get all the time — we definitely enjoy gift giving and receiving around here — and the fact that the Almighty sees to it we have delight in our lives. Try two sets of kittens in a year. No need for a puppy in a box under a tree.
We encourage our children to check into things for themselves and have reminded them they will be free to do as they choose when they’re mature. Then, if they want to celebrate Christmas or any other holidays, they certainly can. In the mean time, we continue to embrace the wonder that’s already in them — no need to “create” it annually. They’ll likely wonder at snowflakes and snow bunnies — we even sing “Jingle Bells” sometimes — and be no worse for not even knowing it’s Christmas.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”