This is the first Christmas that Ellie is really starting to pay attention and pick up on things. Which means I have to explain what “Christmas” is. If I were still a Catholic, or even a Christian, this would be easy…Virgin Birth, Jesus, Manger, etc. I grew up on Midnight Mass (which was, to be totally honest, only really interesting because I was allowed to stay up super late and because I sang in the choir–and I loved to sing), putting out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa with a side of carrots for the reindeer, early morning stocking grabs, and presents. Movies and a big meal rounded out the day, and of course I got to spend it all with my parents/grandparents/aunt (and sometimes uncle).
The problem with losing my religion, as it were, is that the traditional meaning of Christmas–ie the whole “birth of Christ” thing, is problematic for me. As a historian, I could go into the long pedantic lecture about how a census would never have been held in December in Bethleham, that the historic Jesus was one of about a zillion “prophets/messiahs/one true god leaders” running around at the time, that the reasons for Christianity surviving have far more to do with politics than anything else, and the reason for celebrating Christmas in December had everything to do with forced conversion. Oh, and Christmas trees? Stole that tradition from the Druids, kthnxbai. And Ravi? Far MORE hostile to the whole “religion” thing than I am… So for us, Jesus isn’t so much the reason for the season.
Christmas, for me, has generally just become an easy holiday to give presents to friends and family, touch base with those I’ve grown apart from, and before Elanor, was a great time to travel. Ravi and I, after a disastrous first Christmas together (we saw “The Producers” and then realized we had no food in the house…a long search with much cranky later, we ended up having Christmas dinner thanks to the nice people at Store 24, Coke, Lays and Hersheys…not our finest moment), spent 2006 in Mumbai (where apart from the flatbed truck of Indian Santas caroling that drove past us, and the sad sad sad Christmas tree in the lobby of our Western hotel might as well have not happened), and 2007 in New Orleans (where after a hotel lunch, we wandered Bourbon Street and may or may not have hit up a few strip clubs…the memory is a bit hazy…from the alcohol consumed on that trip, I’d imagine).
In 2008, Ravi’s parents decided E needed a tree so they got one on something like the 24th and we spent Christmas with them, showing the sleeping baby her toys and playing bridge. His parents, of course, ensured that we ate. Last year, we had Christmas at our home with my parents. Since E had started walking not two months prior, I decided a tree was a BAD idea and we just opened presents and had a meal.
But this year Elanor is old enough to be questioning what she’s seeing. And I’m struggling to explain it to her. Obviously, considering her age, we’re going simple…Christmas is a season of giving.
We’ve introduced the concept of Santa, and today for the first time she identified him in a cartoon. Of course, when we were leaving Toys R Us (after I told her she couldn’t have tricycle) I told her Santa was bringing her presents on Saturday and she said “Don’t want Santa!”, so there’s that.
The tree is mostly a source of anxiety…hopefully by next year she will have learned not to mess with it (just in time for the year after for their to be another kid who wants to tear it down…).
I want to make Christmas special for her, but I’m struggling, in no small part because it’s a million degrees here. As a native New Englander, Christmas involves S-N-O-W. Palm trees and christmas lights look bizzare and wrong together.
I’ve thought of just ignoring it, but let’s be real…I’m never going to turn down a chance to buy a ton of presents for the kids and I love the Santa stuff.
Perhaps its because we lack traditions. Ravi and I, so far from our families, are struggling with making our own traditions…on my side, at least, it’s partially because creating a new tradition is another admission that this isn’t just temporary.
Ah well…I did, at least manage to put this video together of pictures I’ve done these last few days…