What do you really want for Christmas? What are you hoping for during Hanukkah? These are the questions that children hear at this time of year. And so do we. These sound like simple questions, and they are. Too simple. Can everything we want be put in a box, wrapped, and placed under a tree? No matter what our religious tradition is, gift giving has a grace of its own. And some gifts are intangible.
I love holidays. I especially love holidays where jolly, merry, happy, lights, festival, and cheer end up on vocabulary lists. We are invited to be our best selves as family members and friends. We mix story, tradition, and symbol as we rush to get ready and then we stand back and wait. There are some things we can’t make happen– but we prepare a place in ourselves, on our calendars, and in our homes so something CAN happen. What is it we want? What are we waiting for?
Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli researched what children really want their book Unplug the Christmas Machine. They found that children want:
- Reliable traditions
- Realistic expectations about gifts
- An even pace
- RELAXED time with parents
Traditions are like hall closets–they can get out of control and need to be sorted through from time to time. The useful and meaningful need to be kept in a “SAVE” pile. Others may need to be mended, amended, or put in deep storage. One of my most meaningful traditions is making my grandmother’s Christmas Cookies: shortbread cut-out Christmas trees iced with pale green frosting and sprinkles. My family counts on them. This morning I taught my four year old granddaughter to roll out the dough, just like my grandmother taught me. I got out my Christmas Tree cookie cutter. She said, “Can we make stars instead?”
It sounded like a good idea to me. With my grandmother’s recipe, we made shortbread cut-out stars with pale yellow frosting. And we both got what we really wanted.
May you and your children have plenty of what you want most together this holiday season!