What We Really Want…

christmascookiesWhat 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!

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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8 Responses to What We Really Want…

  1. Faithe Mickens says:

    So beautifully stated! We too will be making my mother’s holiday cookies. We only make them at this time of year so they will be special. I’m trying my grandmother’s pound cake recipe too – it’s over 140 years old.
    Liza also came up with the idea of going around the neighborhood ringing a bell a la The Polar Express so all who hear will believe. I was just mentioning to someone that family time together is what means so much to children and that’s what I have on the agenda for this year. More proof that we are working, in many ways, from the same brain! Happy Holidays to all; I look forward to “ourclasswrites” in the new year!!!

  2. Amy Brown says:

    Oh man, I can’t even tell you how happy it would make me to hear a random tinkling bell…my bleak block of Parkwood could use the cheer!!!

    Silas and I will be making my grandma’s Mexican Wedding Cookies and Pound Cake as well…which require mysterious measurements such as a “large teaspoon” of lemon extract.

  3. parkerspoets says:

    Traditions make memories. If there are too many, they get confused and seem less important. The ones that have the most power seem to stick out and stay alive the longest. In the neighborhood where I grew up we always went to one neighbors house for a Christmas eve party. It started out as caroling in the front yard with hot cider when I way very young. Now it is three and even four gererations of those same families inside with lots of good food and friends. My favorite part is the red and green rice crispies treats that one neighbor always makes. Those are powerful memories.

  4. Alex Hopkins says:

    MMM sounds good! I could go for some cookies right now. Well i’m not making Christmas cookies with my grandmother this year, but we are busy making a second batch of Christmas antipasto!

    xoxo your favorite niece : )

  5. elliott says:

    I went crazy for a time trying to make sure that I didn’t miss any important traditions, and just ended up feeling cluttered and disconnected. The standard for me is “Does it feel like an orange and a miniature Whitmans sampler in your stocking?” If it does, it’s a keeper. Pale yellow stars would make the cut. Velveeta fudge? Not so much.

  6. Abbie says:

    Hi lady! I love the photograph, did you take it? Also, love the closet metephore…you and those words!

  7. Antionette says:

    This passage carried me back to my years of always making a list of things that I wanted for Christmas. The different colors of foods, pies and cakes. The beauty of bright lights and colorful trees. It all went along with writing my list.

  8. marvene2 says:

    I love the holidays. I can remember baking cookies in the kitchen with my mom and sisters. You can always tell what time of year it was by the smells from the kitchen. I have carried those same traditions down with my daughter. Every holiday (or any reason) we get into the kitchen and bake cakes and cookies. I liked the sentence “Traditions are like hall closets–they can get out of control and need to be sorted through from time to time”. I sometimes get too carried away around Christmas time with presents and decorations. But it is important to know the real meaning of a holiday and find out what we really want. Time with family, good food and laughter always sooths my soul. Great holiday piece.

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