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December 03, 2007

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oncRN

i think hammacher-schlemmer makes a C3PO that explains it all clearly.

Helene

I JUST had this conversation with my mother. My younger sister spends so much buying these expensive Christmas presents for everyone in the family. However, she's also the one who lives paycheck-to-paycheck and is always trying to borrow money from everyone during the year. Two months ago, she had her electricity cut off!

Even when we've told her not to give us anything for Christmas, she ends up spending a ton on us and the kids. I've never met anyone so fiscally irresponsible.

Though she may still be too young for this, I find "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to be the ideal summation of all that the holiday represents - good and bad.

Brandon R.

Morgan "Supersize Me" Spurlock has a new documentary out called, "What Would Jesus Buy?" The film focuses on the issues of the commercialization of Christmas, materialism, the over-consumption in American culture, globalization, and the business practices of large corporations. The film isn't great and has a lot of flaws but it's worth checking out when it comes out on DVD.

RA

I feel like the scale of gifting has gone up overall. Since when is a DVD a stocking stuffer? Stocking stuffers are travel-size toiletries, people.

I think watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is a good idea, too. I'm kind of biased in that I know every single line, but whatev. You can't beat that soundtrack for Christmas music.

Vickie

I like Moxie's suggestion of "Santa is a game adults like to play with their kids". So no worries about seeing many Santas, etc.

My plan next year (boy's 2, no clue what Christmas is, or who Santa is yet) is to tell him that Santa brings gifts, but also takes some stuff--good, decent clothes, books, toys--to give to kids who didn't have a lot. Maybe you can do something like this with Peanut--it's a nice way to reduce stuff around the house, and to de-emphasize the holidays as a "get-get-get" season.

Maybe volunteer somewhere? A soup kitchen or shelter, and adopt a family or an individual and prepare gifts for that person?

Andrea

We've had a long standing family tradition where all the gifts that we exchange have to be made by ourselves. It's a nice tradition that takes a lot of the commercialism (and debt) out of the holidays.

Ed

This strategy may only delay the inevitable. When Peanut starts nursery school next year (age 4 right?) she will definitely catch on to the santa chatter... the pretense of a magical santa who bears free gifts is just too hard to pass up, even for a 4 year old!

Karen

My mom bought R2D2 for my husband. No joke.

Maybe I should make her watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is on ABC tonight at 8 pm EST.

Kemp

I agree; 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' would be a good tool... the speech by Linus at the end is one of the best ever and decribes Christmas very well.

Then watch 'Christmas Vacation.'

Ok, maybe not the latter...

Stacy

My friend, you're missing out on one of the most awesome behavior correction tools of all time, which can commence after Labor Day:

"Young lady, SANTA IS WATCHING!"

Sara

Buy a child friendly nativity set for The Peanut. We have a 3 year old son and we received one as a present this year and it has been great. He loves to play with it and we have little conversations about Baby Jesus's birthday and how he was born in a manger, the Wise Men and their presents, the animals standing watch, etc.

V-Fly

Since we have a Catholic-Jewish household, I have to manage 2 Holiday stories. My Hanukkah story tends to sound a lot like "Predator" with Maccabees portayed as an elite stike force although this year it might be told with a heavy helping of "300." My Christmas story tends to focus on Joseph who totally gets caught in the middle of all this and still finds a way to do good a Dad thing even though is "son" is really The Son. Santa's story, when told, will definitely have a "with great power come great responsibility" angle. Stay tuned.

palm

My parents' Santa gave us stocking stuffers, usually a calendar, pencils and mini-peanut butter cups. By today's standards he was a chintzy bastard, but hey, we were poor. We long ago established the 3-gift Christmas for myself and my husband (now extended to our son); something you want, something you need, and a surprise. Usually we'll get other family members like siblings and parents a book (and vice versa). This gives us something to do, but it is not overwhelming. I guess we're cheapskates like Santa.

Kim

I hope all this soul searching doesn't cause you to forgo the yearly Santa picture. I can't wait to see this years photo of the peanut and Santa freaking out!

Stella

An interesting story which ultimately relates to Christmas - stay with me, it's long: When the ancient Romans conquered new territories, the first thing they did was to go to the local temples and make offerings to the gods. This gave the conquered and dispossessed people the impression that their gods had wanted the conquest to happen, and brought them on board with the new regime fairly quickly. Similarly, when Constantine I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, he found it expedient to align Christian principles with existing rituals. For example, the cult of Isis and her baby son Horus was replaced with worship of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, while Christmas took the place of the festival of Saturnalia. Saturnalia was celebrated between Dec 17 and Dec 23 each year. All business was suspended, slaves were given temporary freedom, gifts were exchanged, and merriment prevailed. Sound familiar?
Saturnalia was simply a winter solstice festival, which had probably been celebrated in one form or another for tens of thousands of years.
In my next comment, I will reveal how the modern Christian festival of Easter is actually just the old pagan celebration of spring. Fascinating stuff.

And this was how my Mum, an eminent Classics scholar, explained Christmas to me when I was tiny. Is it any wonder I've grown up slightly twisted?

Kathy

I'm starting small by teaching peace, love and goodwill between my two and four year old. I need freaking Gandhi to come visit my kids for Christmas. :)

kittenpie

It's not just you. It's bonkers. I think keeping the gifting to reasonable levels and maybe making a point of helping out others somehow help. (Maybe donating a toy for another child, giving to a food bank, helping at a soup kitchen, and talking about why.)

And if all else fails - there's always books. I love this book about a grumpy old man finding new love and family. Heck, even "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" delivers that message pretty well, with the Grinch taking everything, but not being able to stop the lovin'.

Dena

Dude -- for this one, it sounds like you need to go back to basics: The Charlie Brown Christmas Special will explain it all.

You want "the true spirit of Christmas is love, peace, and good will towards men?" Charlie Brown's your man.

enygma

As a good Korean Presbyterian, whose parents are also in drycleaning--how much more stereotypical can I get--I can't really help you with the talk about Christmas and Peanut.
Even though I don't really like how Christmas has become so commercialized, it still bums me out that I can't buy my family nice presents right now. Six school payments a month have a nasty way of draining the finances. Bah humbug.

Kvetch

This is the first year that I've put myself on a holiday budget - ever. And I've stuck to it. My kids want less and less for Hanukkah, and even though I enjoy the lighting of the menorah for eight nights, I do love giving them gifts. So, I set a big gift budget - and then a separate budget to spread out over other nights. And I've done really well! No one in our house will end up with something meaningless or useless (although I might, as the kids shop themselves, but it's the thought that counts, right?). I'm proud of myself and for paying cash!

As for the Santa/Christmas thing, when you're Jewish, it's easy. Prime reason for official conversion (as I know you are a honorary Jew) don't you think?

Happy Merry, Metrodad!

Let the latkes begin.

Kate C.

I'm a fan of the historical method of religious holiday explanation since we're followers of the One True God, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. (May you be touched by his noodly appendage.)

I've explained the whole "before Christmas it was Saturnalia and before then"...and back into the mists of time.

Then I add that when *we* celebrate this holiday we do it to show our friends and family how much we love them and to show respect for the traditions of our parents and grandparents.

The historical approach educates without being overly negative about the religious aspect of Christmas and it subtly gives the child a sense of the changeable, fallible nature of religion.

Important, if like me, you have family members who still take this stuff very, very seriously.

Bittermama

"Then I add that when *we* celebrate this holiday we do it to show our friends and family how much we love them and to show respect for the traditions of our parents and grandparents."

Thank you for that, Kate! Just what I needed to truthfully explain why we celebrate Christmas to my curious 4-year-old who has started to ask questions about his grandparents' religiousity.

The Grinch was my book of choice for teaching the spirit of Christmas last year when he was three. We tried Charlie Brown this year, but he got stuck on how mean everyone was being and all of the shouting (meanness being a current obsession of his) and wasn't really paying attention by the end. Plus, I still haven't brought myself to discuss the whole Jesus thing with him yet.

As far as the gift-giving is concerned, we try to keep things on a reasonable buget and starting last year, I've involved him a lot in choosing small gifts for his father and baby sister. I do think there's something nice about teaching a kid how to think about what they know about someone and imagine what sort of small gift that person might appreciate. We also have lots of opportunities to teach this lesson now that we're invited to preschool classmates' birthday parties every month.

Overblown commercialism sucks, but thoughtful and reasonable gift-giving is a good thing.

I think Santa is a fun tradition if you're a bit thoughtful about how you handle it. I don't want to suck all of the magic out of his childhood... but then, I let him eat all the halloween candy he wanted for one night too.

Anne Glamore

Have you read "6-8 Black Men?" You can hear David Sedaris read it aloud on YouTube. Not that it will help explain Christmas to Peanut, but it WILL make you thankful you don't have to explain all that shit. It's crazy.

navi

my sister and I always felt a little jipped not getting to believe in Santa, getting disciplined for telling our peers he wasn't real, and not being able to let our little brothers (our parents did a complete turn around with them) know the truth...


that said, no idea. it's always been enveloped in religion for me. Maybe take her out to get gifts for needy children, or some other kind of child appropriate charity work...

Papa Bradstein

Three words: Peanuts Christmas special. Yes, it does lay down the religion, but it also points out the needless materialism of what the holiday has become to many people, and how hollow (like a pink aluminum Christmas tree) that is. Sure, Linus does cite scripture to make his point (and to choke me up...every damn year), but at the end, that's not the message of the piece. Besides, jazz from Vince Guaraldi beats whatever midi shit Elmo's got going on in the background.

merseydotes

Dude, you guys need The Grinch (not Jim Carey)!

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store.
'Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!' "

It has the message of Charlie Brown without the religious overtones.

On the overspending note, I have a friend who got one of those Butterscotch ponies, yknow they're $300 each!?!, for her barely-three-year-old, in addition to a bunch of other stuff. I can only imagine that they're in the category of carrying $15,000 of credit card debt. Mind-boggling (kind of like the Ravens beating the Pats by a touchdown right now!)

Whit

Christmas to me has never been about religion but rather the feelings for my loved ones and mankind in general. It is my favorite time of the year.

As for explaining Santa to my kids, I haven't really "explained" anything. We see Santa, I say "that's Santa" and they've figured out the rest. They, meaning my 4-year-old and my 22-month-old, know who he is and the oldest knows his whole story. I thank the good people at Rakin & Bass.

Umm, Bass.

mama911

Got nothin' for ya...I was actually going to suggest you use the Elmo Christmas DVD...before I got to the end of your post, that is!

P.S. I've been reading your posts for about a month now. You may have missed your true calling! I love your stuff.

MikeyMike

Christmas Song by Dave Matthews Band.

Did I mention I'm from Colorado?

Amy

I am actually friends with the guy who invented the upside down tomato plant thing.

True Story.

pnuts mama

totally on board with you about commercialism and consumerism and how it seems to have taken over people's common sense when it comes to their finances and security. it's ridiculous!

we're fine with santa, as long as he doesn't get top billing- in our house santa is a messenger of god's love, and he only comes *because* of baby jesus. not the other way around. he brings one special present (this year a dollhouse daddy is making!) and fills our stockings- the rest of the stuff (some asked, some needed, some surprise- i like that!) from us to each other to honor in a very small way the gift of the man that the day celebrates. we have started donating money instead of stuff to nearly 1/2 our list this year- stuff still for our parents and the kids, pretty much everyone else is blessed enough to not need another r2d2 commemorative plate, we're sending that $ to folks who could really use it instead.

not to be an upstart, but why celebrate christmas at all if you don't believe in the holiday?- it's a religious holiday! i don't know, MD, for some reason this year, i'm having a hard time with this whole concept- i don't celebrate hindu or muslim holidays because i don't practice their faiths- i respect their rights to believe what they do, i try and understand the basics of their belief systems, but i don't "celebrate" their holidays as my own and put inappropriate meanings to them to suit my secular needs. i wouldn't do it if i lived in a predominantly hindu or muslim area, either. i just wonder why we've done that to christmas- if you stopped believing in the religious meaning behind it, isn't that a little weird? some of your jewish readers have stated as much- "that's easy, we don't celebrate since we don't believe."

believe me, i'm in full understanding that december 25th is a day the church picked to recognize the birth of christ, i'm in no way arguing for the historicity of the actual day (or even the story!), i know about the appropriation from pagan celebrations and solstice, etc. what i'm saying is, i don't get how people in 2007 can celebrate christmas if they have a problem with the fact that is has for over a 1000 years being a religious holiday to honor the birth of christ. while the whole "christmas is about love and family and peace" is wonderful, those are secondary to the honoring of the birth of a man who a lot of people believe was god on earth.

i don't know, i'm really not trying to be a pain in the ass, but i think it's worse to turn a religious holiday into a secular one rather than just give up the holiday altogether if you don't believe in it. my god i am turning into one of those people. either way, i hope you find your balance.

and for the record, my husbands grandma always had a birthday cake for baby jesus and they sang for him every year. we're planning on doing the same- it's one of his favorite memories of his gramma and being a family during the holidays.

Jen Kuo

PBS did a great documentary awhile back about Affluenza which many Americans are suffering from, heck we're spreading the disease. http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/

6th Floor Blogger

oooh, I fit right in the average with my 15k of credit card debt! Of course, a good chunk of that was accumulated in college on books and trips home, and much of the remaining on my desire not to just sit home and save every penny in hopes of paying it off.

Supposedly we're going to spend less money this season, retailers are already bitching about it. I don't necessarily see how, since it's the longest season possible, but whatever. I can't even decide what I want to get people this year.

the mad momma

You know, religion was never a burden to us as children. We were not told of the God of the Old Testament who would send down brimstone and fire. The stories were fun and made bedtime interesting. And i still feel a deep sense of calm when i think of God. it doesnt have to be organised religion, but i would like my children to know they can take their troubles somewhere. i just wont be fooling them that their problems will all be solved.

Sanya

Since the holiday has existed as long as the northern hemisphere has been very, very cold and very, very dark in late December, I can't take the religious right terribly seriously on this one.

A really awesome take on the whole Santa thing that leaves out the Jesus entirely, acknowledges the *existence* of Jews, has no Elmo, and is totally appropriate for three year olds: Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. It is pure awesomeness on a DVD. Well, also on YouTube.

Norma

No presents? Really? Ever? What are you gonna tell her when the other kids at school make fun of her because she didn't get any presents for Christmas?

mary jude

Hi Metrodad, Love your blog. I highly recommend Pee Wee's Christmas; it deals with the materialism of Christmas head on, it's multi-culti and it's something zany that the whole fam can enjoy.

Allison

As always, I love hearing your perspective on things. I'm right there with you on the whole materialism of the holidays. I really do think it's getting worse than ever.

LAsuburbs

Bring on the Santa believing. I have a little sister, 4, and I'm 27. Seeing her all year long behaving because of Santa threats is hilarious. She nearly exploded last year on Christmas Eve!

Mama Nabi

It's my strong belief that the Christmas Spirit is neither religious nor materialistic - as you said, it is about good will. That said. I can't help it - I totally want to buy into the whole Santa (well, the whole St. Nick who brought toys to all the needy children) thing and incorporate good will as well... do the Christmas tree, lights... music. It's so easy to forget how magical the whole thing is for a child... my mom did and I think I'm still traumatized from when I was four and my mom declared to me that there's no Santa, there'll be no Christmas since my dad up and quit his job...

patti

Here's how it plays out at my house. I believe in the magic of childhood and I believe that Santa is part of that magic. Some of my most cherished childhood memories include snow falling outside the windows, my sisters and I thrilled at the prospect of Santa on his way. We really were snug in our beds early on Christmas Eve and up early Christmas morning where we received a few lovely gifts, (best present ever...ice blue figure skates) and that was thrill enough. Our stocking included a large candy cane, an orange and a foil covered Santa when we ran to the fireplace where they were hung. My daughter is now 11 and has been known to wander out of her bedroom in the middle of July wearing shorts, a tee-shirt and her Santa hat because "I've got Christmas in my heart all year long,"...that's her reasoning. She recently asked, as a firm believer in the magic of Santa and Christmas, for the real story of Santa...and so I told her the whole truth of the thing. I told her that "Santa lives in the heart of every person who loves her." And that MD is the true miracle of
Christmas...the chance to feel that warm embrace of love and hold it in your heart for years and years to come. I still believe in Santa and I can still hear the bell ring every single Christmas Eve because I was taught the beauty of the genoristy of spirit that lives in the hearts of all those who love me. Merry Christmas and stop worrying.

Patti

Amy

You could take Peanut to a homeless shelter to serve a meal or do something else "service" oriented to show her the spirit of giving does not have to be about spending money.

Jason

Holy crap...$1000 on Christmas gifts. We're not spending that much. We plan to remain one of very few American families with absolutely no credit card debt. We don't need that headache.

You're right about all the useless crap out there. My mother-in-law is the queen of useless crap. He house is filled with it and she continues to waste her money. I don't see the point. Maybe I'm just a simpleton.

Min

Hi MD
I do hope you and BossLady find a comfortable and truthful solution to your holiday quandry. I like to find out what exactly my kids are asking before I give them an answer. Like saying "yes honeypiebabylove those Kotex do look like little diapers and no we won't put them out on the dinner table to use as super napkins. You are so clever!"
I find that that works so much better than trying to explain in the moment why his sister and friend are dying of embarrassement in addition to the human reproductive system to a 7 year old. If he aint asking I aint telling at this point. Perhaps you could do the same with peanut?
For the record I am Christian who has opted out of religious holidays. I won't justify the lies/traditions just to fit in. We have however been known to throw some major Thanksgiving bashes because well we are thankful.

Min

Hi MD
I do hope you and BossLady find a comfortable and truthful solution to your holiday quandry. I like to find out what exactly my kids are asking before I give them an answer. Like saying "yes honeypiebabylove those Kotex do look like little diapers and no we won't put them out on the dinner table to use as super napkins. You are so clever!"
I find that that works so much better than trying to explain in the moment why his sister and friend are dying of embarrassement in addition to the human reproductive system to a 7 year old. If he aint asking I aint telling at this point. Perhaps you could do the same with peanut?
For the record I am Christian who has opted out of religious holidays. I won't justify the lies/traditions just to fit in. We have however been known to throw some major Thanksgiving bashes because well we are thankful.

Darren

I think without Clare's Mom and me the average American credit card debt would be closer to $2000.

ryn

I totally agree with everything you said in this post but how cool would it be to have an R2-D2?

lotus07

I look forward to the day, that I can vacation in Argentina during December, just to avoid the American Consumer Holiday (also known as Christmas)....it is just fricking depressing these days.

Xdm

Manoschevitz. You have a lot of comments here, so this has probably been covered, BUT..
1) You need Santa. Use him. His name wields a mighty power, "I'm telling Santa!" is already being yelled at Casa X. Man, it's effective.
2) Baby Jesus works. We keep asking Dude, you know why we celebrate Christmas, Right? He says, "Yay Baby Jesus!" That's right. Yay.
3) SHe'll be exposed to all this soon enough. It should come from you. Message Control.
4) I am getting the slide scanner from Hammacher Schlem. I am excited, but I will have some serious work ahead of me turning all visual family history from slide to .jpg. Flickr will groan under the weight.
Merry All That My Friend!

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