18 December 2008

Santa Claus is coming and the kids are getting greedy...

With a week to go till Christmas, the opening line to one of my favorite Christmas songs comes to mind. "Santa Claus is coming and the kids are getting greedy". It's a song called Christmastime by the late Larry Norman. If you never heard of him, he is considered the father of Christian rock, but don't hold that against him.

The entire song is a lament about Christmas from Larry's perspective, I am sure you are familiar with the "put Christ back in Christmas" theme. But that is not the focus of this post, it would not fit with the theme of this blog. I want to focus on the opening lines. So this post isn't about the religious aspects of Christmas. I value them, and hold them important, but my focus is on the wider cultural Christmas.

As a new father (it's the boy's second Christmas) I am concerned about what he will learn about Christmas from his parents and extended family. I think the holiday season quickly spirals into more of Giftmas than Christmas. At the risk of giving the post TOO much of a soundtrack, local musician Ben Gulley's song I WANT MY PRESENTS is not a bad reflection of what the holiday can spiral down to. (I don't know how to link directly to the song, so you have to click on it in the music window.)

So, I have some ideas of what I will try to do to prevent this, but I am curious what approach and suggestions others have. Again, I am not looking for the religious aspects, I know what I will teach him of the story of Christmas, and many folks will have different approaches depending on their religious views, including Hanukkah, Kwanza, and other winter solstice festivities. The fact is, we are in a culture where Gift-Getting is a big deal. As the second line of Larry's sing laments "They know it's in the store because they seen it on the TV".

Our first strategy is to plea with the grandparents, uncles and aunts to go easy on the gifts. We are not Mr. & Mrs. Scrooge on this, but we are committed. This has been only moderately successful to date, but at the boy's age, it is not a huge issue. Frankly he is still in the stage where a wrapped box of tissue paper would be one of his favorite gifts. And importantly, we are setting the precedent on presents.

My next strategy, when he gets old enough to understand it, is an idea I have stolen from friends in the past. I plan on having him select at least one of his old toys to give away to a charity. I like the idea of him giving away something of his own to people who are more in need. Obviously at 18-months he can't process that yet.

The other idea is an extension of the last. I don't feel giving away his used items is quite enough, so I look forward to when he is old enough to go shopping with us for gifts for needy families. You know, the ornament on a tree program.

So what have you done for the holiday season?

Oh, and you have to at least click on the Christmastime link to see the album cover. It wasn't a Christmas album, and was released in 1972. Hey, they did the cover without Photoshop.


CityKin said...

We try to concentrate on activities together, like baking cookies and skating, but even so our kids are exhibiting some troubling signs of the gimmiegimmie syndrome, and I think you are right to try to put the kibosh on it early. We pretty much try to have ONE big present from Santa. The only problem is it son decides the ONE thing he really wants is something your really don't want to get, such as a pet.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you're religious or not, but I'm Catholic, and it helps me to view the weeks leading up to Christmas as preparation, and then you have the 12 days of Christmas to celebrate the holiday. We do an Advent wreath with our kids and lighting those candles every night helps to slow time down. Also, we get some hay and every night we take turns putting a piece of hay in the middle of the wreath and saying what we did to help prepare for Jesus' birth that day--whether we were nice to friends or cooked an extra-special meal, etc. We tell them (they're 5 and 7) that we need to do lots of nice things during Advent to make sure Jesus has a nice soft bed when he's born. The only downside is that baby Jesus is currently MIA from the Nativity set! I'll need to scramble to find him in the next week...

VisuaLingual said...

I like the idea of him giving away something of his own to people who are more in need.

I remember doing this when I was about four, and only pretending to be okay with it. Then, a year or later, I figured out why this was so important and decided that it was something I actually wanted to do. By that point, I was ahead of the curve in terms of giving, so I felt pretty mature about it. It makes to be consistent with your family's holiday traditions, and I think it's okay for kids to grow into their understanding of those traditions.