I find that being a parent adds a new dimension and twist into my Christmas season. When once before I had thought of good things to give my loved ones, I now have to consider the things I give my pre-schooler. Then there is the religious side of the season that I must also share if I would ever hope for her to grow up as an individual with a set of values and beliefs, and, well there is also that man on the red suit. Probably much more dominant in the mall and media scenes than the baby in the manger.
And so I began the season telling my daughter that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus. This ties in very well with her birthday being also in December. She understands now that birthdays are special days and that one must go and hear mass during one's birthday. It also helped that Christmas fell on a Sunday this year.
I also told her about the story of Christmas. And boy was it difficult. How do I even begin to explain Mary and her virgin pregnancy? So I told it the normal way, that Mary and Joseph fell in love, got married and travelled to Jerusalem to visit their ancestors. Similarly, I showed that we anually go back to the Philippines to visit loved one and friends. Reaching Manila, we sometimes stay in hotels or at relatives' homes. In Joseph and Mary's case, they were just unlucky not to be able to find available space but some good person gave them the manger. At this point I was interrupted by a tiny voice, "Mom, what's a manger?"
Thus the Christmas story diverts a while to pictures and drawings of animals and the different food receptacles they have based on size, diet and food preference.
Then finally baby Jesus was born and three wise men from the East came to bring presents. The names were as challenging to teach (try letting you 3 year old pronounce Balthazar properly!) as well as the gifts they brought a challenge to explain! "Mommy, why did they not bring some toys for the baby Jesus?" my little one blurts out as she closely looks at my kindergarten-like drawings of the wise men. Why not indeed! So I fumbled a bit and came up with another mini-story of my own creation that the baby Jesus needed the gold, to make his crown when he is of age (like Simba) and frankincese and myhrr are also needed for the crowning ceremony. I can see she has not totally bought into my answer but tries to be polite.
Then the shepherds came and sang with the angels and where do I put Santa?
My husband did not grow up in a household where Santa visits at Christmas. Yet I was steeped in Santa lore. I remembered making Valentine's Day card for Santa just to remind him of the presents I wanted and that I was being such an especially good girl that year. Even when I discovered my mom and dad wrapping the red bike for my younger brother and signing it at Santa Claus, I still believed he just asked my folks to sign it on his behalf. We were after all in the Philippines, in Cebu City at that time and he had to cover the United States and the rest of the world!
So I continued my Christmas story with the angels giving gifts to all the people. (Heck if my daughter will believe in a Santa, why the hell not in angels!) And this became a tradition that passed on to every family until today. So when Jesus left the Earth (and she knows about dying having had just my dad passing on) he left other people in charge of giving gifts to the people. One person is Santa Claus. Aha, there goes the tie-in! But only good kids get presents. The naughty ones do not! And her eyes grow just a tad bigger as she affirms, "I'm a good girl, mom."
Then it makes me realise that convuluted and complicated our made-up stories can be to entertain and partly educate our kids, it still comes down to the basic tenet of, "being a god person is important and will reap rewards." And as we open these "rewards" on Christmas day, another truism comes forth - these may not be the 'rewards' we want to deserve but these are what we received and for that, we should all be thankful.
May the spirit of giving and forgiving continue to reign among us, even and moreso after Christmas.