“Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas.” The mall Santa said all the right things. He certainly looked the part in his heavy red fur coat and boots. But to my two-year-old son Ben something about Santa just wasn’t right. As we were leaving the mall, he asked very seriously, “Mommy, why is Santa Claus wearing a Halloween Costume?”
It didn’t make sense to him that someone would wear a heavy coat in the warm climate of Florence, SC. As I stifled back a laugh, I realized that Ben had no great expectations for the holiday season. It didn’t matter to him whether we had turkey and dressing or hot dogs. He might even have preferred hot dogs! He didn’t care how many presents he received. And we didn’t have to have 10 different kinds of cookies or a house full of beautiful decorations to make him happy.
I love Christmas! I love the festive atmosphere during the entire holiday season. I love celebrating a season Advent. Sometimes, though, I try a little too hard.
I have an image in my mind of the perfect fairy-tale Christmas I want to create with my family. The frenzy of baking cookies, writing Christmas cards and shopping begins early. I find it very easy to work myself to exhaustion. It’s at those times I try to remember two-year-old Ben. Ben is now seven and we have another son, Charlie, who is five. Traditions are important to them. They are not completely devoid of expectations as they were when they were two. But their expectations don’t involve a perfectly-decorated, impeccably-clean home.
Now that our children are getting older, I can see much more clearly what is important to them. I see things that are creating lasting memories. Many of the things they loved as preschoolers remain important traditions. Charlie loves our simple paper prayer chain. He enjoys tearing the chain and finding out who we will pray for each night. Ben loves baking cookies and our special Christmas cake. Even when the cake a little lopsided and the frosting is smeared, it’s beautiful to him! Both boys love to pick out gifts and fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. They love to wrap presents – often the wrapping paper is wrinkled, but the recipient knows that it was wrapped with love. They have a great time decorating the tree. Sometimes that means that there are a lot more ornaments at their eye level and they are not perfectly spaced. Though it wouldn’t make the cover of a home magazine, it is beautiful to me.
Celebrating Christmas with children is full of messes. The best laid plans don’t always turn out the way we expect. If we approach the season with joy, laughter and patience, we can create wonderful memories for our families. Christmas is a joyful season. It’s a time to remind ourselves and our children of the perfect gift God gave when he sent Jesus to be born in a manger, a long-awaited gift delivered in a most unexpected way!
Jennifer Weaver is lives in Florence, SC with her husband Rodney and two sons Ben and Charlie. She enjoys writing, running and volunteering at her church.