“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.” – Clark W. Griswold Jr National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
My 6 year old came over to me at the end of August, to me it was out of the blue because I have no idea what ideas were floating around in his 6 year old brain. He said, “Momma my favourite part of Christmas is the lights and my family.” I looked at him feeling a bit dumbfounded because first it was August; second I had no idea where this Christmas notion came from in the heat of August or the quiet of the morning; third his favourite part was the lights and his family! He looked back at me with the sweetest of smiles, “oh, and some presents are fun too.” With that final statement he was gone out the back door leaving me to choke and sputter into my coffee cup.
As I watched my two boys playing out in the yard, I thought about my 6 year old’s surprising yet simple comments. I realized that my boys love the snow, jumping in it, tossing it around and watching it fall, as well as just the chill of the snow in the air. They love snow angels and snowmen. They love twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and marshmallows melting in a mug of hot chocolate. Pure and simple. They love it more when we, as parents, stop and enjoy it with them.
So, why do we complicate it? That became the question my husband and I asked ourselves this year as we started making plans for the upcoming holidays. We replayed last year’s Christmas morning, it consisted of a frenzy of gift opening which included disappointment at gifts that had been pleaded for, followed by a feeling of “is this Christmas?” The VISA bill I opened certainly wasn’t a holiday gift, YIKES!
For us the holiday had become too much junk, too many bills, and not enough quality family time. It all got me thinking about Christmas, what is Christmas anyway?
The history of all the little traditions is fascinating, and I had forgotten or never really known much about it. For example mistletoe is also known as a “vampire plant”, holly is linked to the god Thor, and the Pagan god Odin may have come before St. Nicholas (P. de von Driesch 2011). I didn’t know that Father Christmas and Santa Claus had different histories given that in modern times they are interchangeable. Father Christmas can be connected with the traditions of mince pies, sherry, reindeer, stockings, and Santa letters burnt over open fires (L. Alchin 2011). This white bearded man who dressed in a green fur-lined robe traces his history back through English custom to the Romans and Pagans. Santa Claus started with a man called Saint Nicholas (L. Alchin 2011). He was known for his charity and generosity particularly for giving 3 bags of gold (down a chimney, anonymously at night) to save 3 girls being sold into slavery because they lacked a dowry.
Interestingly, as I continued to dig into this question of what is Christmas anyway one thing that kept coming up was the commercialization: cards, stories, ornaments, coca cola, trees, toys, gifts, food, and etcetera. Where did the simplicity go?
This year my husband and I decided we want to try something new for Christmas. We decided that we wanted to find a way to use the time to connect as a family. Instead of getting lost in the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday and coming out the other-side with the Christmas-is-over-blues we wanted to come out feeling like we had enjoyed the holidays and our family. There would be not an Ellen explanation this year, “I don’t know what to say, except its Christmas and we’re all in misery” (National Lampoons Christmas Vacation).
We bought a small Christmas Eve present for the boys, their traditional pajamas, and that was all that they received from us for gifts. We boarded a plane a few days before Christmas, the boys had no idea of our plans. We decided this year it would be a surprise (next year, they will know we are going away). Santa still visited the boys, however it was in the form of something you need, something you want, something to read, and something to wear. Not overly commercial, we got our quality family time free from let-downs and hustle-and-bustle, the boys were pleased with their gifts and appreciative. Appreciative was really wonderful. Overall, as a family it was a wonderful decision for us and we truly were the “the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse” (National Lampoons Christmas Vacation).
By Shari Marshall -2016
- The Story of Santa Claus: The Secret Myths & Legends Linda Alchin 2011 Kindle
- Origins of Christmas Traditions Preethi von de Driesch 2012 Kindle