The Nonchalantdad: Christmas Redux!

We are safely out of the MAJOR holiday season at our home. We seem to have survived without much internal friction or disillusionment – the kinds of things that occur whenever immediate family are confined together for any length of time in one place. We are not an overtly religious family. As such, we choose to consider the Christmas period as an opportunity to bring family together to celebrate… well… family and friends, and the spirit of giving and loving associated with the day itself. We have many friends who are more religious than ourselves, both Christians and Jews, and at this time of year we try to make our children aware of the many different values that others place on Christmas or Hannukah. We see no reason not to share others ideas and believes – it will only enable our own children to make up their own minds later in life.

But, most important to us at this time is to show our kids the wonder and excitement that comes from celebrating Christmas – the absolute joy of being a child, and the magic that goes into many of the customs associated with it. We have an array of experience to share with our little ones. My wife comes from a firm Swedish custom, and I am from a fairly unique family environment – my father was Muslim, and my mother is Christian. I remember clearly the year my mother somehow persuaded my father to dress as Santa Klaus and distribute toys to us and other neighbourhood kids. Having Santa speak to you, however briefly, in a middle eastern accent does raise suspicions a little though. But, by then, we were already drifting into our doubts about Santa in general.

But, the magic is important. Aside from birthdays, it is the one time where children can really be immersed in all the myths and customs associated with it. In our home, we have the quintessential American experience. My wife, and her family, insist on celebrating Christmas the evening of the 24th of December. And they should – they are Swedish. As for my family, we tended towards celebrating starting the morning of the 25th. In this regard, we followed my mother’s English history. As I mentioned, my father being Muslim, he was kind enough to not have any insistence. Instead, he regarded the whole celebration with amusement and treated it with the respect he had for any occasion that brought the whole family together. His usual custom was to give each child an envelope on Christmas day filled with a cash amount that was always just below the average childs standard of living!

So, we have a hodge-podge of customs we try to incorporate. On Christmas eve we have
a large meal with family and friends. Most importantly we await the arrival of Santa. After the kids are bathed and filled with so much excitement and expectation that they can hardly stand it (and just prior to bedtime), somebody announces excitedly that they see a red light in the sky. This, of course, for those of you who don’t know, means that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is guiding old Santa in. Shortly afterwards, there is the sound of bells and stomping feet on our roof (Thankfully, our roof is flat). We must be the only family in the near region who has the distinction of having a semi intoxicated, Jewish, homosexual Santa on our roof. And he really does his job well! The kids are screaming and bumping into each other as they scatter to hide so that Santa doesn’t necessarily see them. We corral them into hiding just beneath the window that looks out onto our back garden. After a period of silence (Santa has to navigate his magical self back down from the roof without breaking his own neck) Santa appears in full regalia around the corner, hunched over with a bag of toys on his back. Someone invariably screams and Santa pauses for a second before bellowing out a huge HO-HO-HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS … and lists off the name of our children. The kids peak over the window to see him slowly and emphatically lower the bag of toys next to a large rock sitting next to our back door. The kids can hardly contain themselves by now. With that, Santa turns and walks back towards where he came from. This year, because the kids were just to damned excited we opened the back door in time for the kids to scream after him. He turned and waved… repeating the words almost every child loves to hear: HO-HO-HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS. The kids are beside themselves. After a moment we let them out to fetch the bag and bring it in. There is a toy for each.

In a nod to my families custom, we save some of the toys under the tree for the next morning. As well, the kids remain excited through the night as they anticipate the stockings being filled in the morning and the cookies and milk consumed by Santa as he returns inexplicably to leave more JOY. Christmas day we have an equally special morning meal of homemade swedish pancakes and the kids open some more gifts. Thus, the magic of the holiday is elongated and both parents and kids are happy for it. It makes sense to us, and by doing so, we avert the often hectic one-time affair of opening gifts that has in the past made for some sour moments – only because nothing special comes from the speedy chaos of that one moment when everyone simulataneously descends on the tree!