Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Gift of Compromise (or where values collide)

Esmé's Mommy here.

I grew up loving everything Christmas. For sure, we knew Santa was a fairy tale, but he was a FUN fairy tale. Budgets were tight with five kids in the house, but it just meant we had to improvise a little more. Like making Christmas trees from branches, or pushing our Christmas date out a little so we could get our gifts and stocking stuffers 50% off at the after-Christmas sales. Christmas was family, and Christmas was beautiful.

My husband grew up on the other side of the globe. Christmases were spent at the beach - that southern hemisphere thing - and it is just NOT the same! He has bad memories of childhood Christmas celebrations. Being somewhat anti-traditionalist, he sees no value in doing things just because we've always done them that way. Not to mention that much of Christmas, even the date, has pagan origins. And that kids confuse Santa and God, and when they find out Santa isn't real, they think God isn't real, either. It's hard to argue with.

So, in 15 years of marriage, we've never had a real Christmas tree. I bought a tiny fake tree that I'd set up in a little corner somewhere, but without anyone else to appreciate it, I just never saw the point in doing more.

This is Esmé's third Christmas. The first two were spent in South Africa with the in-laws (at the beach), where we had no tree, and having a tree wasn't my decision to make. I did make a Happy Birthday cake for Christmas Eve, and we read the nativity story and played with a crocheted nativity set, and exchanged a few gifts, and had family and friends over for a nice meal, but that was it.

So what do we do this year, Esmé's first in the northern hemisphere?

I dug out that tiny tree and dusted it off. I let Esmé drown it in tinsel. And I printed out a bunch of Jesse tree ornaments (celebrating Christ from the creation of the world through to His coming) and put them in ornament frames.

Each day I try to put a wrapped book under the tree. (I've been known to wrap library books...) Esmé colors a page that matches the ornament while I read a related devotional. Then we hang up the ornament.
While it doesn't compare to the Gift of the Magi - Jim with his combs and Della with her watch chain - my husband and I have given each other the gift of compromise.

It is a bittersweet gift. I look at the glistening but naked little tree and wish for fragrant-smelling branches loading with meaningful ornaments that can be passed down to future generations. He looks at the tree and wishes it would disappear, along with all the tinsel that lands up on the floor and everywhere else. Neither of us has what we want.

What will Esmé's memories be? I don't know - but I do hope our gift will point her to Christ, some way, somehow.

In the meantime, here are some shots little miss Esmé took of the tree when she snitched my camera recently. It may not be pink and flashing, but I do think she's finding some beauty in that little tree!


Brooke said...

Christmas on the beach - as wonderful as that sounds, it'd still make me sad. i'm very big into traditions. luck for me jay plays along very well.

Lori: Teacher Turned Mommy said...

mixed traditions are hard to cope with, but it sounds like you are working on finding a balance.

Melanie said...

it looks like she is enjoying it. I have been having a hard time too because my MIL does little gifts from "santa" and "reindeer" and I don't. I read her the christmas story in the childrens bible but, most of the little programs and what she sees at the store is santa. she "knows" who he is already. Because she is almost 3, I'm not worried yet. I don't teach her about santa at all. We do a tree and some basic decorations but, don't go all out. I try to keep it somewhat humble.

Jen said...

Sounds like you are making sweet little memories with her with the devotions and the ornaments. I always battle with that Santa thing. I usually have the kids write their letters to Santa more so I can know what they would like for Christmas. It's fun but I'm also like you, I LOVE Christmas and the little things that go with it!

ShEiLa said...

Something tells me...
you are doing things just as they should be... and I am sure Miss Esme will have delightful meaningful memories.


Infant Bibliophile said...

I really empathize with some of this. My husband is from the southern hemisphere too. He's pretty laid back, so doesn't mind me having as big a tree as I want, but he also doesn't really get excited about it. I decorate it by myself (well, now with my son). I grew up with artificial christmas trees, and I prefer them, actually, and he thinks they're kind of ridiculous (my word, not his), and would prefer a very small live one. I think the holidays can be one of the toughest times to meld traditions but it is also so nice when you find new traditions that work for everyone in your family.

Anonymous said...

This is what I think... It be better to teach your kid nothing than to teach them something that is untrue. You'll spend years trying to form new neuro pathways to correct the old ones and even then you'll not be sure that the pathway reshaped would replace the other in a moment when she comes to that critical point and makes her own decissions. Tradition often clashes with unfettered truth and tradition would often subconciously outstage the reality.

Many an atheist still celebrate Christmas.

I'm not professing that you rip out your traditions, but when you have the opportunity to write on a blank piece of paper, wouldn't it be better to write truth than fiction. To have the opportunity to write the future rather than celebrate the past.

The past is great to learn from, but the future is what can be changed and what should be lived for, not the past.

To fit in with a dying society or create a new one where traditions are born from the absolute truth and not some pagan fantasy.

Christ's return is what we should hope for, live for, celebrate in our daily life, not a tradition of mother and child and trees and bunnies that don't lay eggs and all the other bastardising of that which is Holy and true.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I think that's a pretty fair compromise!

Healthy & Happy said...

Family traditions - here's to forging your own new ones!

(Our tied up branches sure did look good there by the front door!).

Merry Happy Christmas from Cambodia...