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A Toddler's Take on the Holiday Season

Author: Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Posted: November 24th. 2013
Times Viewed: 3,004

Itís the holiday season! Turn on your television and what do you see? Christmas sale this, Santa Claus that; buy, buy, buy, more, more, more. Itís no wonder that even Christians often get depressed over their own holiday. So why is it that non-Christians seem to give in and pay lip service to Christmas? Even my atheist friends celebrate this holiday of excess. My family is a mixture of Christians and Pagans, so we enjoy integrating our holidays. Some of us celebrate Yule, the solstice, while my parents celebrate Christmas. But since we want to be together, we still visit with each other and have a feast, and exchange gifts. The celebration just has different meanings to us.

My father coined the word ďYumasĒ when his wife, my stepmom, got very moody about my children Ďnot having Santa Clausí. I understand that we have different faiths and ideals, but if my children are happy knowing that their gifts come from their loved ones instead of a stranger who breaks into their house, why does it matter? Of course, my children are still young and the difference of lifestyles is still a bit hard for my in-laws to take, but my husband and I are trying to teach our daughters about our faith while still explaining that some people believe in different aspects of religion. This can be quite hard with a toddler. I have found that itís important to simplify your belief system. Once a child has a basic understanding then it is good to talk about what ideas some other people have and, of course, one should always ask the child what they think after the conversation.

I have met so many people, parents and grandparents alike, who treat young children as they do dogs. They love them and care for them but donít believe that what they say and do effects these young minds because most people donít remember their own early childhood. But I have found that young children, even babies, are like little sponges that soak up everything around them, including the words and feelings that you donít want them to. So from the day I conceived my first child, I watched what I said and how I acted. Even in the womb babies respond to a motherís feelings. When my oldest daughterís first holiday season rolled around, my husband and I decided that we were not going to celebrate Christmas just because everyone else did it, even non-Christians. What kind of an example would that set? I could never use the ever famous ďif everyone jumped off of a bridge, would you?Ē speech if I just pushed my faith aside and followed along.

This did cause a bit of a ruckus within the family because so many people of other faiths just join in the Christmas celebration, and there is nothing wrong with that. It just didnít fit for my family. I didnít want to lie to my children about Santa Claus, because I wouldnít want them to lie to me and I truly believe in the golden rule, especially with children. My husband and I also wanted to limit presents because we want to instill the holiday spirit of love, peace, and family, not give, get, and obligation. Itís a rough path to set your own way. People just assume that we celebrate Christmas and are intrigued that my children donít seem to be missing anything but not celebrating it. If anything, my toddler enjoys this time of year more.

I made a playlist of winter songs that are considered Christmas tunes but have no mention of the word Christmas, Jesus, or any of the religious aspects of December. We still have a tree but it is for Yule because that is where the origin of the Christmas tree came from anyway. Since the Solstice is all about celebrating winter, my husband and I bought a baby blue spruce in a pot for us to decorate and then plant in the spring. I just couldnít take the idea of cutting a beautiful work of nature down in its prime, nor did I want a plastic tree. We are still finding our way and making our own traditions based off our belief. I was touched when my daughter tenderly petted our three-foot tree. It will grow up with her and she will be raised with conviction in her faith.

Conviction is something that does seem to be lacking in the general populous nowadays as people look to whatever makes their lives easier. But it is also important to teach children acceptance of otherís faith and beliefs. This time of year makes it easy, because my children are curious about the nativity scene or the old fat man as we call Santa Claus. So when I take my daughters for our daily walk around the neighborhood weíll talk about why a lot of people decorate their homes differently.

My oldest is really into babies so she sees the nativity scene and asks about the baby. I tell her that some people think that baby is the only son of the male God and that he was born to save all of mankind. Then I tell her that I believe that everyone is a child of the Gods and that we can all save ourselves. I also let her know that she can believe whatever she wants because lots of people have different beliefs and thatís a good thing.

Itís not hard to be honest with young children, as long as you try to simplify the concepts for better understanding. My husband and I still enjoy public holiday events because most of them have something for everybody. Of course, we live in St. Louis, one of the more Pagan friendly cities. Tillis Parkís light display alone has a menorah, nativity scene, and peace sign. The ďWild LightsĒ at the zoo are mostly just that, pretty lights. I find it refreshing that instead of trying to outlaw decorations in public places, our society is embracing the different beliefs of others and going with more neutral ideas.

I am constantly asking my girls what they think, even the youngest who canít talk yet. My toddler loves talking to the Gods with me; she has a great take on life and death because when some of our older pets died, my husband and I didnít hide it from our children. We have a little pet graveyard on our land and my toddler enjoys putting little gifts on her friendsí graves. It is important to build that connection and let your children know that they should always question things and always be able to look to their parents for guidance, even if they find a different path to follow. My daughters may someday decided to celebrate Christmas and follow the teachings of Jesus. I may need a little time to adjust and accept that choice but I will because I love my daughters.

But for now, I feel that it is important to first, teach my children my beliefs and then, talk about what other people believe and ask them how they feel about it. Even at the youngest age, children are intelligent enough to understand the basic concepts of pretty much every part of life, especially religion. So, however you celebrate this time of year, Happy Holidays!


Jessica Marie Baumgartner

Location: Saint Louis, Missouri

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