I feel like this is Little Monster’s first Christmas. She turned three in September, but this is the first year that she is anticipating Christmas with wonder and excitement. And isn’t that the whole idea of Christmas?
The day after Thanksgiving the Christmas music started in our house. I always eagerly anticipate the day, and start counting down until I get to listen to Christmas music. Because the hubby worked so many years in retail and restaurants, he has always dreaded listening to it all day every day. Early on in our relationship we agreed upon not turning it on until after Thanksgiving. I’ve always been a stickler to celebrating one holiday at a time, so in the past I didn’t generally switch to the Christmas mode until after Turkey Day anyway. Of course Little Monster heard me counting down the days and asked what it was. I told her some of the songs she would hear, and why we play them this time of year. The first song we turned on, she asked, “What is that sound?” I responded, “That’s Christmas music.” “That’s Christmas? Ooo.” I commented on and turned the volume up to some of my favorites throughout the day.
The next day we started decorating first thing (after breakfast, of course, so like nine o’ clock). The first thing we put up was the wreath by the door. She helped me pull out the Christmas boxes from storage and she carefully unwrapped each decoration and memento from years past, asking about pieces as we went and helping me place them in their holiday home. Hubby joined in the spirit and finished up with us when he got home. That afternoon we took a walk in the back of our property to look for our Christmas tree. The long leaf pines grow like weeds here, so each year for the past three years we have been able to find the perfect-sized, Charlie Brown shaped Christmas tree. This year did not disappoint. We picked out our tree and agreed to come back in a week and cut it. (I killed my back this past weekend though, so the tree cutting has been postponed.)
Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, we arrived at church and Little Monster saw the wreaths decorating the front doors. She pointed to them and said, “Christmas here!” Across the street she saw the wreaths and decorations and said, “Christmas there too! Christmas everywhere!” Yes, sweet child, Christmas is indeed everywhere. We went in and there was yet more Christmas. She took it all in with her big brown eyes. We sang a Christmas carol as the opening hymn, and again, she asked what that sound was and she heard, “Christmas.” Sunday evening I pulled up the family Advent candle devotional that we did last year, the Pittsburgh Presbytery Advent Devotions for Families with Children Ages 3 to 5th Grade. (http://www.pghpresbytery.org/news/pdfs/advent_devotional.pdf) Last year she wasn’t very verbal. This year she can have a bit of discussion and she looks forward to lighting the candles.
When Little Miss was sick all.night.long Tuesday night, I got three hours of broken sleep on the couch, so on Wednesday, we all rested and watched several Christmas specials. Little Monster’s favorite was, of course, Curious George in “A Very Monkey Christmas.” She has enjoyed watching at least one Christmas special a day every day since, including a new one that we picked up at the store today, the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” We have also been doing a Precious Moments’ “Good-Deed-A-Day Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar.” Each day after breakfast we lift the flap to find some new good deed to do. The first day was to put out birdseed, so we cleaned out the birdfeeder that had been neglected for several months and put new seed in it. We have been seeing many more birds out of the living room window the last several days. Another day was to donate a toy to charity. So we picked out one toy that day. Two days later she came to me with two bagfuls of toys to donate stating that she has too many toys. Today she wanted to give many of her books to other kids.
Little Monster is in the thick of the “why” stage. Everything deserves a “why.” Constantly. I’ve spent over a week answering little questions about Christmas. Questions about the people in her toy nativity set, the songs that we listen to, the lighting of the candles, the decorations she sees inside and outside the home. Why do we do any of this? To remember why we celebrate Christmas. We talk about how this is Christmastime, Advent, a time when we look forward to and wait for Christmas day. And Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and Jesus is God’s son, and he was born to love all of us. Today in the car she saw more decorations and exclaimed again that Christmas is everywhere. When asked why everywhere, I explained that it’s because Christmas is for everyone. It’s for everybody everywhere, because Jesus loves us all. Her friends, our neighbors, people in the stores, in other cars, people all over the world, everyone.
We haven’t intended to deprive her of the Santa Claus side of Christmas, but it is hard to explain to a Florida girl how a man in a hot red suit rides in a sleigh through the snow (what’s that?) to go into people’s houses to deliver toys in the middle of the night. It’s a lot easier to explain how Mary was going to have a baby, and she had to go on a trip, and since everyone else was visiting Bethlehem too, she and Joseph slept in a barn. But while they were there the baby ran out of room in her belly so it was time to be born (because that’s how babies are born), and that baby is Jesus. We have talked the last two years about babies being born and that places they can be born (at home, in a car, at the hospital… in a barn). There are palm trees in the Jesus Christmas story, just like at home. The true reason of Christmas just makes more sense to her, and is a whole lot easier for me to explain!
We still have over two weeks until Christmas day, but every day in our house is Christmas, because this is Christmastime. Advent, “coming” in Latin, is the joyful anticipation of Christ’s coming. As the days get closer she gets a better grasp of this Christmas story. I cherish these times. These moments of awe and wonder and understanding. Because that is what Christmas is all about.