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November 26, 2007

Unplugging Christmas

I just dug out a book I purchased 25 years ago called Unplug The Christmas Machine: How to Have the Christmas You've Always Wanted, by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli--a book that is, amazingly, still available, having gone through many printings. It's mostly about simplifying and de-commercializing Christmas and helping people figure out why they don't really enjoy the holiday season, but some of the best advice has to do with children.

What do children really want for Christmas? According to the authors,

While most children are quick to tell their parents that what they want for Christmas are video games, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, Star Wars toys, and makeup kits, they have more fundamental needs than this. From talking with children, parents, and child specialists, we've learned that in addition to a few well-chosen gifts, children really want and need four basic things for Christmas:

1. Relaxed and loving time with the family;

2. Realistic expectations about gifts;

3. An evenly paced holiday season;

4. Strong family traditions.

Relaxed and loving time with the family and strong family traditions: This is not surprising, given that we are designed for family relationships and love, not for stuff you can buy at the mall.

On a personal note, I was slightly astonished to find myself wrapping Christmas gifts on Nov. 25. There was no help for it--my older son is spending his junior year of college in Japan, and we're mailing him a package of gifts this week, complete with as many family traditions as can be boxed up and mailed across the Pacific Ocean: The usual absurd stocking stuffers, a new tree ornament, candy canes, and homemade cookies. We also enclosed a pine-scented candle to give him a whiff of the Christmas tree he won't have in Kyoto. He won't be able to take part in lighting the advent candles with us this year, but, thanks to Skype, we can call him free on Christmas Eve so he can hear his father read the Christmas story from Luke's gospel.   

Okay, now I'm tearing up...

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Joseph Parker


Thank you for this post; I almost began tearing up myself thinking of my own family traditions I grew up with. Being from a Swedish heritage we had a very traditional Swedish type Christmas Eve event every year.

But the other reason I am writing is, I think, the other issue you maybe were addressing: all those children who grow up with no traditions simply because they grow up in extreme poverty, parents incarcerated, or they are living as orphans or foster children with no family history to even know, let alone celebrate.

Through KidTrek's mission, I am desiring to change this; to make an effort to help kids all across America have family traditions centered around Jesus Christ through intentional relationships built with long term committed adults in their lives.

Being you wrote this post, I would be honored if you, or others from The Point, visited our website (www.kidtrek.org) and let me know what you think and any suggestions you may have as to how we can help kids, like your son and so many other kids experience, have these important traditions regardless of family structure and location.

How do we, as the church, support these families and show them the importance of having these traditions?

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