the christians and the pagans
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.
Dar Williams, The Christians and The Pagans
I’ve had this post bumbling in my head for a bit now, and though my head feels a bit mush-like these days, I thought it better to try to spit it out anyhow. Something about being so very pregnant, mixed with the potential-crazy of the holiday season, and some good old fashion family drama has rendered my brain next to useless. All apologies.
Santa comes to our house. We’ve written letters. We entice him with cookies, milk, and reindeer food. We listen intently for bells, and wonder how he gets into our house without a chimney. We’ve read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” countless times this year, and even the Littlest knows pieces by heart.
But before you cast your scorn in my direction, and suggest that we are missing the mark of Christmas, let me also tell you that my Little Ones clearly know why we celebrate this season, and Santa isn’t it. They know that Advent is for preparing our hearts, waiting for our Rescuer. Together we have been anticipating the birth of our Lord, and they can tell you with truth and sincerity about the shepherds, the angels, the wise men and the star. And with quiet wonder, they can tell of the Christ-child born to us.
I don’t think that this is a case of either/or. We sing all sorts of songs: ancient hymns with powerful, spiritual lyrics, sung by the sweetest little voices, as well as jolly jingles about Santa, his elves and reindeer. In our house, we celebrate the birth of Christ, but we welcome Santa Claus, too. There is too much magic in all of Christmas, every bit of it, and I don’t want my Little Ones to miss out. They have the rest of their lives to be expected to be rational, logical, and straight-forward. I want their childhoods to be filled with fantasy and fun. I’m not about to be the Grinch for them. I know that my Little Ones have the God-given capacity to figure out what is True and what is fun. I don’t worry that I’ll have polluted their own intuitive ability by making Santa a part of our tradition, too. I heard someone say that if her daughter wants a present she knows to ask Santa, and if she wants something in her heart, she knows to ask Jesus. And this was a four-year old she was talking about! I’m certain that we don’t give our kids enough credit sometimes. Santa weighs the naughty/nice balance; Jesus doles out the Grace.
And, yes, I’ve heard all the arguments about Christ not even being born at this time of year, but instead in the Spring, and how the Christmas tree was part of the Pagan Winter Solstice tradition. And I’m glad that we’ve appropriated these things — that we’ve incorporated bits and pieces from other traditions and made them part of our Christian story. Who doesn’t need something to celebrate at this time of year? The Winter Solstice marks the longest night, the darkest day, and I’m thankful that we have chosen a reason to gather as family, to light candles and say prayers, and to welcome Light himself in the midst of this darkness. I don’t want to wait until the Spring. There is plenty to celebrate then — and our own Christian calendar reflects this no more so than in forlorn Lent and then joyous Easter.
This time of year can become so complicated. So many different traditions are being celebrated, with just as many variations within them. Instead of creating lines between them, I’d rather recognize the ways in which these holidays can bring us together: sharing in joyous feasts and celebrations, giving to others out of the blessings we’ve been given, embracing those in need of an embrace, and offering Hope in places of Hopelessness. There is Magic in all of that. Jesus-Magic and Santa-Magic.
Elizabeth Esther writes a bit more about why she believes in Santa, and fairies and elves: you can find her here.
“To embrace the mystery without needing to unveil it, explain it, understand it. I’ve made it safe for them to be wonderstruck and awestruck and to hear sleigh bells on the roof.” Elizabeth Esther