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It's all too easy to get caught up in thinking Christmas is an event we stage or "do" instead of entering into it, participating, sharing it. One solution is to give up on "doing" it. I've chosen a different approach.

Visiting the Capodimonte museum in Naples I was amazed at the nativity scenes there, centuries old: exquisite and tender depictions of the mythical manger scene surrounded by hundreds of Neapolitan townspeople going about their day -- growing tomatoes, making pizza, shoeing horses. To me these conveyed Incarnation, the divine powerfully present and alive in the midst of our everyday lives.

Since seeing those I have turned from worrying about what to me risks being a fundamentalist approach -- this kind of Christmas is sacred and that one is profane -- and instead tried to keep asking myself the question, "What does this particular action mean?" If children are given material things all year without any sense of their relationship to money, I am not convinced that doing a 180 on Christmas is logical or meaningful. We never gave our children junk or the toy of the year. They still cherish the books they received, the science and art materials, the building blocks they will give their own children one day. Oh, and Silly Putty etc. We do not take ourselves too seriously. Even gifts can convey love and connection! I think kids learn from giving them to each other and to us -- both choosing them and saving for them. I have found that as they reach their twenties and are supporting themselves they do definitely experience the old-fashioned anticipation of needed items -- a bathrobe and slippers, for instance.

Giving these things does not get in the way of also giving gifts to needy children or to various organizations and causes that desperately need money. We do that too. We've been broke and we've been comfortable. Somehow it all fits together in a messy, wonderful way.

I don't agree with you on this on, Krista, but I appreciate all you do.