I mentioned in my last post that the dance center’s performance team marched in two parades this past weekend. For most team parents, this meant getting the child to and from the parade, and (in many cases) standing on the sidelines to cheer the kid on as they performed. For us, it also meant walking—all five of us—in the parade. How do we get ourselves into these situations?!!! Somehow, our knack for offering to “help out where we can” often lands us in some interesting places. This time, little brother wound up carrying the boom-box of Christmas tunes, dad helped carry the parade banner, and little sister and I walked behind as the first line of defense against the float behind us. We were too busy keeping up to take any pictures of this, but the oldest was still the headliner.
For some strange reason, this parade always brings the cold weather. Honestly, it was 60-70 degrees all week before this parade; the night we walked it was in the 50’s and dropping. Some of you reading this will laugh that I thought 50 degrees was cold, but bear in mind that we were out in it at night for almost 3 hours, and of all the places for our group to line up, we were right on the water. The wind chill had to be in the 40’s, so even though we layered up, we still wound up snuggling just to have a chance at staying warm. Thankfully, someone with more knowledge about how to stay warm over an extended amount of time (her family had a deer lease) brought disposable hand warmers for us all. I’d never seen these! They looked too good to be true, but once they heated up, it felt soooooooo good to stick our hands in our pockets and be refreshingly warmed all over again. The girls were able to muster this shot once we all felt better.
Sunday’s parade was much warmer, but a fog so thick you could cut it with a knife rolled in. Amazingly enough, the fog didn’t come until after the parade was finished, which meant an interesting walk back to the car. Yet, the girls were still in a festive mood.
Walking in a parade or two was great exercise; it also gives an introvert a lot of time to think. I thought about how good it felt, particularly with everything going on in the world right now, to smile and say, “Merry Christmas.” Much of what I thought about was a conversation I’d had just the day before with my mother-in-law. The church where I met her, and subsequently met my husband, has moved past the position of Christmas being too commercialized and secularized. For the last several years, that church has been on a “there is no Christ in Christmas” campaign. Much of what the church espouses comes from the perspective that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, along with the pagan origins of the Christmas tree and the red-suited, “ho, ho, ho” version of Santa Claus that we see all over the stores and television. So there is no Christmas music (not even Christian songs that are categorized as Christmas music, like “Silent Night” or “O Come, All Ye Faithful”), no encouragement to give gifts or do any of the other traditional things that we associate with this season. Though much of their perspective is a matter of fact, as my mother-in-law says, it’s never been about a tree for us. My father-in-law adds that celebrating Jesus, even if it’s technically in the wrong season, is never a bad thing. I say this knowing that there are whole Christian sects that do not celebrate Christmas or any other holiday. My mil’s concern, and I think she’s right on target with this, is that Christmas is a wonderful time to minister to the lost, whether you buy into all the traditional trappings or not. Because of the adamant determination of her church (we left years ago) to depart from what we associate with Christmas, they’ve all but lost the chance to show people Jesus at this time through giving, through sharing, and through loving. As one example, there was a vendor who donated to her church bicycles. The bicycles were for children of incarcerated parents. The leaders of the church actually met to decide whether or not to accept the bicycles, and if they accepted and then distributed the bicycles, would it be a violation of the “Christ is not in Christmas” policies. Huh? It sounds a lot like Karen’s comment below that her church stopped having services during Christmas week.
All of this flowed through my mind, and then came throbbing to the front when pastor described us, the church, as the frog sitting in a pot of water that is gradually heated to boiling. As a child, I remember our school Christmas programs, where the songs mentioned above, as well as others like “Amen” with its lyric ‘see the little baby (Amen)/ lying in a manger (Amen)/ on Christmas morning (Amen, Amen, Amen) were part of the school chorus’ repertoire. Now those songs are replaced with the more politically correct harmonies about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” Don’t get me wrong; Nat King Cole’s rendition of that particular classic is one of my favorite songs of the season, but it will never replace “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Our ability to celebrate this holiday is slowly being taken away from us with each expressed “Happy Holidays,” Merry Xmas,” or even the mention of, as one university where I teach says, a “winter break.” No one denies the right of others to celebrate Hanukkah or even Kwanzaa; this would be the mark of the intolerant. One of my mantras during this politically correct age is that ‘toleration’ really means that the Christian is expected to tolerate everyone; no one tolerates the Christian.
So as I walked with one hand on my six-year-old and the other in the air, my spirit was uplifted as my smile met other smiles and echoes of “Merry Christmas.” I mused about our traditions and how they’ve developed over the years. This almost made me laugh out loud. I reflected upon our earliest Christmases B. C.—before children. I was so determined that we would have our own traditions, though I had no clue of what they would be. So with that agenda in mind, I fought my husband’s contentment to go to his parent’s house for the entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and assuredly hurt my mil’s feelings with such an unsettling, though unspoken, announcement of how her family traditions were changing. Mind you, it wasn’t as if we were rushing off because we had other plans; we didn’t actually do anything worth remembering when we left her home. It was simply my way of trying to say that we, the two of us, were our own family now.
Fast forward almost 20 years, much of what we do during this time is geared toward the kids’ happiness—at least that’s the way I saw it. The teacher in me wants them to learn the lyrics to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and other popular tunes because they are a part of our cultural literacy—at least for now—so I play our favorite seasonal soundtracks. We always buy a tree, even if it’s late in the season. Gifts are always set out on early—oh, so early–on the 25th, as if Santa really did bring them during the night (HA HA). And though I stopped helping decorate the tree—just didn’t feel like it anymore and the kids were happy to take over, I still enjoy the Hallmark ornaments that I’ve bought over the years—half-price after Christmas is over.
I don’t want to be the frog in the pot that doesn’t realize the water’s grown hotter until it’s too late. If only for the generations that will come from me, I will fight to keep our once-laughable traditions alive. More than anything else, I’ll make a special effort to say those magical words that are currently threatened with extinction: