Tag Archives: Christmas

The Santa thing

I remember when I “found out” about Santa.  I must have been about 9 or 10 years old.  My 17 year old daughter figured it out at around the same age as I did, and my 10 year old son has made some “remarks” about Santa, but hasn’t come right out and asked or made any declarations.  I think he wants to play along, thinking maybe he’ll get more stuff as long as he pretends (he’s smart like that, although it would NOT be a factor in our gift giving).  Anyway…

My middle child, my daughter with autism, will be 14 years old in a few days, is in 8th grade, and still (until tonight) believed in Santa.  Wholeheartedly.  Most people with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD), are very literal thinkers, and my daughter is no exception.  But in certain areas, like Santa (and the Easter Bunny, tooth fairy etc…) she has been able to suspend that literal thinking.  Perhaps it’s because she is also cognitively delayed (very low IQ). I don’t know.

If she were in a special education school, surrounded by like minded peers, I would not have been concerned.  But while she is indeed in a special education class, that class is in a TYPICAL school, and she has homeroom, gym, art and music with typical peers. The closer we have gotten to Christmas, the more she’s been wondering aloud what Santa is going to bring her, and what she wants from Santa.  I know talking like this in groups of typical 8th graders is stigmatizing for her without her even knowing or understanding.  She’s “different” enough, I don’t want this to impact on her ability to socialize and be accepted by her peers.  So I resolved I would talk with her about it.  And I was nervous as hell.  I wanted to tell her the truth, but I wanted to tell her in such a way that she wouldn’t feel bad about basically being lied to all her life (and I know one autistic child in particular who had this very reaction). I wanted her to feel “grown up” in learning something special.  That’s the approach I took.

I told her I was going to share a special grown up secret with her now that she was going to be fourteen.  I talked about the historical figure of St. Nicholas (which our kids know about since we’re “churchy” people) and how after he died, people wanted to continue in his example of generosity, and even up to today parents enjoy being St. Nicholas for their children.  I then explained that her father and I were being Santa for her and her siblings in the spirit of St. Nicholas.  I infused this whole talk with excitement for her that she not only knew a special secret, but could be a part of “knowing” with all the other grown ups, but I also told her that knowing the secret was a serious thing.  I explained that now she was a part of keeping the magic and memory of St. Nicholas and Santa alive for little children, and that she must never tell the secret to little ones. She could even help be Santa now!

It seems to have gone over fine.  She didn’t cry.  She didn’t even frown.  I told her it was okay to be sad if that’s how she felt, and she said she felt “tiny tiny” sad, but mostly happy that she knew a grown up secret.  Then she asked about her little brother.  I told her I wasn’t sure about him, so that until I was sure, she should not say anything to him.  She seemed REALLY pleased about maybe knowing something that he didn’t!  (typical sibling stuff there!)

I never thought I would have to sit down and have this kind of conversation with one of my kids.  I always assumed they’d figure it out eventually.  But with autism, you can never assume anything.


The War on Christmas

I hope all my American friends had a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving holiday yesterday.   Today is the day that many folks start to put up their Christmas decorations.  With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my thoughts regarding what some call the “War on Christmas.”

Some people have become very upset that employees at certain stores can’t say “Merry Christmas,” that some towns are in legal battles over creches on public property, or that their kids can’t sing Christmas carols at their public school’s “winter concert.”  They want to “take Christmas back.”  Well, good for them!   I would argue, however, that they’re starting in the wrong place.  You see, in America, we don’t have a state religion.  The founding fathers were borderline Christians at best, some only deists.  The First Amendment to the United States Constitution puts it plainly:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

People often complain about the government doing “too much” for people, and usually that means public aid requiring our tax dollars – something Jesus would love actually.  You know, he was all about helping the poor.  Folks don’t want to hear about that though.  However, they’re ALL FOR the government suddenly becoming religious at Christmas, and not for giving to the poor, but for putting some plaster figures of a couple and their baby in the town park, or for a tree at the White House to be called “Christmas” instead of “holiday.”

Here’s what I think.  Instead of having the government proclaim our religion for us (which it is NOT its job to do), we should stop being so lazy and proclaim our religion OURSELVES.

So, folks need to stop wanting the town to put a creche in the town park and put one on their lawn.  That’s right.   Proclaim the faith of YOUR HOME.  It’s not the town’s job to be Christian, it’s YOURS.  I can count on ONE HAND the number of creches I see on individual property around my area.  It’s pathetic.  Yet I see dozens of inflatable Santas.  We need to take responsibility for our faith.  I’m not saying you HAVE to put a creche in your yard, but if you don’t, then don’t complain about a town not having one in the park.  Everyone in our neighborhood and anyone who drives by our house knows we’re Christians because we have a lovely, simple creche in our yard.

As for the “holiday” tree vs. “Christmas” tree debate,  I DO fall on the side of calling it a Christmas tree.  Denying Christmas is different than forcing people to celebrate.  By changing the name they try to deny what it really is to make it more acceptable, and I’m not for that.  Not that a Christmas tree encapsulates the holiday.  Christmas trees are a relatively recent addition to the celebration of Christmas.  Then again, you can call it whatever you want, but it’s still a Christmas tree – a rose is a rose is a rose…  But then again, is it a Christmas tree if there are NO religious symbols on it?  Is a tree decorated with balls and lights but no angels, crosses, baby Jesuses, or nativity scenes a Christmas tree, or is it something else?  That’s a whole other debate.  But you know what?  The tree in MY house? THAT, my friends, IS a Christmas tree, and I’ll share it with everyone who wants to see it.  I’m not going to lose sleep over what the government calls the lighted tree in or outside of the White House.

I also don’t lose sleep over the “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” from the salesperson in the store.  I can’t believe how important this has become, because I could really care less.  Since we are a country with no established religion, I would never want to force a Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or atheist etc… employee to wish me a Merry Christmas.  Really.  It puts them in a very difficult theological position personally.  Again, we need to stop being lazy and take responsibility for ourselves.  Who cares what the salesperson says to us???  What is coming out of OUR mouths???  Wish everyone and anyone Merry Christmas with joy in your heart if you want!  If the person you’re speaking with isn’t Christian then they can do with it what they will.  Heck, I’ve been wished Happy Hanukkah and I love it!

I feel the same way about public school kids singing Christmas carols.  There are PLENTY of secular songs to choose from – “White Christmas,” “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Silver Bells” etc… all part of our culture and none of them forcing a child of another (or no) religion to proclaim Jesus.  I am most certainly raising my children as Christians and they go to church every week.  But I have no expectation that my children will sing Christmas songs in school.  Our house echoes with wonderful religious and secular songs throughout the season, and we sing Advent and Christmas hymns in church.  I don’t need the school to provide that for my children.  If you want your child to be taught about Jesus and sing about Jesus in school, then send them to a private school.

The so-called “War on Christmas” isn’t about Christmas being taken away from Christians – NO ONE can do that to us.  We can only do that to ourselves.  Christmas is about how WE celebrate, not how the culture celebrates for us.  There are millions of Christians around the world who are minorities in their communities, and yet they still celebrate.  There are places in this world where Christians are truly persecuted for their faith, and yet they still celebrate, even in the face of personal danger.

The only war on Christmas is the one waged in our own hearts and minds.  And YOU have control over who wins that war, not the government.