A few years ago I wrote a letter to our community that people seemed to enjoy, so I'm reprinting it here in slightly revised form. Warm wishes for a sane and memorable holiday!
Recently, one of our parents mentioned hearing a radio interview with Unplug the Christmas Machine authors Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli, reminding me of that volume which has long had a place of honor on my bookshelf, and whose title alone inspires me to be continually mindful of the way I approach this time of year.
I remember all too vividly navigating the holidays with small children. It is not an easy task you undertake! Ironically, during a season which so inundates us with stimulation, we actually can emerge sensually deprived, not to mention exhausted and perhaps a bit numb. The mission of parents, says Staeheli, should be to show their kids that, no, that’s not all there is to the holidays.
In our modern day hustle and bustle, it is important not to overlook the simple sensory delights: the smell of goodies baking, the sight of a glowing flame, the sound of favorite songs being sung. But before you groan at the idea of adding cookies, candles and choirs to your already overwhelming list of gifts and chores, consider this: Upon interviewing hundreds of adults on their memories of childhood holidays, Staeheli and Robinson, discovered that “...rarely could they remember gifts. They remembered the feelings, the rituals and the relationships.” Furthermore, when asked to imagine their perfect holiday, most envisioned “...simple gifts, natural decorations, a fire, traditional food, leisurely schedules, music, time spent out-of-doors and an emphasis on family activities.”
“Children want their parents to interpret the season for them so that it has meaning,” says Staeheli. “Traditions needn’t be expensive or elaborate. Anything can be a ritual if approached with a certain spirit.” Remember the simplicity and brevity of our Lantern Walk!
So my wish for you this holiday season is this: that you step back for a moment and find some tiny seed of ritual to plant, something that represents whatever the significance of this season is for you and your family. Something you will shelter and nourish, and send along with your children into their future. Something that will endure long after the gifts are gone or forgotten.
Trust me: it’s what they really want.