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Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listening? I said, ARE YOU LISTENING?

Okay Santa. Christmas.

How we do this whole ordeal, err, I meant deal.

I am the Child of Divorced Parents, which means Christmas represents, historically, the War of the Roses, red versus white. I sort of forgot the entire Christ Child bit for many, many years. I dubbed the holidays Code Name York, and wondered when I'd be old enough for a valium prescription.

So my entire life I struggled to rebel against the case of massive stress-induced heartburn that most people called the Hap-Happiest Season of All. I'll show you much mistletoe-ing.

I'll raise my hand and confess that, in my youth, I liked to sock it to the materialistic capitalists by handing out donation cards in lieu of gifts. I still do this as a slightly less angsty adult, but it comes from a good place, I swear.

I'll also confess to being a totally materialistic capitalist who used the holiday spirit to milk as much booty as I could from family, who never, EVER seemed to feel that guilt everyone promised me I'd earn as the child of divorced parents.

And what's worse...some years I didn't even put up a tree. In fact, until this year I never even owned a wreath, or a garland.

I know. Go ahead, throw your hand to your forehead and groan.

Now...this year, I got infected by a little of the Deck the Halls spirit.

I know. Go ahead, throw your hand to your forehead and groan. Nothing quite so obnoxious and decoratively liberal as a reformed Scrooge.

But...I have kids. And they don't know from nasty embattled holidays.

They look forward to Christmas. They are very excited.

And this explains the:

* Garland replete with white poinsettias and red berries twined up the bannister

* Frosty the Snowman pillows on the sofa

* Collection of Nutcrackers littering the buffet

* Elaborate Father Christmas figurine and Angel figurine

* Madcap wreath---handmade, chock full (and I do not use that term loosely) of decorations the kids chose, including a bird---on the front door

* One 3 foot tall and one 4 foot tall spiral lighted Christmas tree for the front yard

* Icicle lights for the dormers and roof line (on the To-Do list)

* Christmas trees for each kid's room and playroom

* Charlie Brown's Christmas DVD (bought at full price of $16.99...what can I say, I'm a sucker for Peanuts and Vince Guaraldi)

* Pile of presents in the coat closet (what else is that thing good for? Coats? Bwahahahaha!)

* Hand-stamped and original Christmas cards

I'll stop there lest my face blush a brighter shade of crimson.

I---a self-avowed anti-Christmas Spiriter, who barely unbent enough to be very religious about this time of year---have buckled and joined in the Out-Decorate Your Neighbors game.

I lose, I do, honestly. I'm years behind.

But this year, my kids GET IT, and are beside themselves humming Jingle Bells all day. They are so cute you'd have to be a rock to not be affected.

Listen, what would you do when, one day, your five-year old walks up to you and asks, "When do we go see Santa and get our photos taken?"

Here's what you do if you're me:

You jump at the chance because OMG your kid just AGREED, no SUGGESTED a photo which means it's her idea and thus there is a snowball's chance in Hell she will LOOK at the CAMERA and maybe even SMILE instead of do her usual Hannibal Lecter leer.

See, in past years, if you were me, you had to fend off all the Other People around you who say all sorts of stuff to your kid like, "Santa comes down your chimney and leaves you presents at night while you sleep," leading your kid to develop a MAJOR phobia of this total stranger who breaks in to her house at night while she sleeps. In fact the whole concept makes her afraid to go to sleep the entire month of December because, as she puts it, "Someone who we do not know who will just come into our house might do it anytime, not just on December 24th!" Then she set up her stuffed dogs---of which there are probably 100---in a circle on her bed and by her door, plus a couple by the stairs to guard her, lest this Santa Claus character get any ideas about coming upstairs to her room.

You also have to deal with keeping all your drapes and blinds closed---or fighting not to---because some mom thinks it is a good idea to tell a story to a misbehaving child about how this Santa Claus, the same one who breaks into your house, also spies on you through your windows to see if you are naughty or nice.

Can you say my daughter wanted a Restraining Order against the criminal known as Santa?

Can you blame her?

And, of course, you can understand why I never mentioned St. Nicholas to her, and the whole tradition of Sinterklaas and Zwerte Piet.

I'd have to drain her college fund for therapy on that one.

So this year, this year to see her excited (that is, not terrified) about this holiday, well, you can forgive me going all out. Can't you?

So what else do we do?

We build Gingerbread houses, and make Gingerbread cookies.

We make special poinsettia flower arrangements and pull out the Christmas plate set.

We'll hang stockings on the mantle, yes, even ones for the dog and cats.

On Christmas Eve, we get a tree and decorate it. December 25 is the first day of Christmas. The kids get drowned under a sea of gifts from family, and that's why we do a "one gift per each day of Christmas" straight up to Epiphany. We learned this the hard way.

This year, we hosted within my church and neighborhood groups a toy exchange. Gently used or unwanted new toys were traded and everyone walked away with some nice, FREE gifts. We're donating the remainder. Our groaning toy shelves in the playroom thanked us.

We talk about attitude of gratitude, adopt a family, take food to people, and remember what it's all really about---which isn't the Toys 'R Us catalog.

Mostly we grab the opportunity to love and be loved with both hands.

And any photo chances too.

So let the sleigh bells ring this year, I'm listening. I might even be humming along.

By Julie Pippert
© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced. R.E.S.P.E.C.T that. Please. If you want to use something, write me.

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Girlplustwo said…
you are a lovely mum..sifting through the wheat and the chaff to give your kids something they will love, as taxing as it may be.

ho ho ho.
K said…
I finally made it through the google sign up so that I can leave a comment.

I'm so jealous! For all my cheerleading for Christmas, we've been sick and have done nothing.

And about your comment yesterday, I'm posting about losing to the Grinch today so I think-- great minds and all.
Julie Pippert said…
I'm taxed but enjoying it. I'm no rock. ;)

Kim! Glad you made it through the google woods. Def. great minds and all that LOL.
kaliroz said…
I'm caught up in the spirit as well. My DD is goo-goo for all things Xmas this year. I meant to do the whole St. Nicholas Day thing on the 6th and leave candy in her shoes ... but I totall forgot.

It's wonderful how the holidays become something wonderful again once you have kids of your own.
Bea said…
So at what age do those imaginative fears begin showing up? Because I'm not only exposing the Bub to books in which Santa goes down the chimney and fills children's stockings with toys, but I'm also, um, reading him a bedtime story each night called The Wolves in the Walls, all about these extremely scary-looking wolves (I mean REALLY scary-looking, even to adults) who come bursting out of the walls in the middle of the night and then engage in all kinds of revelry involving popcorn and jam. Bub loves this book, and I'm pretty sure he thinks the wolves are the protagonists, but I do wonder what kind of nightmares I'm setting him up for later.
Julie Pippert said…
B&P, at what age?

From the get-go for us.

I think it depends upon the kid and situation. Patience is very wary of "strangers" and she has a pretty fast and loose definition of "stranger." She has a lot, I mean a LOT, of transition troubles, and a big symptom of that is difficulty transitioning to people, and each new meeting (unless she sees them really frequently) starts back at square one. Most people in her life understand and accept that they mustn't rush at her, demand hugs or talking etc. I've done a lot of educating. Still, some can't grasp it, no matter what. So she has a lot of stranger anxiety.

Santa is DEFINITELY a stranger.

On the flip side, she loves books that creep her out, probably like the Wolves in the Wall. It's a factor of facing fear (necessary) under conditions that include safety and known resolution. What you do with Bub sounds like a good developmental thing to me. I wouldn't worry about the future from it.

I believe as a factor of fearing the concrete, Patience did not fear the insubstantial such as monsters under the bed.

Bub will find a fear for him--he probably has done already.

It's all developmental.

Tonight we were coming home (past sunset) from a birthday party and store run. Patience said, "In the dark the shadows and light make it look like ghosts lurking in our neighborhood, Mom."

I quickly leapt in to debunk ghosts and she said, "MOM! SHHHHH! You're RUINING it!"

She was having fun. LOL
Julie Pippert said…
Oh yeah part of the fear thing is walking through the fears and finding a sort of power and ownership within them. Make sense?
I have always loved the holidays, but you are way ahead of me in terms of decorating and getting into the spirit. Especially this year! My tree has yet to go up.

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