My son just turned three and this is the first year he’s actually “getting” the traditions that circle around Christmas. He says Happy Holidays! to people walking by him in the street. He calls out the names of popular holiday imagery when he sees it; snowman! Christmas tree! Snowflake! And of course – Santa!
I bought an Elf on the Shelf storybook to introduce him to Santa. He’s drawn to the big, bubbly character that brings kids gifts around the holidays. It wasn’t until yesterday when we were at my mother’s apartment building and we walked by a nativity scene that I realized he has no idea who the other character associated with this holiday is. My mom said, Look! Who’s the little baby in the manger? It’s Jesus! My son looked at her, completely stone-faced – as if to say, Who the heck is Jesus?
I haven’t been in a position to have to explain Jesus to my son yet; we don’t go to church. We’re not a religious family. My mother has given up on trying to schedule a baptism date for my son and appoint his godparents. She hasn’t even tried to broach the subject since my daughter was born – I think she’s starting to realize a baptism isn’t something that is in either of their immediate futures.
It’s not that I’m an atheist – I just really hate certain aspects of organized religion and I haven’t quite figured out how to present spirituality to my child. I don’t know how to introduce “Jesus” to a child when I’m not totally behind the whole Jesus narrative. But if I can introduce him to Santa – a completely fictitious character who exists only to bring him joy – why not Jesus? I was comforted by the idea of Jesus as a child. Maybe I should offer my child the same narrative I was offered.
I want both of my children to find there own way when it comes to religion. I want to introduce them to the ways different cultures celebrate a “God” figure. I was able to be raised in a faith and grow to decide that it’s not quite for me. I don’t necessarily want to make that decision for my kids by not exposing them. I don’t really think that’s fair.
So I guess next year, in addition to the Santas and snowmen and nutcrackers – there will also be a nativity – because, why not?
(photo: Getty Images)