I know I sounded grumpy in the last post. Now, just fresh from watching The Polar Express with my son this year, I feel a mite less grumpy.
OK, OK, I am beginning to see that the point of the Santa movies is about creating the Santa Story as a gift in itself to modern children. I think that “The Magic of Christmas” is the magic that adults create as a gift to their children for that one special day of pure awesomeness. They go so far as to create a complete fantasyland and really want children to “believe in Santa” but I understand that it is all done with good intent.
Opening a HUGE pile of presents on Christmas day is pretty magical. As a giver of the gifts, it is the best part to see someone’s reaction when you get just the right thing that they totally were not expecting. That is just wonderful.
But still. I want to get at the heart of things when I explain them, especially when it comes to my children. Unfortunately, explaining to a kid about the heart of Christmas like peeling an onion.
It is not all about the presents. I think it is an overblown layer of the holiday but I can’t deny that it is a fun part. I’m not that grumpy.
But let’s get honest. It is a Christian holiday that coincides with a whole bunch of even more ancient holidays, as well as the end of the year, hence its depth of memory and emotion.
Last year, after watching The Polar Express, I decided to tell my son about the birth of Jesus. You’d think this story would be simple for me to tell but it was not.
Now, if one goes to a Christian church regularly, one probably would not be wrestling with telling the Nativity story behind Christmas with one’s child much at all. Every year the child would go through the Christmas at church experience. This child would already know that Christmas had the birth of Christ as well as Santa. The child might not understand the connection between the two, but the child would know both stories well.
And I think just from exposure to the world, my son had a general idea of the story of the birth of Christ. But perhaps not the details. Details make the world magical in my opinion. So much of the nativity story has strong symbols of faith and courage and spiritual asylum, I didn’t want him to miss that.
We did not have the raised-in-Christian-church advantage last year as we had not settled on a spiritual community at that point. So it was up to us to figure it out. We decided to find a good book. I had a hard time finding a good book though.
At first I thought I could just read my trusty old Bible that I’ve had since I was eight and read the King James’s English and explain it to my son in modern English along the way. But the thing is, the story as we know it is in a few different places in the Bible. The nativity story I found first was in the book of Luke, and then I found another part of the story in Matthew. Both versions meandered around. They were interesting stories but not always appropriate for a six year old. I didn’t want to read to him about the virginal birth or about Massacre of the Innocents. Editing was required.
I realized this would be much easier if I knew how to tell a story well. As a side note, I think that good storytelling is one of those dying arts that is greatly needed in child rearing. You just don’t always have the right book at hand for life’s lessons. Your words are often all you have and a good story is such an effective way to make a good point.
After searching on Amazon.com, I found a great children’s book that told the story very well and included an amalgamation of BOTH Luke and Matthew stories with beautiful art to boot. The Christmas Story painted by Gennady Spirin, directly took verses from Luke and Matthew from the King James Bible and put them together in a a way that told the story as is generally understood.
It is pretty good. I’ve read it to my son this year for the last few days and he loves the artwork. The language is hard for him to understand of course. Some of the old words (thee, thou, behold, it came to pass, etc.) are fun for him to explore. Herod’s part in the book is very edited and not too scary. The angel announcing to Mary that the Holy Ghost would soon appear was very confusing to him.
In the end, I think I am introducing the story to my son passably well but I am still striving for better. There’s always next year!
Next: St. Nick