I sleep with monkeys. And I’m not talking about my husband and daughter. I mean stuffed monkeys. Elephants. Even Goldilocks (but never the three bears for some reason known only to my toddler). And, unfortunately, Elmo, who feels like the houseguest who just won’t leave.
Now that we’ve gotten into our holiday boxes, we’ve switched out the usual suspects for a stuffed reindeer that has claimed his own place on the pillow (mine, of course, not hers). He comes along with us whenever we leave the house so that my daughter can carry him for a few minutes before saying, “Mama, deer, purse.” Luckily it’s a small deer. Remember that Santa: only bring stuffed animals that fit easily in mom’s purse.
This time of year is amazing, tiring, and fun. There are so many things that are magical to kids, and, by sharing it with them, the magic rubs off on you. It’s been years since Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer registered on my radar; now I point out reindeer decorations and receive happy squeals of delight.
Now that my daughter is two, many questions come to mind. I was raised in a German household, but wonder to what extent I should continue the bilingualism with my daughter. The holidays add another dimension as we decide which traditions to share. My family hung stockings early in December and we all received small presents throughout the month. It was fun always checking to see if something had suddenly showed up in my stocking; my parents were experts at sneaking in presents disguised as flat as possible so you would have to pat the stocking down or peer inside just to be sure.
For adults, it’s easy to comingle different traditions, but, some of them just don’t jive if you pass them all along to your kids. For example, one that’s confusing is St. Nicholas Day, which is on December 6th. This is the day when Saint Nick comes to your house. How do you explain that Santa Claus (AKA Saint Nick), who is supposed to come on Christmas morning, has already made a stop at your house on the 6th?? On St. Nicholas Day, you leave your shoes outside the night before. If you were good they get filled with tangerines, nuts (in their shells), and chocolate ornaments; if you were bad, you get a lump of coal. As adults, we skip the shoe part and just exchange small presents on the 6th, saving the big ones so that we can open one present each week leading up to Christmas Eve. There was no Christmas morning extravaganza. That was the day of the Christ child. You could relax, eat leftovers, and play with all the presents you had received throughout the month.
Over the years, I added in the Christmas morning celebration too. Yet, it’s confusing to explain this to kids. When you split your time between households, different traditions can work since you celebrate different ones at different places. But, in our home we need to figure out if we’re doing what my parents did: rewrite Saint Nicholas Day to make it work, and ditch Christmas Eve until the day that my daughter figures out Santa really lives with her every day.
I’ve already gone to Cost Plus for my traditional German holiday fare of lebkuchen (chocolate covered soft gingerbread), stollen (the fruitcake that tastes good), and a chocolate advent calendar to count down the days by opening the numbered window and eating the holiday-shaped chocolate inside. The calendar ends on the 24th, since that’s the German Christmas, but that won’t be noticeable to my daughter yet. This year we can still skip the more complicated stuff. More or less. Like everything else with raising kids, you figure it out – or make it up – as you go along.
So, to all moms out there, I wish you a happy season, however you choose to celebrate.
Happy Holidays, Christine