Who is really taking Christ out of Christmas?

I personally see nothing wrong with saying Happy Holidays to people as we tend to celebrate a “holiday season” starting with Thanksgiving. And the argument about Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas alternately amuses and irritates me.

But this post isn’t about words, it’s about actions. My husband recently got into an argument with someone about the fact that our family doesn’t “do” Santa Claus. My kids know who Santa is but know he is not real. They also know about the real St Nicholas. And we celebrate his feast day. The argument this person was making with Jeff was that Santa was part of the “magic” of Christmas and was fun for children. Jeff mentioned to this person that some children did not get gifts on Christmas from Santa or anyone else, so how do we explain to our children that injustice if we are allowing them to believe in Santa? Are all poor children “bad” children? Is that why Santa “skips” their homes?

But what weighed most heavily in my mind when Jeff recounted this argument to me was “Where is Christ in all of this?” We have many friends and even some family members for whom Christmas is a time to give and receive gifts and eat a big meal and nothing more. AND NOTHING MORE. Christmas has ceased to be about the birth of Christ and more about secular traditions and activities we have attached to it. And people have no idea how some of our traditions are related to the actual birth of Christ.

Where does the tradition of giving and receiving presents originate? It originates from the Wise Men, Kings or Magi, if you will, and the gifts they brought the newborn King, the baby Jesus. In our home, as it was in my home growing up, we are instituting the 3 gift policy. As the baby Jesus only got 3 gifts, so will our children. When Christmas becomes about how much we spent on the biggest toy or how many toys a child gets to open, we can lose the origin of the tradition easily. And we allow this one tradition to overwhelm this holy day. Last year, someone we know’s child spent 2 hours opening presents while the parents, an uncle, and all his grandparents watched. And those were just the presents from “Santa” and Mom and Dad.

Where does the tradition of the stockings come from? It comes from St Nicholas and a story attributed to him. When St Nicholas was bishop, it was rumored that he often dropped gold or money down the chimney’s of families in need. That money would often drop into socks drying over the fire, “stockings.” Traditionally in Eastern Europe, children received nuts and fruits in their shoes or “stockings.” And typically on December 6th. The feast of St Nicholas, not Christmas Day. The moving of this tradition to Christmas Day is primarily a North American tradition.

The tradition of Santa Claus is based upon the real St Nicholas and the jolly elf dressed in red is primarily an American creation started in the 19th century. The Saint Nicholas Center is a wonderful resource for families looking to celebrate this wonderful man and the patron of children. It also includes a detailed history of how we came from St Nicholas to our modern-day Santa Claus.

We can certainly celebrate traditions such as gift giving and stockings and more without losing the birth of Christ in the mix. What is most important is that we put Christ’s birth front and center of the day. We should not be allowing anything to overshadow that. We should use our traditions to teach our children about our faith and the history that is behind them.

The people who are taking Christ out of Christmas are certainly not necessarily those saying “Happy Holidays,” it is those who treat Christmas as any other secular holiday by not acknowledging the birth of Christ in their actions.

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What potty-training my three-year-old has taught me about potty-training, my child, myself and parenthood.

Joey turned 3 in September. And the only interest he had ever shown in potty-training was to avoid it. We had read lots of books, we had watched the Elmo potty-training DVD. And we had attempted to sit him on  his potty. Jeff even brought him into the bathroom with him so he could see that yes, in fact, Daddy uses the potty. But he was refusing to train.

When Jeff went back to work in August, he would ask me every day if Joey sat on the potty. And every day Joey and I battled it out. When we went for his three-year-old check-up in September and I told the doctor he was not potty-trained. Her advice: don’t pressure him, he will only become more resistant. She told me that it was not as uncommon as “common knowledge” would lead you to believe for little boys to not be potty-trained by their 3rd birthday. It made me feel better, but only a little.

I felt his lack of potty training was a reflection on my parenting and it was not looking too good. So, try, try again, more gently. And I continued to be frustrated. No incentive was working, he was perfectly content to poop and pee on Lightning McQueen in his big boy underwear and he didn’t tell me. Evidently it wasn’t as uncomfortable as we would think.

Finally, this week, push came to shove. And I forced him to be naked and presented the potty. And he did it. On his own.

What I learned about potty-training is that it is always best when child-lead, but some children need you to take the lead by putting the ball in their court. Joey is a take-charge, type-A kind of kid. If Joey ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s his way or no way. And I know he’s not the only one out there. It’s important for us to respect a child’s individuality when it comes to potty-training. Just as the same incentives don’t necessarily work from child to child, but the same techniques don’t either. Some won’t pee on their favorite character, others could care less.

I learned that Joey needs his space to grow and learn by experience ON HIS OWN. But at the same time, he needs positivity and encouragement. He needed a cheerleader. He needed someone to tell him he could do it. And cheer when he was successful. He is so determined most of the time that sometimes I forget he does have his own insecurities. Being a “failure is not an option” type of kid, he was terrified of failing. We’ve had accidents, but I’m always there to tell him that it is okay and he can do it again.

I learned that I need chill out sometimes and respect that my timeline is not the ultimate goal. And I am doing a better job than I give myself credit for. Parenting is hard and perhaps the most difficult part is knowing we will be successful…eventually.

Finally, potty training and parenthood have a very strange relationship. As parents, most of us can’t wait to get the kids out of diapers and on the potty, which will only happen when our child is truly ready for it. Potty training is an amazing gain of independence for our children. In some ways, it is the greatest gain as it completely removes a parent (once it is successful) for the first time from something they were primarily responsible for. Once a child is potty-trained, he or she realizes they are needing mom or dad less and become more independent as a result. They don’t have to worry about who will change that pesky diaper anymore. And yet, we mourn our children’s lack of dependence on us, their “growing up” in just about every other respect except the one that is essentially the key to all the others.

At the end of the day, I have a child who is doing a great job potty-training and building his self-confidence and becoming more independent. And I celebrate and mourn simultaneously.

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. So, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I loved to hate it. Not anymore. Now I love it and love to love it. I guess that’s a l0ve-love relationship? I logged in to my deactivated account this week out of sheer boredom and then I started following friends. And celebrities. And NEWS OUTLETS. That last one is in all caps because that is where it got SUPER addicting. Michelle Malkin and Our Sunday Visitor in seconds. I was in! Even better, I followed the voting of the USCCB and was on the edge of my seat the whole time!

2. For those who missed it yesterday, Joey has started hard core potty training. Let me paint you the picture. Wednesday, we had just arrived home from school and the boys had gone into their room to play. That’s usually a harmless event. Until they both came out five minutes later completely naked! I informed Joey at that point his days of refusing potty training were over. At first I tried with big boy underwear but we had an accident almost immediately. At the suggestion of friends I let him go completely naked and on his own, within an hour, he had peed on the potty. After several successful trips to the potty last evening, he managed to stay dry all night. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve had some accidents since, mostly involving going #2, but he’s persevering and that’s what’s important!

3. Maybe you’ve seen this article on Twitter or facebook. What these people are doing is not only immoral and disgusting, it’s just plain bad form. And I vote they have this baby and be forced to give it up for adoption to people who are clearly more capable of loving and caring for it than it’s birth parents have proven to be.

4. Did you see The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond on Throw Down with Bobby Flay making Thanksgiving Dinner??? I missed it (thanks to a thunderstorm that took out my satellite), but I am sure going to get it in a re-run. I love how Bobby Flay finds these people and has such a great competition with them. I admit, I haven’t always been a fan of his and was embarrassed at how he behaved when he defeated Iron Chef Morimoto, but I think he’s come a long way and has me as a fan now to prove it!

5. Have you heard, have you heard???? The “Beguiles” family has moved into their new RAT-FREE home and got their new couch courtesy of YOU and ME the readers of Betty Beguiles! I have a lump in my throat just looking at that couch and this is one family that deserves a beautiful holiday season in a new home!

6. I’m going to go on record here with what may be the MOST controversial thing I could EVER say on a blog about being a mother…I was not at all impressed with Toy Story 3. For all the hype, I was disappointed. I did cry at the end. I did cry at the beginning when they mentioned Bo was no longer a part of the group. I was incredibly let down by the story line involving Lotsa and the other toys at the daycare. It scared my kids. I felt like the movie would have been just as good if the kids at the daycare were terrible and that was what they were escaping….I’m just saying…

7. Can I tell you how awesome it is our dishwasher works again??? I don’t think I could ever say that enough!

So, c’mon over to Conversion Diary and check out the other Quick Takes there!

Small and Wonderful

FaithButton

1) Joey is successfully potty training (FINALLY!)

2) I found an awesome recipe for Coconut Bread. I doubted such a thing even existed but decided to look for it and found this recipe. I was bummed because it called for coconut extract and I doubted my ability to find it. Not only did I find it, I found it ON SALE!  Elisa and I are excited to try it out.

3) Shelby has been joyously running into school in the morning and to her classroom. I know, this is really more sort of her success than mine, but, it really makes my day run more smoothly!

It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that. ~Danielle Bean

Thankful Thursday

1. Perseverance

2. A little boy who says, “no more computer, come play mama” whenI feel deadlines looming

3. The encouragement of friends

4. The wisdom of USCCB in the election of their new president Archbishop Dolan

5. Bloggy mom friends who go out of their way to encourage me with new endeavors

6. A husband who takes a sick day because he is actually sick but seizes the oppurtunity to take his daughter to school and meet her teachers

7. Back scratchers

8. It’s one week till THANKSGIVING!

9. Jeff’s county supplement

10. That my three-year-old can now sing some of the verses from songs in Hello Dolly! …it’s the little cultural things

Yarn Along 3

We are joining Ginny over at small things again today. I am still working on A Redbird Christmas and enjoying it all over again. I’ve added the kids favorites for the week. One of which The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is my all-time favorite children’s book from when I was a kid. A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban is another favorite. Joey especially likes the character of Thelma, funny because he reminds me so much of her sometimes in his “negotiations” with his baby brother! What are you reading? Are you knitting or crocheting anything right now?If so, we want to know and see. Hop on over to small things to share!