Christmas continues

Christmas is a holiday that celebrates children. Telling the story of the birth of Christ naturally leads to recalling the births of other children. And children like to hear the story of their own births. Our celebrations of Christmas, with various traditions of gift-giving, lend themselves to full participation of children. For those of us who love being around children it is an especially delightful time.

From the point of view of simple genetics there is no need for more than two generations. There are many different creatures whose life cycles reach their pinnacle at the point of reproduction and then the focus moves to the next generation. As soon as the eggs are laid and fertilized, the role of the parents is complete. But with us humans, we get the joy of raising our children, and for most of us, the deepened and renewed joy of grandchildren.

But we are a mobile people as well. Our family is not atypical for a modern family with access to education. When our children became adults their lives took them to places that are distant from where we live. Fortunately we live in a time of relatively easy access to travel and we are able to be face-to-face with our children every year. We also have access to modern telecommunication that allows us to send pictures and text messages instantly and to have video chats on a regular basis.

Still, there is no better way for us to celebrate Christmas than to be with our grandchildren.

Because we love the extended celebration of Christmas, we try to make the best of many days rather than cramming everything into a single day. We arrived on Christmas Day, or the first day of Christmas. In the morning the children had their celebration with their parents and opened presents, so when we arrived, they had lots of new things to show us. There were new books for story time and new toys for play. We arrive in time for a family dinner and were able to be a part of the bedtime routine.

The second day of Christmas was a day for play and sharing the lives of busy children. We are on vacation from our work, so we were able to just focus on the children and enjoy them. Our son had to go to work, but we had a family breakfast before he left and a dinner together when he got off from work. Fortunately he had no evening meetings yesterday. He’ll have a lighter work load and more time off during the week.

We have presents for the family, but we’ll wait a day or so more before giving them. We have found that it is good with the grandchildren to have gift-giving be a separate event from our initial arrival. When we first arrive, the joy of being together combines with the children’s natural desire to show us what is going on in their lives is enough. And, at Christmas, they have just received presents from their parents, which do not need to be upstaged by the gifts we have brought.

There is a great luxury in being able to take several days to celebrate the holiday.

The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” focuses on gifts, most of which seem either silly or extravagant by our standards. There are some cultures where gifts are given on different days of Christmas. Because the tradition for the date of the arrival of the Magi is the 12th night, January 6 is a traditional day for exchanging gifts. But traditions around St. Nicholas lend themselves to earlier days. The official feast day of St. Nicholas is December 6, and some celebrate that day by giving gifts in his memory. But that day is based on the Gregorian Calendar. In some parts of the world, Orthodox churches follow the Julian Calendar, which lands St. Nicholas day on December 19. So there is a whole range of possible days for the exchange of gifts at Christmas time. In the song, there are 12 gifts given on 12 days. In the real lives of families, that would be such an extravagance and too much focus on possessions.

When our children were little, we preferred to spread out the time of opening gifts. We’d have them open a few and then take a break to play with the toys received, have a meal, or go for a walk. Returning later to the presents seemed to be a special treat and allowed us to spread out the joy of the day. With our grandchildren the pattern of having gifts from some family members on December 25 and gifts from us on another day seems to be a good routine.

So we still have much to anticipate. We’ve selected our gifts but get the joy of anticipation as we imagine the reactions we might receive when the gifts are given. It is a delicious feeling.

There are some distinct advantages to being a grandparent. We enjoy being parents and it seemed like every phase of our children’s growth into adulthood brought new surprises, new challenges, and new opportunities. We still revel in our times of being with our children and enjoy them very much. Grandchildren, however, are not our primary responsibility. We are able to enjoy them in a different way. Their parents have the stress and anxiety of being responsible for so many different aspects of their lives. We can share a bit of that by being attentive to their safety and by caring for them for brief periods of time while their parents take care of other chores, but at the end of the day, they have to carry more weight than we. That frees us for th simple joys of just being with the children.

It is good to know that I haven’t completely lost my abilities. I can care for three grandchildren by myself for short periods of time while the other adults are otherwise engaged. That’s good for my ego. And, of course, we get time one-on-one with individual children that is simply easier when there are more adults present.

Christmas continues. And the joy is great.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!