Friday, December 18, 2009

The True Meaning of Christmas

One of the difficult things about being a parent is that you don't raise your kids in a vacuum. Cultural influences help shape their world view, especially as they get older. By the time they're teenagers, I assume they'll want parental advice about as much as a referee wants advice from an angry crowd.

We try hard to keep Christmas about wrapped presents and glittery ornaments and open sleighs pulled by a single horse. Now that the twins are almost six, they're asking questions about that little baby in the manger. In fact, Luke insisted on setting up a nativity scene with the three wise men, the shepherds abiding their flocks by night, and other assorted Jewish figurines.

Mass media doesn't help matters.

Indoctrination vehicles like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" fill my boys' heads with the notion that all the showy glitz is insignificant compared to the deeper meaning of Christmas -- virgin mothers and baby kings and talking angels. The show backs off from its inverted morality at the end, leaving me something to work with. "See, Max? They were able to work together to light up the little tree. That keeps the dark out. Now all the tree needs is presents underneath it, and everyone will be momentarily happy. And if the presents are plentiful and expensive, we can pull ourselves out of this recession."

Exposure to these twisted Christmas tales is only going to get worse. In a few years, they'll sit down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." I suppose that's where my role as a parent enters the picture. I can step in and say, "You know, the alternate version of Bedford Falls that exists if George Bailey was never born isn't such a bad place with its crowded bars and dance halls and neon signs. In fact, every town and city in America is like that now, so don't look around for a place you'll never find."

It's a battle, but I'll keep fighting the good fight.