We have a big ol' Christmas tree, lights all over the house (way before all the neighbors, many of whom never even bother hanging lights ... Scrooges!), a giant church-sized Nativity on top of the piano (that no one's allowed to touch but me). The kids even have decorations in their rooms. We have tickets to the Philly Holidays Pops concert, Emily is performing in no less than five concerts between now and December 21st, we'll go to the college's concert this Sunday. We usually drive up into Philly to see the Macy's (used to be Lord & Taylor, but before that (and everyone still thinks of it as) it was Wanamaker's) light show . We'll pop over to nearby Dutch Neck Village for their live Nativity (including sheep, but no camels), and a visit with Santa. We host a Christmas Cookie Exchange party every year for friends and family. And, this year, we're getting into the spirit of an Old-Fashioned Christmas by making many of our gifts, which we'll exchange while visiting Colonial Williamsburg for a week. We cuddle on the couch watching old Christmas classics (and new ones, Elf is a big favorite), drinking egg nog, eating baklava, beefstick, cheese and crackers.
We do it up.
And the kids are already acknowledging and looking forward to some of our particular Dugan-family traditions. They know we always get our tree and decorate on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. They know they'll get special new Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. They know about the baklava, beefstick and cheese. They ask about the Light Show and Pops concert in Philly (even though we just did those last year for the first time).
But ... where is the birth of Christ in all this? I like to think (am I deluding myself?) that God would approve of the wholesome family closeness we're nurturing. That He's smiling down on my kids' glee and our coziness. We do go to church, and sing the hymns, and pray before meals, and I explain the Nativity scenes as they are all set up all over the house (we have five of them), we read the Christmas story at least half a dozen times in half a dozen different ways. But ... is it enough? Generally speaking my kids look forward to much about this season that has nothing to do with getting presents (although that's usually Matthew's first answer ... when prompted, he does quickly come up with a bunch more things he loves). And they honestly seem to enjoy giving almost as much as receiving.
But ... is it enough?
Would it be right to cut back on all the other stuff and focus solely on the Biblical? Would that be squandering the family-memory-building potential that this season has in spades over the whole rest of the year?
I'm not sure. What we're doing doesn't seem all that dissimilar to our own childhood experiences (except we generally lack the candlelight Christmas Eve service ... we're almost always traveling that night ... I do definitely intend to rectify that soon, but maybe not this year ... the kids don't do that well staying up late). And we both turned out all right, church-going, God-fearing.
Still, it worries me. Parenting "correctly" so the kids turn out for the best worries me more than any other part of my life. I guess it's because pretty much everything else isn't truly all that important.
I'd love anyone else's thoughts on this balancing act at this time of year.