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teaching the meaning of Christmas

With Christmas approaching, there are lots of new lessons for Vivi to learn. We are telling stories about Santa and his elves and reindeer, and of course there are some corresponding questions to answer.

Where is the North Pole?

Why does he come down the chimney?

How can he fly?

As for explaining the meaning of Christmas, I found some nice books from the library to help me teach her about Jesus’ birth.

How Many Miles To Bethlehem?How Many Miles To Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland

It can be challenging to discuss the nativity with a three-year-old, and this story beautifully assists in describing the various characters present.

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

Vivi particularly appreciates the discussion of the animals, so I got another story focused on their perspective. The pictures are lovely.

But how to bridge the gap from the nativity to Santa Claus? For most of my life I have taken it with a grain of salt that this jolly fat man is part of our American heritage, but I hadn’t considered why or how it came to be that way until now. I stumbled upon an interesting essay written in the 1940’s by Booth Tarkington about the transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus. It’s short and worth a read.

Knowing that St. Nicholas gave all his wealth to the poor is just the sort of meaningful message I was seeking behind the simple “Santa gives to children who have been good” rote dialogue I grew up reciting. Along with joyful holiday traditions like Santa, I also strive to impart my kids with a deeper meaning behind the exchanging of gifts. But funny enough, for all my pondering and explaining, Charlie Brown’s Christmas movie is turning out to be our best resource for teaching the meaning of Christmas. If it ain’t broke…

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