Do children know the true meaning of Christmas anymore?

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It's that time again ...

I am sitting at my desk looking out of the front window of Michaelmas Cottage watching a crocodile of small children leaving the little church opposite.

Flooding past my window, chattering like magpies, are an assortment of shepherds, angels and wise men, their costumes flowing out from under the modern day outer wear that is keeping them warm on their walk between church and school. Proud mums and dads are scurrying back to cars to get ready to pick them up when they have changed back into their everyday clothes.

It's that time again, Christmas, and the infants nativity play is alive and well in my Cornish backwater. It a nostalgic sight and somehow reassuring.

The sight of all those tots in their costumes, angel wings dragging, tea towels held firmly in place with bungee cord, restores my faith in modern life somewhat.

I can almost believe that in this gimme, gimme, gimme society where children are increasingly taught to believe in Santa Claus, the patron saint of consumerism, we can still hang onto a traditional Christmas.

It’s the sort of Christmas that celebrates its origins, not just in the minds of us old-timers but also in the minds of our children in a society many of us in the UK still like to think of as traditionally Christian.

Holding onto tradition with tree and candles.
Holding onto tradition with tree and candles. | Source
Waiting for carol singers.
Waiting for carol singers. | Source
A cottage welcome at Christmas.
A cottage welcome at Christmas. | Source
A Christmas fireside ...
A Christmas fireside ... | Source
... and sometimes it's a white Christmas.
... and sometimes it's a white Christmas. | Source

Is it possible to keep a traditional Christmas alive?

I don't believe in God. I cannot believe in the old Testament where a vengeful God is waiting to smite wrongdoers with a flaming sword. Equally I am unable to sign up to the sickly schmaltziness of the 'God loves you - join my sect' sort of thing.

This may well be my loss but even so ...

However I do believe in a well-documented and apparently gifted healer called Jesus Christ who radically preached love and tolerance to a primitive society whose vested interests killed him for his activities.

As with many charismatic leaders his following began to threaten the status quo and he had to be silenced. But his values and pacifist ideas have persisted for two thousand years.

It doesn't matter if we are not spot-on with dates because it is the concept that is important here.

The idea that someone humble stood up and was counted, stood up and took a stand against cruelty, venality and ignorance, stood up ... and forfeited his life for his beliefs. Such was the impact of his stand that his actions are still remembered two thousand years after the event.

Surely if anything deserves to be celebrated it must be the birth of Jesus Christ?

What are we teaching our children?

The photograph that begins this piece took some finding. I typed 'children's nativity play' into Flickr ... it did not compute, of course.

So I typed in 'Christmas' and trawled through pages and pages of children with presents, decorated trees, drunken young women wearing tinsel, brightly lit shops and presents, presents, presents. It was demoralising but not unexpected.

Recently our early evening local news programme has been interviewing young children, asking what Christmas meant to them.

Not one of them seemed to have anything in mind other than it was going to be fun and they were going to get presents, lots of presents. Not one of them seemed to have any idea of the real reason for the celebration. There was no mention of the Baby Jesus at all.

And another thing ...

For some reason this year seemed worse than usual for missing the point. Even the advertising rankled with me.

One advert had a father saying he wanted to spend time with 'his boy'. Laudable? Laughable, more like. Apparently 'spending more time with my boy' meant playing a computer game with him.

Not going for a game of footie in the park, or taking him skating or going for a bike ride, not doing anything outside in the fresh air, not playing a board game and having a laugh and a wrestling match when you lost. Just the same old, same old ... sitting in front of a screen, something they could do any time of the year.

It was not a special sort of bonding, it was just distinctly average. It was disheartening to realise that this was what passed for intimacy now amongst so many parents and children in our modern way of life.

Is there a middle way?

Yes, of course there is. I know we can never turn the clock back to a more innocent time, a time when we could all roam the village at night singing carols outside people's doors, a time when we all sat together in front of the fire telling ghost stories and scaring the bejasus out of ourselves.

We all know rampant consumerism at Christmas is here to stay ... at least unless all the world's economies actually go irredeemably bust.

It is natural for children to be excited by the thought of getting the Christmas presents they have asked Santa for, that much has not changed since I was a kid. But it really wouldn't take much to instil in our children a little more of a sense of why all of this celebrating happens at this time of year.

Obviously my words are aimed at all who live in a Christianised society and who consider themselves to be Christian, even though many of you, like me, are not fully paid up members.

Perhaps something could be learnt from other great religions of the world, most of whom seem to be a little more aware of what their festivals and celebrations are really all about?

But for now, from me, I wish you awareness. Have a very Merry Christmas ... and may your God go with you.

For a more romantic view of my Christmas see my blog

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Comments 37 comments

Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Hi Angie! Well, I share your lament regarding the commercial aspect of Christmas and the sad truth about where our world is heading. It's unfortunate that most people relate more to computer/hand held device screens than to one another. We have become so compartmentalized; so consumer oriented and so removed from each other and our ore "human" side and, at this time of year; it is that much more evident. For some reason, the human race is headed to a more isolationist mode of relating to the world; using machines and devices rather than communicating. When I fly from SE Kansas to Calif. (which is quite often) I am always astounded at the number of people with their eyes on the screen of their little "smart" phones or computers. Every one to a person is seated with eyes cast towards a thing and not another human being.

We are still, even in the midst of the economic slump; overwhelmed with things...shopping for unneeded and, soon to be, archaic toys to amuse us for an instant; to feed our ADD! Too bad.

I, too, am not a church going, overtly religious person but, I - like you - admire and honor the person who was Jesus and his legacy. I DO believe in God...but am not a Sunday worshiper.

This is a great hub, Angie...and one which we should all read and re read and "get." Thank you!!!

Up Awesome Useful Interesting and Beautiful.


anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 4 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

Take a look at your first picture. Now take a look at your last picture...

The difference: First picture is warm, joyful, hopeful, loving, cheerful, happy.

The last picture: cold, no humans, isolated. That's the difference in believers and non-believers.


Angie Haldenby 4 years ago

Hi - sadly nowadays I feel quite remote from the Christmas which seems to prevail. It's too commercialised and people seem to have forgotten the reason for it's existence. Being educated in the Catholic faith I was all too aware of the Christ and the politics he fell victim to, both Jewish and Roman. We the 'faithful' have also fallen victim to a new religion, the great idol MONEY. It's so sad that future generations will probably completely lose sight of the real reason for Christmas. These days I'm not sure what I believe in regarding the accepted myth we call God. I feel there has to be some higher intelligence behind our reason for being here. I do believe in Christ the same as I believe in Buddha and Allah - the same as I belive in Man - they are integral. The story of Christmas is just another myth, but it signifies something good in Man, and if that unifies us then we must remember the reasons for it and continue to ensure that future generations want to promote it as a time to offer our fellow men comfort and friendship and hope for a better world where we can live in peace and harmony no matter what our religious beliefs are.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

This is a great hub. Christmas really isn't my thing because it is all about shopping now. I participate because it is what is expected, but not really something I enjoy. I do enjoy having some tacky decorations, but really, what is Christmas anymore? You would think with this economy, we would go back to the basics and appreciate being together with loved ones. Instead, I think people ache to have more store bought items. Sigh. I don't where I am going with this comment. Great hub and voted up!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

@Lucky - hello, m'dear! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You're right, it is sad that we are all transfixed by screens, big and little. I am as bad as anyone for that with my computer ... the TV not so much. And I can't afford the iPhone I want ... lol! So maybe that is a good thing, eh?

I am amazed by the TV advertising that offers amazingly expensive goods in a world economic slump but sadly people will even pawn their grannies to get such stuff.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

@ anndavis - interesting analogy, Ann.

Many thanks for your comment though I am not entirely sure that non-believers are out in the cold :)

Some of the most spiritual (in the real sense of the word) people I know do not believe in God. I don't believe that organised religion has the monopoly on sharing caring and acts of kindness.

As a Buddhist I am lucky to have a belief that keeps me warm.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi Angie ... nice to see you here!

I do hope you're wrong about future generations but sadly I can see that it is entirely possible that the origins of this festival will become lost in the getting of 'stuff'. I often daydream about the world economy collapsing totally and wonder what sort of world that would bring about. After all, there must be a limit to how much people can buy, surely.

A friend of mine once spent Christmas working at a soup kitchen. I admired and envied him immensely. Perhaps we should all have a stint with the homeless at Christmas instead of just buying Shelter Christmas cards. For me actions will always be more effective than prayers.

But it would seem from the comments this hub has generated that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

@Jeannie - hi ... and many thanks for your comment, even if you didn't know where is was going! :)

I too, 'go along with Christmas' in the way of seeing family and celebrating with a special meal. This I approve of and really enjoy.

As we exist on a small pension and find it difficult to manage, we can't buy presents anymore and fortunately the family understand this ... at least ... I hope they do! No, of course they do ...


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

A brilliant, heart warming, stand back and think, oh is that me? hub.

I loved it, my friend. If there were more people like you around with these sorts of thoughts, there would not be room or place for the types, like me, who are so cynical and can get a laugh at the expense of the God Squad/

I am not a Christian as you know, but I used to love Christmas at school, when the brunt of the Carol service and all but the Nativity play fell on me.

I loved whacking out. ‘Mary had a baby, Yes Lord’ and ‘The Christmas Alphabet’ and all sorts of great Christmas carols, and my God, I made sure they knew what they were celebrating, and although that ‘Little Donkey’ was in my mind for weeks and I could have strangled anyone who sang it, I wept tears, when I got them to sing, ‘’Born in the Night, Mary’s Child’ and all the mums and their pissed husbands and lovers came over afterwards and said, “Dun Mister Clark play them songs good?”

And I loved it when they sang ‘He came from the Glory… he came from the Glorious Kingdom, Clap Clap’ and all the Caribbean and Olde Englishe carols, and I wept again when in the carol. ‘In the bleak midwinter’ I would have some pure voiced little kid sing the verse:

“What shall I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,

If I were a wise man, I would do my part,

Yet what can I give him? give my heart”

(And I’ve got tears in my eyes now!)

Thanks Angie for bringing back some wonderful memories. I may not be a Christian, but I know that Jesus bloke was excellent. Love him, and love all the stuff that went with him (and in some hearts, still does).

x


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Aww, dearest wingman ... what a lovely thoughtful comment. I am so thrilled it brought back good memories for you, old bean.

And d'you know 'In the Bleak Midwinter' is perhaps my favourite carol (next to 'O come, o come, Emmanuel' sung by the Chapterhouse Choir in York Minster as they are walking through the minster to the Chapterhouse - that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck!)

But 'Midwinter ...' brings up such vivid scenes in my mind ... and yes, it always reduces me to tears too. But only when it is sung to a certain tune ... I believe there are two that can used with it.

Hmm, now you've got me going ... I have to drive up to York today and think I will play Christmas Carols all the way there ...

Merry Christmas, m'dear.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

If you ever see a CD of Leontyne Price singing 'Christmas Songs', I can highly recommend it. I heard it the first year I was in the UK as I was walking through Carnaby Street (Where else?) and loved it. Years later I found it on CD and it still is my favourite Christmas Music.

It can be expensive, but there are "used" copies out there, and they are usually good.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Songs-Leontyne-P...

I know what you mean about the two versions of 'In the Bleak Midwinter' and I love the traditional one, which I think you maybe are referring to.

Imagine a small boy or girl with a voice like a flute, standing in a little space and all the rest of the singers, mums and dads also, watching and listening. Absolute silence except this little child. I guarantee every eye would be moist, or downright flowing.

"Not a dry eye in the house!"

Ian

x


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 4 years ago from Tennessee

Merry Christmas- I feel in a definite minority here for I am a believer, and read in the Word that Jesus and the Father are one and the same, He said, "If you have seen me you have seen the father". I know it's difficult sometimes to see Christmases like the ones we enjoyed as children. Carefree, smiling contributing to the season by participating in and finding the wonder and mystery of Christmas.

The fact that God gave his best to a world that most often appears to we adults as at it's worst by not even believing and at most finds no reason to even Hope for heaven? May God forgive our neglect and misunderstanding and instill again the love of children playing during Christmas time. Oh what wonder we trade off by maturing into an adulthood of apathy and complacency while seemingly awaiting the certainty of death and one without the friendship of the Babe at Christmas, escapes me...


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Oh Dear, another prophet!

I think you miss the point of this hub, samsons. Where do you het the idea that only Christians can celebrate Christmas, and that perhaps a Buddhist may regret the passing of an era? Or someone of some other faith may not believe in the Trinity, but may still want to celebrate the season. Read it again.... I think you missed the essence.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Yes, Ian ... I really need to get a new carol CD - this one looks the very thing!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi samsons ... many thanks for your point of view though I must admit I found it somewhat confusingly put.

One of the things I think we should all try hard to avoid, (whichever belief system we follow), is to be convinced that only our religion is the correct one. This is a deadly arrogance that has led to atrocities and all the religion-led wars - i.e. the greater number of conflicts.

I am married to an atheist ... he got that way by doing 6 tours of duty in Northern Ireland during the conflict there. Small evidence of God there ... and nothing will change his mind.

I live a life of love, happiness and wonder ... perhaps because I am not evangelical in my beliefs ... I just try to do unto others as I would have done unto me.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Once again, wingman ... you watched my back.

Big hugs x


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Yay!

Go, Angie!

x


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

Angie, your hub is inspirational. It proclaims good will and appreciation of the good that is side-by-side with much that is not.

My youth was warm with old fashioned Christmas cheer and gentle joy. In my own young family, I made the gifts for them and those we gave others as a family. it was immensely satisfying to me, - thinking all during the process of each of the recipients and how they would enjoy them. . . no such thing as exchanging them for something else. If they didn't fit - I just fixed them for them!

George and I enjoyed many simple Christmases by ourselves. The stockings were so much fun. Not many gifts, but selected with great care and we had to guess what was inside each one before opening it. It lasted all day. Once, at the ranch, we didn't have opportunity to shop for gifts so we just wrote down what we'd like to have given. We had to guess those, too. Another time there, I collected beaked yucca leaves and wove them into a decorative mat for him. It was a challenge to do it without detection, because we were living in an RV at the time and were almost constantly together - either out and about or inside together. That mat is pictured on one of my webpages: http://nellieanna.com/4conservatory.html You can imagine the challenge of dealing with those sharp thorns during the weaving! He loved the thought that went into it.

Appreciation for and satisfaction with small gifts seemed so much more real than the expectation of BIG gifts that seems to prevail now; - and as you say, - a lack of giving of self, as in the account of the father and 'his boy', with whom it's basically impersonal and lacking in giving or sharing of himself.

Kids present their lists of gifts they'll accept. If given something they didn't order, it's taken as a slight & returned for something they prefer. Parents and friends worry that their gifts may not be acceptable. If it's known that the kid is getting an expensive electronic toy from the parents, the family members are instructed which accessories he'll need for it and which ones he already has.

Of course, it's not true of all families, but prevalent in too many. The commercialism is not just on the part of the businesses. People have bought into it.

I admit that it's become tiresome. The "Christmas spirit" has been replaced with a kind of dread.

Anyway, it's an excellent hub and I liked your presentation. Thank you. Forgive my rambling.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment, Nellieanna ... I just loved the description of your Christmases past. I would have loved to have been part of your family.

As it is it has left me with the inspiration to somehow do something more ... more ... honest ... with Christmas. A special feast I think ... with beautiful decorations, as we do not have the money for presents as well. And slipping across to the church to sing carols with the rest of the villagers.

Hmm, thanks for being there, Nellie ... x


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Angie, when my mother and I were living in Perth, and times were hard, and my father had moved on to his third wife, we always celebrated Christmas, just the two of us.

But whether is would be the two, or three in earlier years or if we were entertaining another, my lovely mother always laid another place setting "just in case a stranger came by and wanted to join us". I don't know if I ever worked out who or what that stranger would be, but it is one of my very special memories of a very lovely person.

Enough said.

x


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

I would love to have met such a woman ... she sounds exceptional. You must take after her ... x


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

I wish!

x


quester.ltd profile image

quester.ltd 4 years ago

I think you must know Christ on a very personal level to be able to talk of His Life in the way that you do.

Christmas is a time for us to remember and to give thanks and to our friends and family - whether we are near or far.

Thank you for the wonder of this Hub.

q


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Thank you, quester ... I am no Christ expert, but it doesn't take a genius to work out he was trying to tell us to care for one another. It is easy to admire and want to emulate someone who gives his all for others though, isn't it?

And in the spirit of Christmas ... my best wishes to you.


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Angie, I enjoyed reading this Hub! I am glad I found you because "I love" your writing style and will be reading more! ...and yes, Merry Christmas of the proper sort!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Scribenet ... hi! I've just been over at yours leaving a comment on your Christmas Alone hub.

Thanks for pitching up here and the follow ... I'm looking forward to reading more of your point of view ...

Merry Christmas!


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Angie, the more I look at your first picture of the Nativity Scene, the more I think that they may be children from the school I taught in, except that they would have been years ago. I am going to copy and paste it into my FaceBook pages and see if anyone agrees with me. Nearly everyone of my Friends on FaceBook is an ex-pupil of mine and there is a good chance that if I am right someone will recognise them.

If not, I will be surprised if there are so many "children" who look the same.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Check the link, TL ... and see if there is any date ...

Don't all little kids look like cherubs though? x


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

I've posted it on Face Book and am waiting for a response.

Cherubs? you didn't teach them, old thing.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

I checked the date, but it couldn't have been my cherubs!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

That is a shame ... but seen one cherub, seen 'em all ... init?


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

That's right, and remember:

Beware of Heavenly Hosts going, Tra la la! And low flying Cherubim.

Happy Christmas, my friend.

Ian

x


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Sure will ... don't want to collide with a small, fat baby ... they can ruin your day!

Season's Greetings, dear boy.

x


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

I am perfectly willing to accept Christmas on your terms - the celebration of the birth of a great healer/leader. I completely agree that we all need to keep the traditions of this wonderful season alive.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi RedElf, thanks for taking a look at this hub and giving it the thumbs up.

Have a good 2012!


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Our material world can only be changed by thoughts such as yours. Thank you for sharing and bringing back into focus into a more innocent time, a time beyond material goods.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Thank you, GMaGoldie ... I know a lot of people think like I do. It would be lovely to the innocence of childhood ... but all we can do is try to keep it simple and honest.

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