Life's journeys: Language, culture, communication

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Advent, advent…

Just when I was running out of ideas for posts, my son (not yet 6 years old) found out there is no Santa Claus.

Their kindergarten teacher told them. Maybe the increasing commercialization of Christmas finally got to her, or maybe she was trying to explain the local traditions despite the onslaught of American popular culture, I don’t know, but I am relieved. Actually, I could say I am grateful. Now the road is open for those deeper and more important talks about why we really celebrate Christmas.

“There’s no such thing as Santa Claus”, the lady was supposedly heard saying. “There was a St. Nicholas, but I don’t know much about him. And then there’s the Christkindl.” Correct. All true. He wasn’t shocked or sad. I think he suspected it somehow. We had already begun telling him that the biggest gift of Christmas is the gift of kindness, life, and salvation that God bestows upon us through His child, and that sometimes, when Santa can’t make it, he sends his gifts through parents, because, after all, that’s how we all show we care about each other. We didn’t want him to be completely clueless and stand there like an idiot when the older kids in school would mess with his brain…

So last night, after he opened up about this news, I was able to hold him tight and tell him the true story of St. Nicholas of Myra, who lived between 270 and 343, and talk to him about the birth of Jesus Christ, the kings bringing him gifts with special meanings, and how we all follow that spirit and give each other gifts in celebration that our good Lord is born.

The only one who was saddened, as if a bad thing had happened, was the grandma. 🙂 She felt sorry for him, that the lady was too blunt, that it is too soon, that now he no longer believes in the “magic” of Christmas. It is always amazing to me how people will cling to a lie just because it’s tradition. Believing is only a virtue if you believe in the truth. Only then does it carry fruit. After all, if you think about it, this whole Santa affair doesn’t necessarily help faith. Quite the contrary: “You told me there’s a Santa, and there isn’t. You told me there’s the Easter Bunny, and there isn’t. Now you expect me to believe there is a God?!…”

I think Christmas will still be magical. The magic of Christmas is elsewhere. In that miraculous birth, in the Church lighting up with the sound of Christmas carols, in snow, in our special family time and our love for each other. ( Besides, I have a feeling he’s going to carry on the Santa charade in public anyway. He’s too afraid to lose the “loot” that comes from grandma under the Santa Claus pretense. 🙂 )

P.S. And something else happened today, too. Something unheard of. For those of you who have never met a German bus driver, I must say most of them are pretty tough. They live under tremendous stress (have to be punctual!) and are known to really scold you if you are not at the station on time, or if they have to wait even 5 seconds for you (it has happened to hugely pregnant women, too). And most of all, they never, never, NEVER, stop to pick up people or let people get off between stations. Well today, in this wet blizzard, a mother was carrying her child, trying desperately to hold the umbrella above both of their heads, stepping in puddles and getting all wet from the snow. The driver pulled up (between stations!) asked if she’s headed for the kindergarten (which is also between stations) and beckoned her to get on the bus. No questions asked.

Now THAT is the true spirit of Christmas…


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