Christmas will soon be upon us, and while I do not fret over a possible visitation from Scrooge’s trio of ghosts, I do wonder when the political Grinches will begin plotting to steal the season’s joy. For the past three years, I have read and heard a slew of unfortunate stories about self-righteous Americans using loving holiday gatherings to make cutting remarks about and to anyone who might have checked a different box in the voting booth.
If only the adults who feel inclined to belittle others during a season when we display love for our fellow man would consider how their actions affect the children in our midst. Any parent knows that the small but wide eyes around the dinner table soak in every word adults exchange and sense atmospheric shifts when grown-ups are spatting. We can tell our children the holidays are about love and giving to those we care for, but with every pithy remark or outright blowup, our actions shout something far different.
Since the election of President Trump, we’ve unwittingly taught our children a number of disturbing truths. We’ve shown them that thrusting our subjective preferences onto others without regard for their experiences and beliefs is acceptable, and that dehumanizing people with whom we politically disagree is perfectly all right. We’ve demonstrated how quickly humans can be led to hate one another based on something as temporary as election results.
In short, we’ve taught our children that politics is more important than families and friendships.
Spread the Joy of the Christmas Season
The Christmas season is my favorite time of year, but this celebration has been especially meaningful because my 2 1/2-year-old daughter is finally old enough to contribute to the festivities. This year, my toddler helped pick out and decorate a handsome tree, set up the nativity, decorate cookies, and pick presents for our large family. Between the active moments, she and I have been singing carols and devouring books and films about the meaning of Christmas.
My daughter has quickly developed a contagious love for the magic of the season. Together, we’ve watched the heartwarming 2018 rendition of Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch” on Netflix at least four times. “Snowmen at Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “Christmas in the Big Woods,” and “The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving” became fast favorites.
Many may scoff at the idea that a toddler can grasp Christmas concepts of brotherly love and gift-giving. Those people haven’t heard my daughter talk with fervor about the holidays or greet every stranger she meets with an exclamatory “Hi!” and a toothy smile. They haven’t seen her look at them, her eyes filled with excitement while she squeals, “Merry Christmas, mama!” My daughter understands why Christmas is special, and her grasp of the meaning of the season leaves my heart close to bursting.
For those struggling to get in touch with the spirit of the season in the midst of political rancor, I heartily suggest spending time sharing Christmas stories and movies with the children in your lives. Watching children develop an appreciation of the holidays can be a powerful way for adults to rediscover their own seasonal joy. Elementary schoolers may appreciate films such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Elf,” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” or titles such as “The Polar Express” and “The Story of Holly and Ivy.”
For teens and up, the possibilities are limitless. For a unique option, try listening to award-winning author Neil Gaiman perform Charles Dickens’ personal production script of “A Christmas Carol.” Gaiman’s one-hour journey through the classic is splendid. Of particular value for today’s audiences is Scrooge’s nephew Fred rebutting his uncle’s suggestion that Christmas is a waste of time. He says:
I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time, the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow travelers to the grave and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good, and I say, God bless it.
Put Politics Aside
While the stark Victorian class system no longer exists, I doubt Dickens would be surprised that we predictably enterprising humans have replaced it with new sources of division. Today, these include our political rivalries.
If the political Grinches do not put aside their efforts to sow discord, I wonder how many American children will experience a holiday marked not by unqualified love but by judgments and tension. Those children are watching our every remark and action for indications of how they ought to behave in this world. After steeping for more than three years in the garbage that plagues adults, they deserve a reprieve.
While preserving it for their children, adults should use the holiday season to rethink their own animosity. Each of us can choose to rise above the hate into which we have been led and to recall the myriad points of commonality we share with our fellow Americans. That may in fact be one of the best gifts Christmas brings.