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My gramma Ruby used to say that "too much knowledge killed the goat."
Truer words were never… OK, I have no idea what she meant. But I do know that there is so much unsubstantiated, unrelated, almost useless information concerning Christmas floating around, cluttering up the winter landscape.
The prevailing holiday marketing thought seems to be to “stick a red bow on it” and then pass it off as a holiday special. The result is a whole lotta confused kids.
Diversion tactic? Commercialism? Capitalism? Confuse-ism, I say.
I’m not looking for the culprit. I am just trying to teach the kids in my charge—my own children and the kids in my church Primary class how to keep track of Christmas real, and Christmas, unreal.
There are two explanations as to why all these (my) kids are getting their Christmas facts mixed up: Option 1 is that there is an incredible amount of information there to mix up. The least satisfying option for me is Option 2: I am less than the finest educator. Since the latter is impossible, it must be the former.
Clearly, the story of the birth of Christ has competition. Santa and the North Pole are captivating. Reindeer and the elves, Jack Frost and the drummer boy, and Rudolph, Clarice and the Winter Warlock are standards. The thought of grandma getting run-over by a reindeer has a cartoon quality that makes people laugh --unless you are a grandma.
And there is more.
There is the happy Elf, Suzie the snowflake, Clarence, the angel who is trying to get his wings, Christmas boxes, Christmas wishes, Christmas snowmen, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, the Grinch and his sweet little dog.
The list goes on, and every year there is a new and delightful story. Many remind us at the end of their tale that there is a real meaning of Christmas out there, and some actually challenge us to find it.
Some, however are just filler.
No wonder the kids are confused. My child said to me once that she had only so much space in her brain, and if she learned anything more that day it would push something else right out.
I hate to think that when “Caroling with Phineas and Ferb” goes in, the angel chorus may be on its way out due to overload.
In the spirit of good dad-ifying and excellent primary teacher-ing, I quizzed my class and my own children about the real meaning of Christmas. Here is what I learned--with Frosty, Suzie and friends left out.
- Mary and Joseph had a baby because there was no room in the inn.
- A manger is good for oats and hay and small toys, but is too small for a mattress.
- Jesus was born in a barn because he wanted to show us that money isn’t as important as being born, and my mom shops at GigantoMart to save money to give to Santa Claus.
- The wise men were very slow because of their heavy crowns and because their donkeys were really camels. They gave gold, frankincense and myrrh because they smelled good, and smelling good is better than money. They got to stay in the inn. My dad’s breath is gross.
- The shepherds saw the angels singing because there was no TV, so they could pay attention to little things like that.
- Back before Jesus came down, Christmas was invented so people could pay taxes. Today, taxes are paid online so that no one has to go to Idaho, where my dad was born.
- In Idaho, they cancel Christmas if the roads are bad. Nobody good is from Idaho.
- My primary class then explained to me that the pioneers’ trek West used the same trail that Mary and Joseph used to get to Bethlehem — only it took them somewhere different. Little Ashley added that we shouldn't be wise guys, that Christmas lights shouldn't be left on all night, and that a coupon gets a cheaper price at a hotel.
All good thoughts.
Looking back at my learning experience, I don’t know that I could have been any more clear as a youngster trying to get a grip on such an important and compelling story.
But whether it's Mary and Joseph going East and pioneers going West, swaddling clothes or eating the leather from a saddle, I will keep plugging away to get them the correct information. Hopefully, they will eventually get it right enough to teach their own children.
So, gramma Ruby may have been right when she said that we shouldn't sweat the details, but focus on what matters --in this case, the birth of Christ.
And that Ashley has a coupon for hotels.
Cheney writes, often humorously, at davisoncheneymegadad.blogspot.com