A few weeks ago, I found my son in the living room singing “Jingle Bells.” You are probably thinking, how cute, and it was cute, but I wondered how he knew this song. We are a Jewish family, we do not listen to Christmas music and we do not sing Jingle Bells around the house. Then, I remembered his class was performing in the school’s holiday show and this must be the song they were singing.
A few days later a commercial with a reindeer came on the TV and he yelled out, “Rudolph!” I have no problem with my son learning about Rudolph or singing Jingle Bells, but I suddenly had a feeling Christmas was going to play a big role in his school throughout the month of December. Turns out, I was right. As soon as December 1st rolled around, Christmas music was played throughout the hallways and in the classrooms, a giant Christmas tree is placed in the center of the school, Santa and Mrs. Clause are coming to the school this week, and for the holiday show I mentioned earlier, my son is required to wear a Santa hat and red or green pants.
First, let me say we are very liberal and are not anti-Christmas. We typically put a tree up in our own home and celebrate with family members, many of whom are Catholic. And, with a classroom of 2 year olds, I know his teachers are not taking about Christmas in a religious way. However, all this emphasis on the Christmas holiday at his school places religion in the forefront of my mind. I felt like I needed to ramp up our own Hanukkah plans, which admittedly were pretty pathetic, and start teaching Landon about the holiday we celebrate. We made Hanukkah party plans, our menorah is on display, we have presents ready for each of the 8 nights and we have been watching Hanukkah videos and listening to songs for the past few weeks.
While I know my son is enjoying all of the Christmas decorations and songs at school, I am wondering if I am to start explaining to my two year old what Christmas is, or who Santa is and why he does not come to our house? Until this year he had never even seen Santa! I knew eventually this would be a discussion we would need to have as a family, but I just did not expect to experience this at 2 years old. I also know the Santa issue will only get trickier as he ages and comprehends more. While I want him to sing Jingle Bells with his classmates, I am not sure how I feel about him wearing a Santa hat?
Perhaps I am overthinking all of this. I guess the best answer is to recognize everyone celebrates the holidays in their own way, yet in these early years it is important for all children to feel a part of the “holiday” celebrations at their school, to see things they recognize and relate to, and for parents to emphasize the traditions that are important to them at home. While my son might not understand everything he sees, he is incredible aware and intuitive and I find it important to start talking about and practicing our traditions at an early age.
Since tonight is the first night, I would like to wish all those who celebrate, a very happy Hanukkah!