Feliz Dia de los Reyes! Happy Little Christmas to all of my readers! For those of you who have been here a while, you know today holds a special place in my heart as my "little birthday." For those of you who are new to my blog, you can start here and find links to the original story.
Last night, my children left hay and water for the camels of the wise men. I felt a little sad about it all. Marina is 17 now. Chase is 14. I wonder how many years I have left to wait for the Kings with them. How many years to continue the tradition of my father's family with my own children? Two stories come to mind today.
~When I was a child, my father always told me about his experience with little Christmas. Every year on January 5th, he set out water and hay for the camels. Every year on the morning of January 6th, the water and hay would be gone, but no gift was left because they were very poor. This did not deter him. Every year he set out water and hay until one year he received a gift of a toy car (I think it was a Jeep.) He loved that toy. It was a most cherished gift. Even after his brother accidentally broke it, he still played with it.
~Several years ago, Marina was having a talk with her grandma (my mother.) She must have been seven or eight at the time. I forget the details of the talk, but I do remember when she suddenly told her grandma with great urgency, "But grandma, you have to believe in magic! You have to!" Grandma, amused, asked her why it was so important. Marina blurted, "Because little kids believe in magic and Jesus said you have to come to him like a little child!"
I pondered these stories as I prepared for St. Nicholas Day in December (that's when we hang stockings according to German custom--my mom is part German) and again as I prepared for Little Christmas. I know many people complain about Santa's presence in Christmas. But for a child, the magic of the season is a way for them to learn what it means to believe, to have faith in something. They are not mini adults. They don't think like us. Their world is magical. For them, the magic is seeing a cold, dead world burst into life in spring, watching a chick emerge from an egg, or seeing a shooting star cross the night sky. We explain these things, but to a child those explanations don't matter. They see the world with wondering eyes, full of their own creative spirit. Santa, St. Nicholas, the Three Kings, they are also part of this magical world, as is Christmas. Christmastime transforms the ordinary with decorations and lights, with delicious smells and songs. It is a time for children. They don't worry about the implications of commercialism on the holiday. They just know that if they write their letters, Santa will come and bring them what they ask for. If they leave food for the camels, the Three Kings will leave a gift.
And if they don't? Well, in my father's words from his last comment: "the one activity I enjoyed most was to plan how I would feast the 3 kings camels with grass and water so that I could look under my bed tomorrow morning to be surprised by the gifts they left me, or didn't. Either way it was the dream that counted most, not the reality of what actually happened the next day. Kids and adults alike love to dream. Dream long enough and believe it. Those dreams will become reality."
Our traditions are the basis of our faith. Whatever your culture or religion, our celebrations touch our children in a special way. The joy it brings to them is magical.