“Santa… Reindeer… Jesus!”
This is how Elisabeth explained Christmas to me. Seems like a pretty sound explanation. At least for a two-year-old.
I have to say, I was pretty psyched for Christmas this year. This was the first Christmas I’ve celebrated in a long time with a child present who gets Christmas. Gets the fun, the joy, the celebration. Well, sort of gets it. See above. Not to mention, Elisabeth was featured all over one of Tokyo’s premier department stores in their Christmas ad – on billboards, placards, shopping bags, the works. I mean, when your daughter is basically the face of Christmas in Japan*, it’s easy to get into the holiday spirit. See below.
Anyway. We tried to impart upon Elisabeth the importance of Jesus on this special day. And indeed, Elisabeth loves her Fisher Price Nativity Scene (“Jesus’ House,” as she calls it), complete with a light-up manger and flying angel. However, Jesus didn’t drive around base on a fire truck handing out candy on Christmas Eve; Santa did. So Santa made the more lasting impression this year. As did Santa’s lack of sleigh. “Reindeer?” Elisabeth asked, perplexed, as Santa passed in an open-air vehicle. She’s been obsessed with reindeer, Rudolph in particular, ever since we let her watch the 1964 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer film a couple of weeks ago.
“The reindeer are resting for tonight,” I explained. She bought it.
Later that evening at church, following a prayer in which the pastor touched on the real reason for the season, Elisabeth excitedly exclaimed, “Santa!” She continued to joyously shout for Santa until I silenced her with a blessed pacifier. “We’re celebrating Jesus! Baby Jesus!” I whispered. “Santa!” Okay, then. Not much to argue with there.
Even later that evening, Elisabeth became increasingly concerned about Santa’s milk and cookie situation. I don’t know where she learned about the milk-and-cookies tradition, but it was sure stuck in her head. “Santa milk cookies. Santa milk cookies!” She repeated over and over and over to Damon, shaking her little finger at him and nodding her head in earnest to communicate the importance of leaving Santa milk and cookies. “I promise I will leave milk and cookies for Santa,” Damon tried to reassure her. She wasn’t convinced. “SANTA MILK COOKIES!” In hindsight, we should have put out the milk and cookies before we put Elisabeth to bed. Next year.
All this love for Santa was cute, but a bit unexpected, considering how Elisabeth reacted when she actually met the guy.
Nevertheless, Elisabeth’s feelings for Santa overcame this unfortunate experience, and the first thing she said when she awoke this Christmas morning was, “Santa milk cookies?”
Damon and I took her downstairs, giddy at the thought of how giddy our daughter would be when she saw the brand new toy kitchen
Damon Santa had worked on till 1:00AM.
“Ooooh, look at your new kitchen! Santa must have brought that for you!”
Elisabeth took a cursory glance at the kitchen before running to the table where the cookies and milk had been left. “Milk cookies,” she said, satisfied that Santa had indeed received his deserved treats.
Then we moved on to presents. This is where we lost Elisabeth. Though she was enamored of Santa, she certainly didn’t grasp that he brings presents. As she’s only two, she would open a present, immediately immerse herself in that present, and totally forget that there were several other presents waiting for her under the tree. Thus, present-opening took approximately all day. I suppose I should appreciate her leisureliness – it won’t be long before she’s up at 4:00AM ripping through packages in minutes.
Elisabeth did eventually show interest in her kitchen – thank goodness – and busied herself with that for the rest of the day. In the evening, she asked to watch Rudolph and we obliged, even though it is horribly boring. Though this was Elisabeth’s second viewing of Rudolph, she was mesmerized. (She doesn’t watch much television…) Tonight while putting her to bed, I asked her about her day. “Did you have a special Christmas day? What did you do?”
She paused a moment, then her face lit up. “TV!” she exclaimed.
And in the end, that’s what Christmas meant to my 2-year-old. Santa… Reindeer… And the chance to watch TV.
*A slight exaggeration, perhaps.