The meaning of Christmas: Life lessons from a two-year-old

Julie Maclellan



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I'm learning about Christmas this year from an expert.

She's tiny and blonde and has big blue eyes that are always wide open, taking in the magic of the world around her - and a cute little mouth that can't stop flapping with the excitement of sharing that world in words.

She's not quite two-and-a-half years old, but she's got this Christmas thing nailed.

When it comes to Christmas spirit, my daughter has a whole bunch of lessons for those of us who are older and supposedly wiser than her.

She's not racing frantically around trying to make Christmas magical. Because, you see, she's already figured out the simple truth: Christmas just is magical, and all we have to do is let it happen.

She couldn't care less whether the house is clean, whether the baking is done, whether there are just-right presents wrapped just-so under the just-delightful tree. (Which is good, because if you know anything about me you'll know that she sure as heck didn't get Martha Stewart for a mother.) She's not worrying about buying the perfect outfit to wear to the umpteenth holiday party or throwing the perfect shindig to impress co-workers and friends. She's not bothered what anyone else thinks of her state of readiness for the holidays - or lack thereof.

She's just taking in the world with wide-eyed wonder.

"Look, Mommy, Christmas!"

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that refrain over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes it's in response to something big, like the giant Christmas tree at Herbert Spencer School. More often, though, it's in response to something relatively small. The snowmen decorations sitting on the shelf at the coffee shop. The dancing Santa by the door at daycare. The string of coloured lights on the neighbours' eaves that she can see from her bedroom window. The "Jolly J's" (that's candy canes, for those uninitiated in Charlottespeak) that adorn a house up the street. The fir trees standing in a row at Home Depot. Even, on one occasion, a small piece of discarded wrapping paper on the sidewalk.

And don't forget the music. She's picked up on a couple of Christmas carols already - ask her to sing Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and she'll give it a good shot. She's not much concerned whether she's in tune, whether she has the words right or whether you're enjoying what she's singing. She's just belting it out because, well, it's the thing to do, and she likes it, and singing is how you express joy. That, and dancing - put on a tune, and she'll spin her little heart out in response.

Each tiny moment in her world is greeted with the kind of enthusiasm most of us reserve for the so-called "big" things in life. She has no idea what she's "supposed" to do for the holidays - she's just experiencing everything around her with the same zest she brings to life year-round.

She expects nothing. And, as a consequence, she enjoys everything.

Sure, we've given her some Christmas experiences. We've gone for a little night lights display tour (which is to say, we walked a few of our favourite blocks along Seventh Avenue, where many of the homeowners decorate for the holidays). We went to the Santa Claus Parade and checked out the fun at River Market and the Anvil Centre. And, most memorably of all for my wide-eyed child, we rode the Christmas train at Stanley Park and took in the Bright Nights experience.

Every single one of those things has been worth it for the wonder in her eyes and the joy in her babble afterwards as she recounts her experiences to Mommy and Daddy.

But you know what she talks about most? Not seeing the parade so much as the fact that she went downtown with her little BFF. And the Christmas train? Yeah, that was great. But what was more fun was going to see her "auntie" and "uncle" afterwards and play with her big-girl friend.

It hasn't occurred to her to think about "stuff."

She's received a couple of Christmas presents so far, and she's happily latched on to one of them - a little stuffed reindeer. She loves it with the same dogged devotion she gives to a rather eclectic assortment of treasured possessions, including a little pink plastic ring that once adorned a birthday cupcake, and the Little People family known in our house as "Plastic Mommy, "Plastic Daddy" and "Plastic Charlotte."

But she doesn't have any clue that Christmas is meant to involve filling your house with fancy presents wrapped in fancy paper.

She's not going to get a lot from her parents for Christmas (although, undoubtedly, her rather doting grandparents will make up for it). But she won't feel the lack of anything.

She has no inkling of the desire for bigger. Better. Brighter. Shinier. More.

She just loves her toys and her home and her room and her family and her friends - and her life - with a fierceness that all of us should strive to emulate.

So if the holidays are stressing you out, here's my advice: enjoy Christmas like a two-year-old: with wide eyes and a sense of wonder. Spend time with people you care about. Walk around your neighbourhood and look at the lights. Curl up with a book in your living room and admire your own Christmas tree - especially if it's not quite standing straight and if it's decorated with an eclectic assortment of not-pretty-but-special-to-your-family decorations.

Above all, take time out of whatever it is you're doing to just enjoy it. Forget the house. Forget the shopping. Forget the presents. Forget the hullabaloo.

Just sing. And dance. And enjoy. And be. Just for a little while, let yourself experience the world like a two-year-old.

Trust me, it's a lot more fun than trying to be this season's answer to Martha Stewart.

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