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TAMING THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS


"I want that I want that I want that I want that…"

I always know the holiday spirit has taken over my house when I hear this all too familiar burble. It gets louder and more persistent the closer we get to the Big Day, drowning out the uplifting, merry carols I play in an attempt to drown out the monotone mantra. But, my efforts are futile. My children are in the grip of the Spirit of Christmas Presents.

It starts before Halloween with those seemingly innocuous commercials suggesting to children that its time to start "thinking" about Christmas and they should add this Crayola Creation gadget or Harry Potter Action Figure to their list now so Santa can put them down for one before he runs out. Then, before you know it, they're bombarded with commercials showing dolls that belch and cry; small furry creatures with big eyes that blink as they emit "cute" sounds every three minutes for the rest of your life (FYI - the sounds go from "cute" to "muffled gurgle" when you try to twist the creature's adorable little head off in an attempt to silence it at 3 am); and CFO's (complex flying objects that take four days to put together and will drain 10 D-cell batteries – not included – just by the act of turning it on). That's when the Children's Chant of Christmas goes full throttle.

We've brought this on ourselves with our stories of Santa and his annual trek delivering presents to all the good boys and girls. And what happens to the "bad" kids or the kids who are too greedy? They get a lump of coal. Big deal! Is that enough to get a kid out of the "I want that" mode? I think it'll take a little more than just a lump of coal.

I recently heard a story by humorist David Sedaris about the "Santa" tale told to some children in another part of the world (Holland, I think it was) that I'm thinking we Americans may want to start telling our kids. Here's the gist of the story:

Santa, or St. Nicholas as he is known in Holland, is a very thin man who used to be a bishop in Turkey. He still wears the outfit. He arrives by boat, and then he gets on a big white horse and marches in some parades. St. Nicholas doesn't have elves to help him; he travels with six to eight "good friends." If, in their travels, St. Nicholas and his pals come across a child who was naughty, they would beat the child with a "small branch of a tree" or kick him. And, if a child was really, really naughty, they would put him in a sack and take him to St. Nicholas's home in Spain. If a child was good, on the other hand, St. Nicholas and his friends would put some candy in their shoes.

No Christmas lists, no visits to Santa; just a plain and simple, "if you're good, you get chocolate coins in your shoes. If you're bad, you may want to pack a few of your things before you go to bed."

I'll bet the Dutch children don't sit in front of the TV mouthing, "I want that I want that I want that I want that…"

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