We have experienced so many parallels to the story in recent months: the disbelief that after years of yearning for a baby, we were pregnant with two (against all odds); the anxiety around making room for them in our family and bringing them into the world safely; and the kindness of our families and friends who provided support and meals after their birth.
We attended a dinner party last weekend in Paris (via video chat) with dear friends who I've known for 17 years. They delighted in showing me their Christmas tree and their creche. Their cozy apartment looked so beautiful and warm with the seasonal decorations. And they announced that they were making the journey to California in April (at last!) to meet our new babies.
We aren't a religious family, but we do celebrate Christmas as a family tradition. Most years my husband and I grumble over the commercialism and snicker about the silly Christmas letters we receive in the mail. We can be Christmas cynics and occasionally bear a shameful resemblance to The Grinch. It's so easy in today's world to lose sight of what the season is actually about.
This year has been different. The Christmas story and our new babies have brought back the true meaning of Christmas. For example, we bought tickets to visit my husband's 90-year old grandma and my family on the east coast. It's a tremendous effort and expense to make the trip, but a happy occasion that we couldn't pass up. We also couldn't resist sending out a family portrait this year, and we've adored seeing so many of our friends and their children growing up as we've received cards in return. The best card we received, hands down, was from my 75-year old aunt passionately kissing her second husband in front of the Eiffel Tower with the inscription "Love doesn't age."
We exchanged gifts with our elder daughter in advance of our trip a few nights back. For the first time, I saw how she embodied the custom of giving (and receiving) modest presents as a token of affection. I beamed as she presented my husband and me with gifts she had secretly purchased with her allowance. And it was wonderful to see how grateful she was for the some of the simpler gifts she received - glue, scissors, and watercolor paper from us (she jumped up and down) and boots from her grandparents.
Even the twins loved the one gift we got for them this year - a Glowworm that lights up and plays songs when you press its chest. We pointed out to our daughter that her brother has been exhibiting one of mammals' unique characteristics - using his teether as a tool to poke the glow worm's chest. Both of the twins like to pet the Glowworm's face tenderly - even babies need babies in their lives.
I had a bumper sticker made for my husband this year. It's message is simple: Love is free. This holiday season, don't forget it.
How do you tap into the meaning of Christmas each year? How have you passed along the custom to your children?