Holidays and children

Today I will begin and end my journal with prayers. The ending prayer will be for children, as is my pattern during 40 Days of Prayer for Children. The opening prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving. One year ago yesterday, my wife was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of our local hospital, having suffered two heart arrests in one day. I had witnessed her receiving CPR and could hardly find a way to hold her hand through all of the IVs and monitors hooked up to her. On that day, I would have quickly traded everything I had for just one more year with her. I got my year and so much more. She is is great health now, exercises every day and her heart problems have been addressed. I have been witness to a miracle.

Gracious God, thank you for your power of healing and for your answer to my prayers and the prayers of so many others who support us in those terrifying days. Thank you for the skills of doctors and the care of nurses and the learning of generations of doctors. Thank you for the love and support of family, church and community. Thank you for the love and commitment of marriage. Thank you for the strength of my life’s partner. For these and all of your blessings I am deeply grateful. May I sing your praise all of my days. Amen.

I walked into a big box hardware and lumber store a few days ago and was greeted by a huge display of Christmas lights and objects right at the front door. The display didn’t have any thing that I could recognize as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. There was a huge Santa and a sleigh and several trees with bright lights. It seemed to be a display of outdoor lights that could be put up to show the Christmas spirit. I wasn’t in the store for any kind of holiday decorations, but I was struck by the Christmas display in September.

I remember the autumn parade of holidays from my childhood: September begins with Labor Day and back to school. October ends with Halloween. November has Thanksgiving and December is the month of Christmas, follow shortly by New Year’s. At a bare minimum, the store display should be confusing to young children. It was confusing to me. Who puts up their Christmas decorations in September? And who has the space to store such giant Christmas decorations until they are used? Of course I’m particularly aware of storage space as I try to sort out what we will move and what we will give away and what we will sell before we move. Acquiring giant decorations for any holiday isn’t high on my list of priorities at the moment.

The display got me to thinking about holidays and celebrations in general. I can see a lot of changes in celebrations in the span of my lifetime.

I’m pretty sure that the pandemic will mean some changes in how people celebrate holidays this year. In the first place, there will be less travel. People are taking precautions to try to avoid the spread of the disease. And for those who are at the lower end of the economic scale, there are no jobs and hard times means less money for holidays. College students won’t be returning to classes after Thanksgiving, with a long break between semesters this year. And I’m thinking that Trick or Treat will be curtailed by pandemic fears as well.

Today is the first of October. It seems like a good time to begin teaching our children about Halloween. All Saint’s Eve is the day before All Saint’s Day, when we remember those who have gone before. For those of us in the Protestant tradition, it is a time when we acknowledge the faith of so many mentors and models who have taught us the way of faith. “We Sing a Song of the Saints of God, faithful and brave and true.” Halloween also has roots in ancient harvest festivals in the northern hemisphere. The symbol of Halloween is a pumpkin. We carve and decorate pumpkins, but we must never forget that they are food, grown in gardens to provide sustenance to our bodies. The traditions of wearing costumes and sharing treats with others have other roots in the stories of our people. They teach us the joy of surprise and the power of generosity. There is much to teach children about Halloween.

I’m not finding the big Christmas display at the big box store to be very helpful in teaching children about holidays.

God of all of the seasons of our lives, as summer turns to fall in our part of the world, our hearts turn to many prayers of thanksgiving. As we pray for the children of the world, we pray that they might be taught the spirit of thanksgiving. May they know enough about the sources of their food to participate in prayers of gratitude for the bounty of harvests. May they learn enough about those who have gone before to know the stories of the saints of our faith. May they be inspired to sing, “And I want to be one, too!”

Help us, gracious God, to place the needs of children at the center of our celebrations in this and every season. May we learn to see the world with the eyes of children and recover the wonder and awe of each new season. May we plan our celebrations in ways that invite the full participation and protect the safety of each child.

Bless the seasons of our lives. May each new season become an opportunity to show love and support and nurture to all of your children whatever their circumstances or situations. We pray for all of your children in the name of the child who was born in the manger and who invited the children to come to him and took them in his arms and blessed them. Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!