Feel free to skip to pictures of E below or continue on, but beware of the rant… So, for one reason or another (exchange at LL Bean, E baptism outfit, introducing E to the indoor play area), I have been to Tysons Corner Center three times in as many weeks.  For those of you not familiar with the DC area, Tysons Corner is pretty much the center of upper-middle class economic boom, and recession or not, Tysons patrons were out en masse in their BMWs and Land Rovers during each of my visits.

First, my confession: every year for the past several years I have TALKED a big game about the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of celebrating Advent and every year without fail I have still been seduced by all of the shiny new junk.  I have been cursed in that my first “love language” is gifts.  I have determined that it’s not so much a love language as it is, very simply, a selfish longing for stuff.  Dare I speak too soon, but I do believe that my visits to Tysons this year may be my first real step toward a cure for my “love language.”

Now, for today’s visit: since we went mainly to check out the indoor play area, we went there first.  It was very busy with mostly first-walkers and toddlers running about like so many wild monkeys in the jungle.  I sat E down and knelt two feet away beckoning him to come toward me.  He looked around to his left and to his right.  He stared.  Then he looked at me – the ends of his mouth turned downward, his chin quivering – and started to cry.  Over stimulation.  I decided we would stroll around a bit instead and maybe check out the pie plate I’ve been lusting over at Williams-Sonoma.  As we walked around, I started to feel like E in the play area. Why do I want all of this shiny new junk and what exactly does it have to do with Christmas?

Nothing.  It has nothing to do with Christmas.  

Having E has magnified for both Lane and I just how materialistic we are and how much that increases around this time of year.  We want to change and we want E to grow up celebrating Advent and waiting in great anticipation to celebrate the birth of the only real Love and true Hope that the world has ever known – not waiting in anticipation of tearing into a great quantity of gifts on Christmas morn. Are we naive new parents?  Is this even possible?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But, it’s got to be worth a try.

I can just hear a few of you now, “oh Janelle, you’re so melodramatic, so you don’t want anything for Christmas then?  And we shouldn’t buy anything for Eli either?” I don’t feel I’m going overboard here.  I’m not saying gifts are bad or evil in and of themselves and no matter how hard I try, I will always love to give gifts and especially receive gifts.  I just feel we lost any sense of balance.  Take the old saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  This is true, but at least in my mind, Jesus is not the reason for Christmas trees or pretty expensive Christmas candles and decorations or a new wardrobe – Jesus has nothing to do with any of these things.  It’s as if there are two separate things being celebrated: the arrival of the Christ child and the arrival of shiny new junk.  We have combined these two celebrations so completely that it’s just so murky and unclear as to what it is we are really celebrating.

I would love to hear from any of you about family traditions that you use to keep Advent and Christmas simple and focused as well as any personal victories you have won by rejecting that shiny new junk you really, really wanted.  I don’t know that I’ve really communicated what is in my head, but certainly I have communicated enough.  Now, for the pictures…