As a preschool teacher, Christmas was one of my favorite times of the year. It was a time when children would come into the classroom, their eyes bright with excitement, and their cheeks rosy with cold. Somehow, before the holidays, my name would transform from “Miss Christina” to “Christmas Tina.” We sang Christmas carols and made “countdown to Christmas” calendars. The children’s excitement was contagious. Every year, I would concentrate on teaching the children about the Christmas story. I loved the enthusiasm of the little ones as they began to understand what Christmas was all about. Every day, we would sit together for circle time and talk about how Jesus, God’s only son, came to earth as a baby. We would act out the Christmas story, daily, for the whole month of December. The children knew who Jesus was, and why he came to earth. They really understood what Christmas was all about, or at least I thought they did.
Last year, one week before Christmas, Mary, Joseph and one of the wise men sat at the round blue table at the side of the room, their costumes still in place after one of our “Christmas plays.” Mary bent her head over a piece of paper, her crayon making lines, circles, squares and other unrecognizable shapes. The long piece of paper towel, our version of “swaddling clothes,” was falling off of baby Jesus as the doll sat in the chair next to Mary. The wise man busily colored in a Christmas coloring book. Joseph held his black crayon over his paper. I stood, just within ear shot, listening to their conversation.
“What are you drawing?” Joseph asked.
“I am making a picture of baby Jesus in the manger.” Mary replied.
“A manger is an animal’s lunch box,” the wise man said, not looking up from his picture.
“Who is that beside the baby?”
“It’s you, Joseph. And this is me,” Mary said, pointing to a blue scribble.
“Joseph was Mary’s husband. But God was really Jesus’ daddy,” the wise man commented.
“Who’s that big guy behind me?” Joseph asked, pointing to a big red smudge.
“Don’t you know anything?” Mary put her little hands on her hips and scowled at Joseph. “That’s Santa Clause.”
“Why is Santa Clause there?” Joseph frowned.
“Because he is Jesus’ grandpa!” replied the wise guy.
It was then that I realized just how much these children didn’t understand. I wondered where I had gone wrong. I didn’t know the answer then, and I probably never will. Somehow, I had to convince three impressionable minds that Santa Clause was not part of the Christmas story. Oh the joys of teaching preschoolers!
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