Growing Up Global: Share stories from other cultures, religion and time with your children.

By on December 13, 2017

Christmas is a simple holiday, a time of giving and sharing. The gift of time spent together in building memories, establishing traditions, and discovering is the true meaning of Christmas.

The consuming side of Christmas leaves us precious little time to spend with our families. No matter what religious or spiritual significance you attach to the winter holidays, all celebrations revolve around family and tradition. Why not make this the year you slow down and give your children the greatest gift of all?

To look forward to the season is to turn to the past. Folklore and literature are excellent tools for parents wishing to move their children away from consumerism and towards the simplicity of giving. Sharing stories from other cultures, religions, and time periods help children recognize that the rituals we practice today are rooted in simpler times and traditions.

Holiday Folklore

Saint Nicholas. Your children will easily recognize this name. He is the big guy in the festive red suit, right? Well actually, Saint Nicholas was a religious leader from the 4th century A.D. who lived in the country of Myra, which is now modern day Turkey. As a youth, Saint Nicholas entered a monastery and became an abbot and later a bishop. He was a very shy man, but had a great desire to give money to the poor. Legend states that one day, he traveled to the house of a very poor family and climbed upon the roof. From this position, he dropped a bag of gold down the chimney. This bag of riches landed in a stocking that one of the daughters had put by the fire to dry. Thus, the belief that Santa arrives through the chimney and leaves children gifts in their stockings was born.

Boxing Day. Many English-speaking countries celebrate Boxing Day on December 26. Boxing Day is a tradition that began in the Middle Ages, when churches would open their alms boxes to reveal donated gifts of money. This money was distributed to the poor living in the neighborhood on the day after Christmas, which came to be known as Boxing Day.

Chanukah Gelt. During Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, a candle is lit every night. The Talmud specifically instructs Jews to light at least one candle every night of Chanukah, even if they must ask their neighbors for the money to purchase them. Therefore, the custom of giving gelt or money enabled the poor to have the candle money they needed without having to suffer embarrassment.

Julklapp. A julklapp is a gift or Christmas box. In Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, visitors travel to the houses of their friends, knock on the door, and when opened, they throw the gift inside. Then they run away before being recognized.

The Legend of the Poinsettia. Mexican folklore tells of a small boy who despaired because he did not have anything to offer the Christ Child on his birthday. He went to his church to pray for the honor of giving an appropriate gift. In answer to his prayer, a most magnificent red flower grew before him, which he bestowed upon the Christ Child. Since that time, the flower, a poinsettia, has been know as the Flower of the Holy Night.

Babushka. In Russia, children receive holiday gifts from Babushka, whose name means grandmother. Legend claims that Babushka was invited by the Three Wise Men to visit the baby Jesus, but declined their invitation because it was too cold. She instantly regretted her decision, filled a basket with gifts, and set off to join the Magi. Unfortunately, she never found them, so to this day, she leaves gifts for all the children just in case one of them is Jesus.

Holiday Literature

The Gift of the Magi. This story by O. Henry is good for older children, and teaches the true meaning of giving. It is the story of an impoverished couple who held two material possessions in high regard: The husband’s gold watch and the wife’s long flowing hair. When Christmas comes and neither has enough money to honor the other with a gift, they each end up sacrificing what they most prize in order to give to their loved one.

The Christmas Carol. This classic by Charles Dickens not only teaches the meaning of giving, but it also points out the pitfalls of greed. Good for all ages, this old tale makes for delightful family reading throughout the holiday season.

An Early American Christmas. This children’s book by Tomie DePaola tells the story of learning and family traditions. The characters living in a small New England village never did much in the way of celebrating Christmas until a new family moves to town and shares their traditions.

About Dr. Caron Goode

Caron Goode’s (EdD) insights are drawn from her more than twenty years in private psychotherapy practice and thirty years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment, and health and wellness. She is the author of ten books ( and the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents (, a training program for parents & professionals who wish to mentor other parents. A mom and step-mom, she and her husband live in Ft. Worth, Texas. Reach her at

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