MaryangelaRomanFamily2014I was tempted to bid on a handcrafted sign for sale at a consignment auction my husband and I attended in Amish country about a month ago.

“Keep Santa in Christmas” read the piece of artwork.

No, I wasn’t interested in advocating for a secular observation of the Birth of Christ, rather, had I won the item, it would have been a gag gift for our Catholic Herald general manager, Brian Olszewski, who has a strong dislike for the man in the red suit and white beard, but who is a proponent of the real St. Nicholas, a bishop from fourth-century Asia Minor, of the celebration of his feast day.

“Satan Claus” is his name for the portly gentleman from the North Pole, and he’s never shy about expressing his dislike for this particular Christmas tradition.

I’m glad I saved my money, not only because I know the gift would have likely become firewood for Brian, but because its message is truly not something I wish to spread.

The irony of this sign being sold at an Amish-run auction was not lost on me either. With their simple ways and traditional practices, an exploitation of the celebration of Christ’s birth is not something you’d find among Amish families.

To be fair, while the Amish were running the sale, I’m pretty sure this was one of the many items they accepted for consignment, not something they produced themselves.

As I reflect on the sign, however, it summarizes our culture’s misguided focus when it comes to the Christmas season. The holiday intended to commemorate the birth of our Savior has come to mean a frenzy of buying and shopping and spending as we are bombarded for a couple months with “Black Friday sales,” stores open on Thanksgiving, “Cyber Monday sales.” By focusing on Santa in Christmas, I fear we lose sight of the real reason we are celebrating the season.

I admit, I’m not immune to this commercialization of the religious holiday and have often lost the focus myself as I scramble to “get everything done” before the 25th. I often breathe a sigh of relief on Dec. 26, glad the mad rush of the holiday is over for another year.

I find myself longing for Christmases of my youth when I wasn’t worried about decorating the house or sending out Christmas greetings or buying and wrapping way too many gifts for family and friends. My favorite Christmas memories from my childhood include attending Midnight Mass, setting up my mother’s Hummel Nativity scene and, during Advent, trying to do good deeds to earn straws to put in a basket that would be a manger for Baby Jesus.

We, as parents, should be examples for our children, showing them what really is important at this time of the year. In our feature story on Pages 6 and 7, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” Colleen Jurkiewicz, after speaking with several religious educators, has compiled a list of concrete ways for families to make sure Christ is the center of Advent and Christmas.

Maybe some of them will lead to new traditions for you and your family or will help you refocus your life during this crazy, hectic time.

And, maybe there is room for Santa in Christmas, as Colleen learned from the religious educators, but as they recommend, be sure he’s kept in his place.

Also, this month, don’t miss Michele Campbell’s column, “Thinking Out Loud,” on Page 4. It’s a great reminder for parents that their actions often speak louder than their words. A child feeling that he has let his parent down by not performing as well as he could have on the ball field might be something he carries with him long after the game is over.

Michele’s piece is a great reminder for parents to always be conscious of the messages they are sending either verbally or through their actions.

Speaking of messages, with the very contentious election season behind us, we’ve lived through weeks of discourse.

In their complementary columns on Page 3, Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck and her son, Jacob, share their experiences in the aftermath of the divisive election. One from a college campus, the other from a local high school, their perspectives are likely similar to those experienced by many. Where do we go from here? Jacob and Annemarie offer their views on how our divided country can heal.

Finally, a Blessed Christmas season to you and yours!