Unwrapping Christmas one year at a time

Vivi, meet Christmas. Christmas met you last year, but you were a little preoccupied with being a newborn. You were more interested in sleeping and eating and I don’t blame you. You were busy growing and changing.

But now, you’re walking, talking and exploring the world around you, and Christmas will be a feast for your senses. Already, your eyes have filled with wonder at twinkling lights, pretty decorations and your reflection in shiny tree ornaments.

Vivi, this is Christmas. You’ll look forward to it every year. It’s magical and wonderful. Its meaning will grow and change as you grow and change. But it will always be special. I’ll make sure of that.

Much is made about a baby’s first Christmas.

It’s almost a cottage industry in itself. There are ornaments, the tiniest, cutest outfits, Santa
hats, shoes, stockings, toys. Everything embossed, embroidered or painted with “Baby’s First Christmas.”

But I think more should be said about that first Christmas for a toddler — and every Christmas for that matter.

My daughter, Vivian, was born in September, so she was only 3 months old when she celebrated her first Christmas last year. There were cute outfits, stockings, hats and ornaments, and a first meeting with Santa Claus. But she pretty much snoozed through the whole celebration, being passed from family member to family member like the plate of appetizers that seemed to make the same rounds. Vivi had lots of presents, but a 3-month-old really doesn’t care about new rattles or clothing. She just wanted to put the paper scraps in her mouth. And her father and I, as new parents, barely had time to come up for air. I was excited for our first Christmas as a family, but I was exhausted, too, and didn’t have the time or energy to do more than put up a tree.

On Sunday, I discovered just how different this Christmas was going to be. Visiting my mom and dad for a belated Thanksgiving celebration, Vivian was re-introduced to the magic of a Christmas tree.

The lights, the ornaments, the bows and beads all held her imagination for what seemed like hours. No bulb below the 2-foot mark was left untouched. The gifts were already coming unwrapped. And had it not been that the tree was pre-lit, the lights would have come off, too.

She was curious and excited and a little confused. She babbled and pointed at each ornament as if to give each one a name.

I just watched in wonder, amazed at how much she’s changed in just a year’s time. And I realized that being a parent is one of life’s few chances to go back in time. We can relish again in the magic that is Christmas through a child’s eyes.

There are so many Christmas memories I plan to make with my daughter — many of the same ones that my mom and dad made with me and my siblings. Each year, the number of traditions will grow along with Vivi. We’ll make cookies and candy, go see holiday movies, visit Santa and Christmas shop with her allowance. We’ll write letters to Santa and sing Christmas songs while Dad buys ear plugs.

This year, Vivi will explore the Christmas tree and understand the fun of unwrapping gifts. She’ll dance to Christmas music and eat her first Christmas cookies.

There are so many things that are special about a baby’s first Christmas, but when you’re a child, each Christmas is full of firsts. And every year is just as special as the last.

Deann Stumpe

In her weekly column that runs Mondays in the Hastings Tribune, Deann Stumpe gabs about relationships, movies and TV, and life with a baby. She is the Tribune’s special sections editor.

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