By Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson
In this luminous picture book, a young girl wanders through the snow on Christmas Eve, looking for a gift for a very special someone (her baby brother, we later learn). She happens upon a glowing toy shop, but before she can select a present, a mysterious old gentleman--Santa himself--scoops up everything in the store. All seems to be lost until Santa sends the perfect gift spinning from his sleigh, helping the girl find Christmas after all.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Natricia Rattery
The story paves the way for a very interesting discussion around Christmas now-a-days. People are so busy with general life that the time and effort spent into making Christmas what it was, has gone into the purchasing commercial items, what Christmas has become. As a result, emotions experienced at Christmas have become so varied, for some it is a joyous occasion because they have the biggest and brightest tree, while others are sad because they cannot afford all the material possession that Christmas has come to denote. Commercialization not only affects adults but has become increasingly popular with children. As a result of the increasing obsession with material possession and making Christmas grand, most of us have felt left out during this period and loneliness tends to set in. Gift giving has become so popular. Not only the act, but the type of gifts presented. These themes; emotions, commercialization of Christmas, loneliness and gift giving, will set up the class for a great discussion around consumerism at Christmas.
Emotions are psychological expressions that are felt as a result of an impulse. These emotions may be shown or expressed internally without any outward manifestations. Emotions are not talked about in great details to children but one expects a child to have a certain facial expression or body posture based on how they are feeling at the moment. For example, it is inferred that a child is sad if they cry and happy when they laugh. But one needs to recognize that everyone reacts differently to certain situation, for example, one may cry when they are presented with good news or even when they are scared. Throughout the story, it can be said that the girl expressed different emotions for the way she was feeling. At the start of the story it is inferred that she was anxious as we are told that she had been searching for weeks for the gift but now time was running out as it was Christmas Eve. Later, it is said that her hopes began to fade. She may have been feeling sad and or depressed. But then she happened upon the little shop with lots of toys and games. One may infer here that she must have being excited and surprised because she has never seen this store before. But then the store was quickly emptied by another customer and her heart sank. This could be a sign of disappointment and sadness. She could also have been upset at the customer. Then the extra special gift landed at her feet. She must have been happy here. As the book doesn’t call out any of these emotions explicitly, one has to infer as there is no one universally accepted expression for a certain feeling. It depends on each person. This leads one to wonder, should a person’s state or emotional condition be judged by facial expression and body language? Expressions can also run in conjunction with each other where one expresses two or more emotions in close succession. An example of this would be the surprise of seeing the stuffed bear falling from the sky flowing into happiness that she could give that extra special gift.
Commercialization of Christmas
Commercialization of Christmas is the act of including and acquiring excessive material good which tends to shift one away from the true or traditional meanings of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ and coming together to enjoy the company of others. Commercialization of Christmas is very clear in the story. It tells us that the sidewalks were very busy and it didn’t even matter to the crowd that this little girl was shopping by herself. She was pushed, stepped on and jostled. In today’s society, children get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. Everyone makes a list of toys that they wish to have at Christmas, mainly fancy toys that are mass produced. Grandma’s hand knitted mittens may not fare well against a transformers toy. Children are also saving allowances to buy gifts and cards instead of handmade ones. It is very evident from the story that the little girl did not consider making something for her brother. As the story tells us that she had being searching for weeks to find a gift and now at Christmas Eve she had to find something to buy. When her search was unsuccessful the girl did not have a back up plan. She was willing to share the fresh snow with her brother. It seems almost as if handmade gifts were out of the picture in this book. A lot of people were out shopping for gifts on that night. Is it because of our present day society? Everyone is busy working, preparing a feast, trying to out do last year’s performance that we just don’t make the time to make gifts or even handmade Christmas decorations. At this time, it is important to draw from the children’s experiences of buying and making gifts. This will lead them to wonder, how do they feel about each activity and why?
Everyone is always excited about new family members. At the birth of a baby the attention always switches to the baby and most times other children are ignored. As a way to make up the deficits, some parents shower the older children with money and material possessions. Even though this may work for the short term, it does not create lasting effects and some persons may feel ignored and neglected. Loneliness is the feeling of solitude, being without companionship or by oneself. Loneliness does not only occur when someone is physically alone but when you feel left out by the people around you. In the story, the little girl was lonely as she shopped. She wondered the streets by herself, even going down the gloomy streets of December Lane. Maybe the reason for her to be searching so desperately for a gift was to try and win back the attention of her parents. The children will be able to identify with this as they have felt lonely at some point in their lives. What is important here is how they handle this situation. Do they try everything to show that they are worthy of attention or do they get upset and depressed?
Gift giving has somehow come to represent love at Christmas time. Children seem to infer from the gifts given, the level of love of a family members for them. Some may even throw a tantrum if the right gift wasn’t given. But should the children be blamed? Society keeps raising the bar on gift giving year by year. Movies and television advertisement suggests a certain ownership to different gifts as one ages. This is not specific to Christmas as at a tender age a teddy bear may be fine but by graduation or 16th birthday, that same child may expect a car. Gift giving seems to be missing the sentiments of giving from the heart. It seems as if people have forgotten the meaning of gift giving, the act of showing appreciation to someone. As the story points out, the girl was searching for an extra special gift. It couldn’t be just another gift. It had to be extra special to show her brother that he was extra special to her. Drawing this to the children’s attention could lead them to wonder, is it fair to judge love base on gifts received? Is getting the gift you wanted for Christmas really more important that something homemade that lots of thought and love went into?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The little girl was very excited to buy her new brother that extra special gift.
The little girl searched for weeks to buy a gift for her little brother.
Christmas can be a very exciting time of year but sometimes adults get so caught up in making Christmas special that children feel neglected.
The little girl had to find an extra special gift.