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Kids and Language

As a mother of 2 small children I am continually astounded by their language development- the words they pick up and the way they manage to play with multiple languages already. As we're currently living in Vienna they are having to master German on top of English… so here are some of my ponderings on the linguistic theme.

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Christmas

When Christmas isn’t just the 25th

father-christmas-saint-02We’re at that time of year again- when you can’t enter a shop without being assaulted by festive music, the waft of cinnamon-infused everything, and hungry shoppers desperate for that last-minute bargain. Ahh, Christmas. How I have missed you.

Can I still call this time of year Christmas though? With friends from all over the world who celebrate different things from me I don’t want to insult anyone. I have even started saying ‘Happy Holidays!’ to my friends and students, complete with an American accent and lop-sided grin to go with it, as it feels so far removed from what I was brought up with and actually feel as the right expression for this season. If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Three Kings’ Day, you have a right to have it recognised. Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, or happy holidays are all pleasantries. There’s nothing remotely hostile in those words. Sure, they may not be the words that some would choose to receive, but they’re far from insults.

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Christmas

My daughter asked me: “Mama, what is Christmas?”christmas

Pick the correct answer:
a) a meaningless opportunity to spend more money than is sensible on objects that we probably don’t want and won’t appreciate.
b) a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to Earth to save mankind.
c) a day when a jolly fat man comes to everyone’s house to spread gifts and goodwill.

It’s a good question. And with a 3- year old in mind I’m not sure of the right answer.

But what will I tell her?

My Christmas always included a visit to Church, a walk along a very cold and windy beach while my mother and grandmother cooked the turkey, and the Queen’s speech at 3:00. These traditions probably won’t be passed on to my children, partly because we have no beach within 10 hours of home (I don’t count the Donau channel as a beach- I need the sea out there!), and my husband is about as likely to listen to the Queen as he is to play a round of golf with Kim Jong-un. But I like to think of what I will pass on, and how I will explain this season to my ever- questioning daughter.

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