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Toys that teach

Original post made on Dec 22, 2013

Forget the Xboxes and the Wiis. Building toys — from Lego sets to tiny robots that light up — have always been the most popular holiday gifts for children, according to local toy store owners.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, December 22, 2013, 10:47 AM

Comments (3)

Posted by Jan, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I love the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse ..In it you can grow a real house plant that moves and closes its leaves when you Tickle It...love the fun activity ideas it comes with.


Posted by Simple Gifts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm

"We have a lot of inter-faith families who celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas"

I wonder why we've all become so balled up about Christmas in recent years. Christmas is both a secular and a religious holiday. Although in some parts of the world, the gift-giving retains its religious connection (gifts come from the Christkind in Switzerland, for example), the spiritual celebration of Christmas is in essence non-material, and as such, much of the materialism is even seen as in conflict with the religious. Santa Claus is no more a religious figure because it comes from St. Nikolaus than Valentine's Day is because of St. Valentine.

I saw evidence of this weird divide recently when I attended a school book fair. There were books about Hanukkah, with religious theme, but every last book about Christmas had to do with Santa Claus, winter themes -- anything but the actual message of religious Christmas celebrations. I just find it really strange, then, that people lump secular Christmas celebrations in with that and treat it like it's some kind of religious third rail.

The Christmas trees, the lights, decorations, wreaths, and most of the yule traditions predate Christianity and come from pagan winter solstice celebrations that create community in the heart of winter. When I buy gifts for strangers through programs at school and church, I don't make any religious connections to that, it's just buying gifts for someone at Christmas, not based on a religious connection or whether they celebrate the religious holiday. Certainly people also have religious decorations and imagery at Christmas, since for them, Christmas is also a religious celebration. But - as a Christian myself - I don't connect shopping for gifts or decorating, making the cookies for Santa, singing Jingle Bells, etc, to the religious celebration of Christmas. We go to church, read from the story in Luke with candles on Christmas Eve, try to remember what is important, etc., and that is our religious observance of Christmas. It's not really connected in any religious way to opening the gifts on Christmas morning and eating junk food while watching football the rest of the day (though we try to connect the "remembering what's important" to that).

Christmas traditions are fun. I know people of many faiths who put up trees and celebrate them, and I don't know why in recent years, we've all been made to feel weird about that, since the community/secular holiday is really not really religious. But because we've been made to feel weird about it, Halloween has been growing as a community holiday -- celebrating horror? ugh. I have as much fun at Halloween as anyone else, but I just think a holiday about giving, sharing, lights, community, warmth -- we shouldn't deprive ourselves of that because some people also have a religious holiday that joined the communal one 2,000 years ago.

P.S. We LOVE the game Apples to Apples. We're giving Jenga this year, too.


Posted by opus, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Christmas is a Christian holiday.

Almost all of Christianity has roots that predate it: heaven and hell, god/virgin coupling, impact of current life on everlasting afterlife, rising from the dead, miracles, original sin, etc. That doesn't make these things any less Christian.

Different people focus on different aspects of the holiday and it's celebration; ritual is as legitimate as philosophy in the context of celebrating Christmas. And, yes, the focus chosen by an individual is telling.

I think the rub is the impact, direct and indirect and now pernicious, of money and politics through media on this focus.

This impact of money and politics can bring certain aspects of the holiday to the fore as being ends in themselves, when they otherwise would represent deeper experience.

And I agree this should be fought against.


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