The telling of a tale: Christmas stories teach, persuade, define us

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20 2012 5:40 p.m. MST

"The vicarious experiences generated by Greek tragedies, televised sitcoms and newspaper stories have all played an important role in expanding the scope of moral concern," Bloom wrote. "These can motivate us to think of distant people as if they were friends and family."

Some of the greatest teaching moments have been brought about by the telling of classic Christmas stories, lesser-known stories dealing with correlating themes, as well as stories of their own childhood Christmases and those passed down from parents and grandparents, said Rebecca Seamons, the mother of six in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

"Why does this story make you cry, Mama?" her daughter will ask, as she reads a story of a snowy Christmas Eve during World War I in devastated Europe. "Why did they stop fighting?" asks another. The discussion is bound to go in many directions — war, geography, peace, Christmas, traditions.

"The story is the starting point by which we can discuss what we would do when faced with a moral dilemma," Seamons said. "It gives us a way to work through it in a safe place."


The tradition of Christmas is rooted in one story, in particular — that of Christ's birth.

For those who believe in the divinity of Christ, this is a most crucial story that has shaped their lives, Kornplinker said. "It is not only a story shared by communities, but also a story that transforms us as individuals."

Jennifer Locken, mother of four in Cedar Hills, Utah, shares the Christmas story with her family every year by acting it out. She recalls playing a part when she was young, and loves watching her children do the same.

"It has become so very important to our family, religiously, as well as entertainingly," Locken said.

Michael Sheahan, author of "The Rooftop Hop," a children's Christmas book, remembers watching out the window, hoping he could catch a glimpse of Santa crossing the moon.

"There's something lasting about the ability for a child to believe — something definitive about it," Sheahan said. "It's a mindset you yearn to return to as you grow older."

What's in a story?

Every story has layers of meaning, Horst said. "A story like Hansel and Gretel you cannot even come to the bottom of. It grows with you."

Stories are what define us as human, said Bill Harley, a professional storyteller nominated for a seventh time for a Grammy recently. A story puts things in context. It gives us a pattern by which we can make sense of life.

Be sure to let a story breathe, Harley said. Adults are so obsessed about teaching kids lessons, when they should be giving kids as many stories as they can that have some honor in them. Children will pick and choose the stories they find resonance in.

“Someone needs to tell those tales," Erin Morgenstern wrote in the book "The Night Circus." "There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it.”

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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