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Christmas parenting wisdom: 'It's Jesus' birthday, not yours'

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West Bend Daily News/AP

(Read caption) Christmas parenting wisdom: A family focus on togetherness is what kids remember more than gobs of presents. Here, Jerry Gellert rocked his granddaughter, Josie Greenhow, to sleep at the Festival of Trees in Polk, Wisc.

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“It’s Jesus' birthday, not yours.”

That statement was once said gently by my Grandfather Ralph Kochenderfer and repeated for years by other family members. Ralph was a reserved and kind man, but he had his priorities straight. He never missed an event his four children took part in. And he would even let them play hooky on good fishing days: With a lunch of oatmeal cookies and cheese they would spend the day by the creek.

But Christmas traditions were different.

Grandfather was Pennsylvania Dutch with what seemed like a significant Amish streak. A dignified and honorable man he kept all the secrets of his little town in South Dakota. As the railroad depot agent he was the telegrapher in town in the 1920s and '30s, so he knew the contents of every message sent and received.

While he did not believe in the frenzy over gifts he enjoyed the celebration.

The depot waiting room was the largest site in town and every year was the location for wonderful holiday parties – food, music, and spirit provided by everyone in town.

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