Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Ho! Ho! Ho!
Halt! Rewind. Over the last few days as I tip-toed around the web, mostly what I've read about is how stressful the holidays are...and how tired people are feeling. There's dread and irritation instead of joy and anticipation. What happened?
You say there's no money this year? I'll share something with you. In the last sixty-two years, I don't recall a single year--not one--where money was plentiful. Unlike some people, we didn't have credit cards. Still don't. If we don't have the money in the bank...then we don't have it. That never stopped Christmas from arriving at our house. Some years there were more gifts than others. Some years our dinner was courtesy of the local food pantry (and thank God they were there!) But that isn't what Christmas is about, anyway.
When I was a girl, Christmas centered around the church and the religious celebration. I think because the focus was on giving rather than getting, the celebrations were very different.
Christmas was going Christmas caroling with friends and family. We carried lanterns (and then as I grew older, flashlights) and stopped every few houses as we walked, sang two or three carols and moved on. Most of the time, people came outside to listen. Sometimes they joined in the singing. Once in a while they offered us hot chocolate or cookies.
Christmas was baking cookies with the entire family. The kids carefully cut them out with the special Christmas cutters and decorated them with colored sugar. When they were cool, they were boxed up and wrapped so the kids could deliver them to friends and neighbors along with that year's Christmas card.
Christmas was decorating the tree. When the kids were born, we started a tradition of adding a new ornament for each of them every year. They were dated with a marker. And then, the year they left home, their ornaments went along with them so they'd have something familiar for their personal celebration. With four kids, there were a lot of ornaments by the time they left home. We always found a place for them on the tree. And every ornament had a story.
When the grandchildren came along, we continued the tradition. Some years our grandchildren were actually living with us when Christmas rolled around. And decorating the tree was still part of the tradition.
Arranging the Nativity in a place of honor was always a tradition. So much so, that the year my daughter's family lived with us, the grandkids gave up one of "their" tables so we'd have a place to put it. And then once it was all arranged, it was time to read the Christmas story directly from the source...Luke 2:1-20. For several years, I recited that from memory as my part in the Christmas play at church.
Christmas is about memories. And celebration. And giving. I think we've forgotten that in the gimme, gimme world created by the media and retail world. There's nothing wrong with receiving gifts. But frankly, how much stuff do we need? I don't remember the last time I received more than two or three gifts. Total. Most of them were from the Dollar Store. Because that's what the givers could afford. I still have them because it really is the thought that counts.
Our entire Christmas Gift budget for sixteen people is two hundred and fifty dollars. Most of that will be used to purchase gift cards because my children and parents live in other states. The hunk and I don't exchange gifts at all. Once a year--usually in the spring or fall--we'll choose to purchase something we especially desire and we'll call it our Christmas and anniversary gift to each other.
Instead of worrying about what we're getting, why not teach our children the true spirit of Christmas. Propose that they give the equivalent of one of their gifts to someone who isn't going to have a Christmas. Nope, I'm not advocating that parents toss more money on the debt pile by buying additional toys. Let your children make a conscious decision to forfeit one of their gifts so someone else will have something to open Christmas morning. Many kids have far more stuff than they can possibly play with already. There are innumerable places from churches to Toys for Tots that would gladly take your child's donation.
I suspect the true reason so many people are out of sorts and not feeling the Christmas spirit is because they've forgotten that shopping really isn't the reason for the season.