These past couple of years I have felt a shift inside myself. I’ve really started to look at life through a different lens.
Now that I’m a mommy, I started to think back to my favorite Christmas memories. I became flooded with a handful that warmed my heart, as my husband and I discussed what traditions we want to create with our little family.
What I remember most is threading popcorn on a string at 3 years old when my parents were still together. I remember poking my little fingers with the needle over and over again (since the thimble was too big for me) but being way too excited to stop. I remember all of us wrapping tin foil around a cardboard star and decorating it with glitter and paint and then glowing at the end result. This star would be our Christmas star for years and years to come, and when my parent’s separated, my siblings and I recreated the sentiment again. I remember sneaking pieces of homemade dough into my mouth and feeling the grit of the salt as we made homemade clay ornaments while watching “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “The Year Without A Santa Clause.” We’d sing Christmas songs in the kitchen while baking cookies and as we drove to pick out our Christmas tree.
I remember family time.
What I don’t remember is what I received when I opened up my gifts.
I’ve had 26 Christmases so far. I don’t remember what I got.
As I grew older, more materialistic and shallow, I do remember being left with feelings of disappointment if I didn’t receive that one gift that I thought I just had to have. One year I think it was perfume. Another was a CD or two.
I never showed it, my family is way too old school and we were taught to show appreciation even if you hate it. But inside, I would feel duped.
I’m embarrassed by this because my family was big. I’m one of 6 children now that my dad has remarried but before that, there were 4 of us kids. That’s a lot of gifts. A lot of wants to try to fulfill. That’s a lot of money.
After living a little longer, experiencing more loss and hurt, (and love,) I have found that my focus was so very skewed and it consequently stole precious moments from me.
I wish those years I realized the gifts I already had.
Instead of reveling in the silly |things| that I opened, or secretly angry about the things I didn’t, I should have been snuggling up with my older brother as he slept on the couch on Christmas morning, something he always would do just after presents. I should have been taking pictures of us while there were still 4 of us, while he was still alive. I should have been asking my Dad to dance with me in the living room to Christmas music and memorizing his smile and the lines on his face. I should have been sipping tea with my Grandma and truly indulging in her wisdom and truth.
I had foolishly believed in the world’s lies. That we need tangible things to feel validated and special. That to show people you love them, you must buy them something and tie it tightly with a big red bow.
I don’t anymore. I don’t believe that. I want to remember forevermore what this day truly is about.
For me, it’s about Jesus. And love. And grace. And even if you aren’t a believer, if you delight in the magic of Santa and his little elves, take a moment to let go of the stress of the season and remember why those traditions started in the first place: to bring light to those who bring goodness to the world. It is not bratty teenagers who Santa brought gifts to. It was the children, those who had nothing at all to offer the world but their love and good heart.
This year my husband and I decided not to subscribe to the idea that “bigger is better.”
We talked long and hard about these things and decided that yes, we always want our son to have a few gifts to open on Christmas morning–there is so much magic in that. But what is more important to us is that he knows what Christmas is truly about. The birth of Jesus, the gift of His grace to the world and to us. The beauty of Santa’s legacy. The gift of love and time. Family.
That’s what’s most important to us, isn’t it?
Those are the things that you carry with you throughout your life that make you truly happy. Those are the things you’ll hold onto when you’re old and gray. Not things.
So seriously. Don’t buy me gifts on Christmas. Instead, give me the gift of love and time. Time with you, time with my son, time together, and time with myself. Write me sentimental letters and give me photographs of memories. But don’t spend a second stressing about what I’d want, how you’ll afford that, or when you’ll find the time to do any of it during the hustle of this season. What I want is simple. And it is always free.
With love and light,