I’m not a scrooge or a Grinch by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think I’m quite the opposite. The idea of the holidays makes me almost giddy like a kid. I love the lights, the music, watching A Christmas Story over and over again. I look forward to the food, the wine… I don’t even mind the wrapping or even the cooking (which I normally despise).
What I don’t like about the holiday is seeing pictures of everyone’s trees. No wait, let me rephrase that…I love seeing pictures of trees and how individual they all are. I love seeing the decorated houses and living rooms full of people. It’s those pictures of the overflowing stacks of presents that I can’t stand.
Posting a picture on social media with your tree with a few gifts strategically placed underneath is one thing…it’s the shots of the living rooms that look like the tree gave birth to a Toys R Us that’s disturbing. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that scream, “look how much we love our kids!”. Or in actuality, “look how materialistic we are!”
It bothers me, not because I can’t give my children a lavish Christmas, but because I choose not to. I’m not into keeping up with the Joneses or trying to outdo all the other moms on social media. I definitely don’t want to post pictures with a overflowing tree that says my kid is spoiled. Instead of focusing on gifts, I want them to realize what Christmas is really about.
We’re not religious, so it really has nothing to do with the birth of Christ or anything for our family (although many people emphasize that and that’s also refreshing). What I’ve hoped to give the kids is the idea that Christmas (and all the holidays) are about family and traditions. Being with the people you love and spending time with them, good, bad, or all out insane. I want them to enjoy Christmas Eve like I did when I was young…looking forward to so much more than gifts. I want them to look back in years from now and remember decorating the tree and playing with their cousins and going Christmas caroling. Putting the emphasis on “getting” sets them up for disappointment. It’ll never be enough if they’re constantly wishing for “things”.
I don’t recall the gifts of 1987, but it was my last Christmas with my grandfather and I remember the events of that holiday vividly. I can’t remember what I got for Christmas in 1997, but I do know it was my first holiday that my husband and I hosted together. I remember everyone at my house and the joy it brought me (and the stress too). I don’t remember what gifts I received for much of my childhood (except that Hot Wheels City in 1983…that was the best gift EVER), but I do remember the games of Scattergories and the driving around to see the Christmas lights and Nana’s Christmas Struffoli. I remember the Feast of the Seven Fishes and the laughter and quite often…the tears.
Because it’s not always fine and dandy. Along with the joy came a lot of flipped over card tables and shattered glass. There was yelling and once…a broken nose. But that was the family I remember. They weren’t perfect, but they were mine, and I treasure the memories with them because many, many of them are no longer here…some are missing in body and others in spirit.
Those gifts the kids rip into in ten minutes flat (after endless nights of wrapping), will probably be next year’s garbage. What stays with them is the memories. The memories of eating cookies for breakfast of Christmas morning and the tradition of brunch at Grandma’s. Memories of Christmas pageants and a surprise visit from Santa on Christmas Eve. The memories of finally beating Grandma in a game of War or the year they were old enough to graduate from the kids’ table.
Take pictures, of course…you’ll want to pull out the bad hair pictures for their future spouses someday. Snap shots with their favorite gifts, too. Get the looks on their faces…those are priceless. Take pictures of them getting along with each other or actually sharing their gifts with each other. Get pictures of the simple moments that you want to remember for a lifetime. This Christmas, capture the joy…not the materialism.