I am going to share a very personal secret, one that is sure to be contrary to many of you. But, you may as well know, I often don’t like this time of the year, the Christmas season.
Yes, I know the songs sing of “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” and “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas” and yada-yada-yada.
And it truly is a season to celebrate of the birth of a baby in a manager.
Yet that part, THE MOST IMPORTANT PART, often gets lost in the hustle and the bustle of the busiest time of the year.
Instead, the focus becomes one of “I’ve got to…”
“I’ve got to get a tree.” Not just any tree, it must be the PERFECT tree. And with the tree comes hauling the lights and decorations out of their year-long storage place, and testing lights, and replacing strands that have burned out. It often leads to re-arranging furniture to make room for a tree which takes the center stage for the next few weeks. There is then a whole discombobulated feeling for a few days as everything is in the ‘wrong’ place.
“I’ve got to …” attend the programs and the parties and the plays and the performances. I love to see the talents of the children as they sing and recite lines and play instruments. I praise their accomplishments and am so proud of the work they have done to get performance-ready. I love to attend their events. But sometimes this month, this Christmas month, resembles the popular Volkswagen stuffing of the 1950′s. How much can we cram into this month? How many Christmas parties can we attend? How many evenings in a row do we have a rushed dinner to fly out the door, and hurry, hurry, to the next event?
And don’t forget, often a party means bring a plate of cookies or a dish to pass. “I’ve got to…” stop at a store to purchase the ingredients to make another treat for another gathering. And the pressure is on to make the perfect dish to take. And don’t forget, the little one needs new tights to go with the perfect outfit, and she needs the scuff marks cleaned off her shoes to look perfect, and he needs a haircut to look perfect and…… everything must be perfect to have the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas.
The biggest of all, though, is, of course, the presents. “I’ve got toget my shopping done,” “I’ve got to.. buy one more thing”, “I’ve got to get them all wrapped and sent out, and hope I didn’t forget anyone, and ….yada-yada-yada.”
I love to buy things for my family. I pick up little things here and there throughout the year, when I come across something I think someone might want or need. A package of three crew neck white t-shirts on sale, a reduced price pair of jeans for another, the soon-to-be-discounted line of socks, a Buy-one, Get-one deal…..little things at an affordable price to share with others. I love to give gifts to my family. I don’t, however, enjoy the little comments that make December shopping seem like drudgery, the little “I’ve got this one done, and can scratch him off my list.” and the “I’ve got to buy for this one and that one yet, and then I will finally be done.”
I realize it is difficult to find the perfect gift at a perfect price, I realize the holiday season takes its toil in spending extra time that you don’t have looking for those great deals to save some of that extra money that you don’t have to find the perfect gift for every single person on your list. But if you don’t enjoy it, if you don’t like it, then don’t do it. Don’t whine and complain and bemoan that you HAVE to get them a gift. If you don’t like the crowded stores, order something on-line. Or even better, make something at home. If you don’t have the finances to spend on a slew of gifts, then don’t feel obligated to buy. Or buy less. Where is the joy in gift-giving when you have grumbled about having to buy yet another one?
Some of the best memories we have of Christmas-pasts are not of gifts purchased by racking up dollars on a credit card, but of the low-cost creativity used to come up with gifts. One year my husband crafted two little doll cradles out of scrap wood while I pieced together crazy quilts from leftover material from other projects. Dolls purchased from McClellan made a wonderful, albeit low cost gifts that were treasured by our oldest daughters.
One year we perused an Army surplus store and all three boys received camo pants and metal ammo boxes to hold all their secret treasures. They loved them, and though the pants are long out-grown, the boys, now men, still have and use their boxes, which now hold different kinds of treasures.
One year with the most laughs was the year we had three college students, who, like most typical students, were cash-strapped. One collected freebies from various health fairs, expos, etc, throughout the year, and then presented her siblings with CMU t-shirts, Frisbee, footballs, etc- all at no cost. Another saw a free book give-away at his college library, and chose a volume for each of his siblings, something that had to do with their individual interests.
They based their gift-giving on love, and careful thought of the recipient, and not on how much was spent, or that they felt they HAD to get a gift. They gave because they wanted to, not because they felt obligated.
The purpose of the season isn’t about “I’ve got to have everything perfect.” yet that is often what takes the focus of this month. It is so easy to get caught up in that snare, and then have the stress and anxiety of trying to reach that goal in just a few short weeks of December.
Where is the “Joy to the World” when you have customers angry that their lay-away was not generously paid off by strangers? Where is the joy when customers are trampled in that rush to get the limited number of big screen t.v.s? Where is the joy when well-intended businesses sponsor Angel trees, but the employees grumble as they purchase gifts to fulfill those needs?
The point of the holiday is to celebrate. Celebrate the birth of the baby, celebrate time spent with family and friends.
I’m afraid we are missing the point.