In this season of stockings hung by the chimney, presents under the tree, and multitudes of ads telling us just what we need to buy for our loved ones or to ask them to buy for us, it can be easy to get caught up in trying to purchase the perfect Christmas. We ask our children to make Christmas lists, and we want to give them as many of the things they want as we can. We search for just the right presents, and we agonize over our choices (see Jennifer Flaten’s post on gift-giving anxiety here.) And many of us go into debt and spend the rest of the year paying off those Christmas purchases.
Some of that is understandable. We want to give things to the people we love. We express that love in a shower of presents.
But the overwhelming emphasis on piles of presents sometimes seems like too much. I wonder if the accumulation of packages means that each one loses a little of its value. I remember my parents talking about the joys of getting oranges at Christmas when they were children. That was the only time they had them, so the simple gift of that citrus fruit most of us take for granted was something special.
My favorite Christmas memories are about experiences, not individual presents. Like walking through the snow with my dad into the woods on our farm to cut a Christmas tree. Like looking for bittersweet to put in a vase. Like painting sycamore balls or stringing popcorn with my sisters. Like making cookies with my mother. Like decorating the tree with cookie cutouts made using a regular molasses cookie recipe and having them drop off the tree one by one as they softened from the moisture in the air and broke at the hole for the hook. That was my worst Christmas tree decorating idea ever—and, yes, it was my idea. My mother just went along with me. My family laughed every time we heard a cookie plop. Of course, sometimes the experience and the present were rolled into one—like the year my sister gave me a big-pawed puppy. That experience lasted for years.
The real presents of Christmas are the presence of our families and friends, the memories of those we’ve lost but still cherish, and the peace and faith and love embodied in the season.
Wishing you the merriest of Christmases, filled with presence!
Popcorn picture from http://blog.justpoppin.com/20130911/projects/back-to-school-popcorn-crafts-091389
Bittersweet picture from http://www.bettyongardening.com/horticultural-hints/horticultural-hints-november/oriental-bittersweet-produces-flowers-and-berries-along-the-length-of-the-vine/