Christmas was my favorite holiday growing up. I was that kid who begged (to no avail) to open at least one gift on Christmas Eve and would wake up no later than 6:00 a.m. on Christmas day to see what St. Nicholas brought me. Yes, I believed in Santa Claus and I even left cookies and milk out for this mysterious man. Beautiful holiday decorations adorned my mother’s house along with our Black Santa figurine on the shelf and the Black angel that topped our tree. And for dinner, my family omitted the typical turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and the like for nontraditional food like pasta or chili, assuming that we would have had the standard cuisine for Thanksgiving.
I say all that to make it clear that growing up, the holidays meant a lot to me.
I can’t pinpoint the exact time as an adult, but I lost that love for Christmas. Of course, I stopped believing in Santa and instead of toys, I wanted clothes and money, but more than losing my childlike admiration for the excitement of the day, I realized that I really did not like Christmas anymore. It became more of a hassle than something to look forward to. Blame it on the materialism of it all.
I remember somewhere in my mid-20s, when money was low and I was in the midst of chasing my dreams, I constantly felt like I wasn’t prepared for the holiday. By prepared I mean, I didn’t have money to buy gifts. And if you come around loved ones not bearing gifts, it felt like you were going to be judged for it. Unfortunately, the stress of not being able to buy presents put a huge damper on my holiday spirit. And every year, even when I had the money to buy them, I found myself feeling more stressed about the holiday than excited. Instead of thinking about the true reason for the season, I was worried about the money needed to celebrate it.
At a certain point I also realized that Christmas has become too commercial. Instead of giving to those in need during this time, we are worried about giving and giving and giving to people who are doing just fine (and already have way too many things to be honest). So when I got married and started a family of my own, my husband and I decided to change things up. We weren’t going to “do” Christmas like everyone else. Instead, the holiday was going to be about truly giving, not shopping.
He didn’t grow up believing in Santa and I have no ties to the man, so Santa Claus will not be in our home. We do plan to buy a tree for the future and decorate our home, but our children are too little right now to understand what’s going on. Therefore, we’re holding off on the such things for now. Regarding presents, our kids will get gifts, but upon each toy received, they will have to donate a toy to a child in need.
A couple of years ago, our respective jobs participated in something called an “angel tree.” It allowed employees to donate gifts that certain children really wanted (toys) and needed (socks or a toothbrush). We both enjoyed giving to kids in need during the holiday season, so we have vowed to do that each year.
And even though we would rather only give to people in need, we still buy gifts here and there for loved ones. I guess you can say that while we’ve changed our outlook on Christmas, we still don’t want to be pinpointed as the only ones visiting family empty-handed. However, if a year comes where we just can’t do it (like this year), we’re not going to overextend ourselves to make it happen. Increasing our debt definitely won’t increase our holiday cheer.
Going about Christmas in this way, with less emphasis on spending money and more emphasis on spending time with loved ones while focusing on those in need, has rekindled a bit of my childlike excitement. It has allowed me to truly enjoy the holiday again.
Image via Shutterstock