We've had some great in-depth conversations about Christmas in our home lately.
Patrick has fond memories of Christmas as a young child, when the simplest things captured his imagination.
I have fond memories of delivering boxes of little presents, a turkey, other fun food items including baked goods my mom helped us make, leaving them on the doorstep of a family that needed a little extra something, knocking on their door on Christmas Eve, and running away before we could be discovered.
Christmas has its own unique memories and feelings for every individual, and quite often, as adults, the commercial gift-giving aspect of Christmas can taint what this holiday is all about. It begins with all of the stores setting up their Christmas displays in the middle of November, if not earlier, and continues on through Christmas Day with the frustrating traffic and business at stores, the impatience of other shoppers, the list of presents to give that cost more than the allotted budget, thousands of commercials telling us to buy-buy-buy, etc. Christmas can easily become a huge list of wants presented to Santa accompanied by the expectations of society, the media, our social network, and our family. The simple need of feeling and expressing pure love to everyone we encounter is often overlooked, or overshadowed by the superficial flurry.
As a young couple planning on starting a family very soon, we have discussed what we would like Christmas to be all about in our home. Our hope is to make sure that the Spirit of Christ is greater than the Spirit of Christmas. Simplicity and Service will be our focus.
I've heard some great ideas over the last month from other families and my own in how to refocus Christmas.
My parents have expressed that they would like their children and grandchildren to come up with some act of service and love to do for someone this season and to write them a letter expressing what we did and how we feel about the experience. I love this idea, although it can be a challenge to choose what we want to do. :)
An older couple from church shared that this year they aren't giving gifts to their children or grandchildren, and aren't accepting gifts from them either. As a family, they are going to pick names from and Angel Tree, find gifts for those individuals who are in need, and give as a family to someone else.
A guy who eats at the restaurant where I work has 2 little boys, and he and his wife have taught their boys that Santa isn't a person; Santa is the Spirit of Giving. So, the boys can make a list of 3 things that they want, and they broke it down into categories that I can't remember. I think it was something along the lines of a necessity, something bigger that they really want, and something educational. They also make sure they participate in volunteering at a homeless shelter, donating food to the food banks, and anything else like that. He did say that in theory it sounds simple and easy, but in practice, it can be a challenge. Especially when the grandparents want to spoil the kids rotten. :)
Patrick and I talked about limiting the number of gifts that our kids can ask for as well. I think of the first Harry Potter movie where on Dudley's birthday, he gets upset that he has one less gift than the huge number of gifts he received the previous birthday, so his parents tell him they'll get him 2 more gifts that day. Frivolity. At its worst. And I'm pretty sure we all laughed and thought, "what a spoiled little shit!" Yet, for just about everyone, it's easy to have that same attitude without even realizing it. You can say, "Nuh-uhhh!" but chances are, you probably enable that attitude in someone else, too. :)
My ex-husband was alllll about getting a lot of gifts. I'd end up buying a lot of little gifts for him so he would feel good about unwrapping a lot of presents. Why did I enable that attitude??
When I was a kid, I remember asking Santa for a pink bike with a white basket and ribbons hanging off the handle bars. I was actually pissed that the bike I did get was purple, and I can't even remember if it had a basket or ribbons. So silly.
I heard a story years ago about a family that would open their presents Christmas morning, and each of the children would choose one of their brand new presents to give to a family in need. They would wrap them back up and deliver a box full of presents to a family with kids that wouldn't otherwise get much. I love that idea!
So, this year, we may or may not get a tree, and we probably won't exchange presents as a couple. We'll focus on giving to others, especially giving our love, time, service, and anything else that we can give.
Recently Patrick and I read in The Book of Mormon, Mosiah chapter 4, which talks about giving. Verse 26 always stands out to me:
Mosiah - Chapter 4
26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
What a beautiful reminder. :)
I am so grateful for the comfortable life that Patrick and I are able to live. We have most of our needs met, and we try to be aware of our many blessings and that the origin of our blessings is unquestionably our Heavenly Father. Without Him, we would have nothing; be nothing. Fortunately, He is a loving god, and everything about us is evidence of that.
I hope you all have a special Christmas and that you feel the Spirit of Christ, not just this month, but hopefully daily. Life is beautiful, and there's plenty of wonder and goodness to go all around!