Christmas isn't what it used to be. Maybe it's because I'm older now and my family (as in my Mom and my sister) don't exchange gifts anymore. It's like a Thanksgiving reprise. But that's okay with me. Christmas still has magic, and I rediscovered it when I took a look inside.
Somewhere along the line between graduating high school or college and the search for "a real job," we lose sight of what's always been important to us. Our parents tell us that it's all down hill on our 21st birthdays. Student loans start chiming in on our pockets. Friends and family grow apart, going separate ways. Our love interests/infatuations/significant others let us down time and time again, diminishing the romanticism we were raised on as children (think nearly every Disney or 80s John Hughes movie) into fermenting hopelessness and bitterness. Society tells us to break the bank buy a suit or a dress. We have an exhausting list of expectations to meet, and in order to do so, there's that one big thing that has to get left behind:
Think of what made Christmas morning magical. Even if you're family didn't have much, Mom and/or Dad took great strides to make your biggest wish come true. Wanted those Power Rangers action figures? Got 'em! Wanted that K'nex set? Yessss! Wanted those Simpsons DVDs (or VHS, depending on what decade you're from)? Let's watch it now! Super Mario Brothers? Let's play!
Yes, the gifts were a big part, but when you're a kid, you don't understand the context of those gifts. You don't realize the lines your parents had to wait in. You don't know how much of their salary they had already put away just in case things got tight fiscally come later in the year. That means they had to make sacrifices. And depending on which side of town you're from, it could have been a lot of sacrifices. But somehow, opening up the biggest box under the Christmas tree was magical. The anticipation was grand. Could it be what you wanted? How was it possible?
Newsflash: it wasn't Santa Claus.
Our parents put their selves aside. They pretended for years that another man you never met slid on down the chimney, ate some cookies you put out, and had the time to quietly wrap all those gifts on Christmas Eve night. At every single house. In the world. And he had a sleigh with reindeer...that could fly.
We used to believed that.
We stopped believing in Santa. We stopped believing in the magic of Christmas. We lost touch with the love our parents put in for us. The love lost its metaphor. We got older, and despite coming to a bigger understanding of 'reality,' we actually got a little greedy. Christmas became gimme gimme gimme. But then it also became grumble grumble grumble when it came time to shop.
All those long lines. All that consideration of what to buy. All that money spent. And all those sacrifices we had to make for others.
What a chore, right?
We made excuses and said we should treat ourselves. The distance from our families forced us to make off-holidays like Friendsgiving. All this under the duress of being an adult, thrust into a world of disenchantment.
Take a look at your favorite Christmas again. What's in your memory? The gifts you got, right? I'll admit, my favorite Christmas was in 1992. I was 6 years old, and it was when I got my Super Nintendo and a new TV to play it on. I played Super Mario Kart and Super Mario World and Legend of Zelda for hours with my sister. But you know what I wish I remembered about that day?
The look on my Mom's face.
I bet my Mom remembers what I looked like that day.
Christmas isn't about gifts. And buying a ton of presents. It's the look of love that blossoms when you give a present. Or a card. Or a simple hug accompanied by "Merry Christmas." We always forget what things we got for Christmas. But we remember how we spent it and who we spent it with.
For a while, I was annoyed with Christmas. I felt lonely because I'd end up alone by Christmas night: my Mom and my sister would go off to stay with their significant others. Friends would be out of town. And my younger cousins would call me and tell me about all the amazing things they got--they were a lot better off then I was. I was consumed with envy. They got to be with each other and play with their new toys while I had to sit in the room alone and watch movies wondering--what makes this damn holiday so special? This especially rang true when my grandmother passed away.
I dreaded Christmas for a long time. Hell, I'll admit it: I was afraid of Christmas.
That's when I realized: I should be happy that my mom and my sister have someone to be with. I should be happy that my cousins are lucky to have each other and new toys, and that they thought of me somewhere along those lines and had to tell me all about them. Christmas is so much about sacrifice and restoration, not just from our parents or our friends and significant others, but even in the Christian Bible. Whether you believe it or you think its metaphor at best, there's sacrifice all around that New Testament. A sacrifice was made in order to restore faith and joy. That's what Christmas is all about.
This Christmas, hold dear to the joy of others, that they have it, and trust that it will come to you even when it doesn't look so. And if that joy doesn't find to you, seek it out in others. Know that Christmas is even better as an adult when you take the time to look at it through other people's shoes. It's hard acknowledging that void, but take great stride to fill it, just like our parents filled the void underneath the flickering, glimmering Christmas trees.
I hope that you have someone in your life that brings you joy. If not, then I'd go so far as to be that person for you. Seriously, my contact information is here. I'm a click away.
What's your favorite Christmas memory? Tell us in the comments!