What is Christmas exactly? Is it a day? Is it an idea? A thought? A belief? A feeling?
When I was a kid, Christmas was a lot about the presents. I feel like for many kids it was the same. We cared about the things. We wanted the things. We enjoyed unwrapping the things and the anticipation of what each would turn out to be. A new video game? A book? Candy? It was always exciting to see what your family thought would delight you. In my family, we always had a large gathering with the relatives the weekend before or after Christmas, depending on what worked out the best. We would then have the smaller gathering of just immediate family on Christmas Eve. And then there was Christmas Day, filled with the excitement of seeing what Santa brought during the night.
But as I got older, the presents started to matter less and less. I no longer cared as much about the things, especially once I got close to finishing high school. Honestly I feel like the whole gifts thing gets overblown, especially by television ads. Just the other day I saw this commercial that was all about the anticipation for Christmas Day, featuring a little girl and her family. It was full of all these nice scenes of togetherness and the Christmas atmosphere of fun and love. Then at the end? The Wal-Mart logo appears.
And all I can think is “the only reason they made that ad was to get you to buy more things.”
The exercise of buying gifts is often a frustration in itself. It’s sometimes hard to find the right gift for someone, especially if they don’t really have anything they want (I know I’ve been guilty of this many times). And then, when you have multiple people to buy gifts for, you can become consumed by this idea that if you don’t spend the same amount of money on people, it somehow implies that you care less about one person than another, a notion that is constantly reinforced (intentionally or otherwise) by all the Christmas ads you are bombarded with. You think “if I don’t buy enough of the things, people won’t like me as much and I’ll seem like a jerk.”
In a lot of ways I feel like Christmas became far too materialistic. For me Christmas stopped being about the gifts a long time ago. It stopped being about the things. Instead, the only thing I really cared about on Christmas after a while is the feeling it invokes. For some reason or another, Christmas cools the blood and makes us feel happy. For just one day, we can forget all the hate and anger that fills the world and focus on the things that make us feel good.
Christmas isn’t about the presents. Christmas isn’t about a religious messiah. It’s about remembering all the lovely things in the world. It’s about being together with your family, something I’ll get to do for the first time in a couple of years (I haven’t been able to spend Christmas Day with my family the past two years, due to my work schedule and where Christmas fell on the calendar).
So when you wake up on Christmas morning, look out your window and see the land covered in snow (or not, which is the more likely scenario this year), remember the things that bring you joy. Think about the things that make you happy. Don’t focus on all the bad in the world. Don’t drown yourself in politics and debates. Don’t worry about where you’re going to get the money to pay the bills. Let all of that go for the day. Just spend time having fun. Read a good book. Watch a movie. Play some video games. Far too often we get caught up in the busy world around us. We get caught up in our work. We get caught up in our responsibilities. But for one day, we can let that all go.
This is what Christmas is to me: a day to relax, have fun, and spend time with the people you care about the most.
That’s all I have for this week. I’ll be back next Wednesday with another post, but until then enjoy the holidays!