Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Ho ho ho!" to "No, no, no!"

I remember being a kid, and how the weeks before Christmas seemed to drag on, and on...and on...It was like the holiday purposefully slowed down the month, and Christmas day seemed years away.

I also remember writing letters to Santa, and getting excited, wondering what kind of loot I would get come Christmas morning.

After I stopped believing in Santa, I would tell my parents what I wanted, and the anticipation was just as great. Nothing like getting loads of stuff!


I remember one year, I wrote down everything I wanted (I think I was asked to, I'm not sure), and sort of blandly handed it to Mom. I wasn't expecting to get everything that was on my list (not that I asked for anything super fancy...I think I asked for a Barbie, a book, and some clothes). Mom and Dad weren't exactly Mr. and Mrs. Howell, and I had never gotten everything my greedy hopeful little heart wanted.

On Christmas morning, I got the shock of a lifetime: I got everything on that list.

And you know something? I felt sort of robbed.

That year, I got everything my little heart could come up with to wish for, and once those desires were satisfied, I was left feeling empty.

Fast forward twenty years.

I am now in the middle of December, and I'm quite disgusted by all the marketing that's going on. Is it just me, or does it seem worse than previous years? There is no end to people trying to pawn off stuff to everybody, whether they need it or not, and the masses are scrambling to fill up the empty space underneath their trees.

It's completely absurd.

Why do we feel like we have to buy all sorts of stuff?

I think it's wrong.

I mean, who's birthday is it anyway? And if you aren't a Christian, why are you randomly giving presents at the end of the year? What's the point? And if you are a Christian, why are you not celebrating Christ's birth,  instead of celebrating the shameless reign of commerce that tells us to glut ourselves and spend money we shouldn't be, and normally wouldn't?

Now, before you call me a Scrooge (and, by the way, he didn't, in the end, go and buy Bob an iPad after he had a change of heart. He gave the man something more valuable: Food, and a way to support his large family by giving him a raise), I have bought presents for my kids this year. I have two presents for each of them. And I really struggled to contain myself and not buy them all sorts of stuff that they really don't need (and I'm not the only one...it seems to be an epidemic. I have heard so many people say how they feel compelled to buy their kids whatever their kids want, even if it is too expensive). But, what am I teaching them? That on one day a year, they have a right to go crazy and start ripping colorful paper (which I normally wouldn't let them do, since paper is paper, and once you open the ripping paper door, your poor books are in for a walloping), revel in their loot, and for what? A fostered and false sense of entitlement? Is that a true celebration of Christ? And if you aren't celebrating Christ's birth, and are celebrating Winter Solstice or Hannukah, why do you ruin it by muddying the spirit of it all with junk?
And if your kid really, really wants that Bratz doll, that is a perfect opportuinity to teach them patience, and that they have their own birthday to pin their hopes on. For heaven's sake, leave Christ's birth his. Leave Hannukah the Festival of Lights, and please leave that poor Winter Solstice peaceful and serene.

And, really, of all the presents I recieved as a child, which do I still have today? NONE OF THEM. Because I outgrew that Barbie, sad to say.

The things I cherish and remember are the times we spent as a family. What is the one thing that has followed me all these years? Swedish meatballs.

Sounds simple enough, but those Swedish meatballs (which aren't Swedish meatballs...Dad just called them that one year and it stuck, and before you argue with me, Mom said so herself) represented my sweet mommy working in the kitchen during those Christmas seasons, and her love formed each of those little balls of meat, her love cooked them (with help from the oven), and her love saturated them as she soaked them in the gravy.

Ask anybody in my family, and they'll say that was the best part of Christmas.

It still is.

What matters most at Christmastime is family, not random junk.

It's time to start new traditions, and ones that don't involve hours spent at the mall, or sleep lost the day after Thanksgiving, or weaving our way through Wal-Mart parking lots.

Let's start them in the kitchen by making cookies, or in the family room playing games, or outside in the snow making a snowman. Let THAT be your Christmas gift to your family, and to yourself.

Because Barbie's come and go, but family is forever. Or it should be.
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