Registers will chime and ring as holiday music plays over the speakers in malls and shops with ol’ Bing Crosby, Eartha Kitt and Nat King Cole, reminding everyone that Santa Clause is on his way, and “He’s checking his list, marking it twice, looking to see who is naughty or nice”…
It will be easy to get wrapped up in the dazzle of Christmas with it glittering lights, sparkling paper and tinsel as shoppers rush to and fro, gathering gifts for their loved ones.
Just as easily, for those who are struggling to make ends meet this year, feelings of panic and dread will ensue, as you wonder if you’ll have enough money to keep the family fed, let alone provide gifts. And that’s a tough feeling to navigate as a parent. You want your kids to be happy and feel loved. And the easiest way to show love is through gifts and abundance.
But the truth is, we’ve been conditioned to show love through gift giving. The bigger the gifts, the larger the pile, the more love you are offering.
The reality though, is that your kids won’t remember the gifts they received 10, 20 or 30 years from now. They won’t remember the stacks of presents under the tree, or how much money was spent.
You don’t remember, do you?
You remember the feeling of the holidays. The excitement and the warmth.
There was something magical about the first real snowfall, bringing with it Frosty the Snowman, as your family, or just you and your siblings, your friends, donned your winter clothes and ran out to build him with his little carrot nose and stick arms.
The warmth of holiday dinners, as friends and family popped in to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, dropping off pies, cookies, and chocolate treats, filled you up and touched your soul in a way you couldn’t quite appreciate at that age, but which carries you through now as an adult.
When I think back to the holidays of my youth, it truly isn’t the gifts I remember most. It’s the feeling. It’s the people who were there. The way we celebrated together, as a family. It’s the traditions that we looked forward to every year. It’s the hugs that carried the smell of Jack Frost mingling with perfume, cologne and a hint of tobacco that clung to winter jackets.
I remember the smells the most. The freshness of a newly cut tree. Dust on ornaments pulled from closets, like the smell of an old but cherished book. The instant coffee in my parents mugs. The aroma of the Yorkshire pudding that would accompany dinner. The cinnamon candles that only came out at Christmas time.
I remember the excitement and anticipation of visitors. Aunties and grandparents, and family friends who came to wish us a happy holiday and share in the Christmas spirit. Visiting cousins for our annual family get-together at my aunties as we’d run around playing games, hide and seek, and pulling apart the Christmas crackers to wear our paper crowns. The family gathering, shoulder to shoulder, squeezing in closer, as someone set up the camera to get the best group photo.
I remember the magic that came with decorating for the holidays. Dad hauling in our tree, setting it up in the corner, our furniture re-arranged into something new so it would fit. Pulling out the ornaments that twinkled and glittered; The delicate glass and the handcrafted wooden ones that belonged to a generation before. And the Precious Moments keepsake bulbs gifted each Christmas since we were born.
I remember our special Christmas mugs with Santa in red and green, filled with hot chocolate and tiny marshmallows as we watched our favourite holiday cartoons in our pj’s before bed. And mom reading “The Night Before Christmas”, as we all snuggled on my brothers bed, our old husky at our feet.
And when the house was quiet, I remember tip-toeing out to the tree to watch the lights twinkle between the branches, reflecting off the silver tinsel, and checking to see if Santa drank his milk, ate his cookies and took the carrots we laid out got his reindeer.
Although there is the occasional memory regarding a special or unique gift that stuck through the years, it was the special moments that I didn’t know were special, that warm my heart the most. It’s those memories that fill my cup, bring me joy, and remind me as an adult, what truly matters most…
If you are a parent struggling this year, don’t worry about the gifts. Focus on the little moments… walk through candy cane lane and oooh and ahhhh over houses decorated for the holidays. Build a snowman or snow castle. Join the kids as they toboggan down the hill, and bring a thermos of hot cocoa. Involve them in decorating the tree, baking cookies and encourage them to make Christmas cards for friends and family, filling them with messages of love and gratitude for their presence in your lives.
These are the moments your kids will remember. Not the gifts.
Give them the gift of Magic.