The holiday season, a time to gather with friends and family, count our blessings, overindulge in delicious feasts and for many of us go into debt to start off the new year.
From the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, until New Years , evidently there are huge discounted sales after Christmas, but I avoid the big box stores like the plague during that time, spending money is pounded into our heads everywhere we look. Every radio break, every commercial, our mailboxes, magazines, bill boards and computer/phone screens are constantly shouting at us "buy this" no "buy that."
How did this time of the year turn into such a commercialized push to purchase the perfect gift and decorate in just the right way? What happened to the meaning of the holidays being about celebrating the birth of Jesus, spending time with loved ones and finding ways to give back in the community.
As young parents my husband and I often found ourselves spending every red cent that we could get our hands on to buy gifts for our children. We would never do anything for each other and would spend the week between Christmas and New Years broke and waiting for payday. Luckily we didn't ever run up a bunch of credit we would spend months paying off, but it still made for some sleepless nights as we worried about money and whether we had done enough for the kids each Christmas season.
I'm not sure whether we ever sat down and spoke about a conscious decision to change our methods, we didn't as far as I remember, but things slowly changed around our house. After a few years of watching the children tear through all of their presents in record time, tossing aside items and the young one sometimes literally needing a break from unwrapping because he was sick of it, we began to do things differently.
It wasn't an immediate change. It started with mom and dad each getting a stocking of goodies to open with the kids, then it turned into the big gift in the house being a present for the whole family. These days everyone in the family gets a few things they can enjoy. We don't have a set rule like some families have (something you need, something to wear, something to read, something you want etc,) but we try to be very thoughtful in what we do for the kids, quality over quantity I guess you would say. And we have slowly made a lot of our own little traditions over the years that are truly what make the holiday special like family movies and game nights on Christmas Eve while gorging on finger foods.
I know we are doing the right thing. Our children seem to appreciate everything they get more then they did before because more thought is put into all of it, the mornings are more relaxing and we don't have to see our youngest child's concerned face because he feels bad that mom and dad don't have presents under the tree. But that doesn't mean there haven't been times where I questioned how we do Christmas. Sometimes I hear the long list of gifts my fiends children receive or see their cousins arrive with all sorts of the latest and greatest gadgets listing off their long lists of gifts and worry that my children will feel like they get the crappy end of things. Deep down though I know that receiving items isn't the reason we celebrate. Just the other day as my son and I watched all of the Black Friday commercials he suddenly piped up with "don't they know getting presents isn't what Christmas is about" I thought he was going to add the old line "giving is the reason for the season" cliche, but he didn't. Instead he looked at me very seriously and said it is about loving Jesus and God and spending time with your family. Sometimes I think that eight year old might be one of the wisest souls I have ever met.
The two of us are better off then we were when our children were really young and could now afford to do more for them at Christmas and still do something for ourselves, but I don't see us going back to spending exorbitantly on the holidays anytime soon. We have all come to love our simple little holidays and am happy with how we do it.