The Monday before Christmas and we’re in full swing preparing for The Big Day. Christmas is my favorite time of year, with the decorations, the songs, the lights, the traditions…it’s fantastic.  Christmas as a parent is so much different than it was when I was growing up.  As a kid, Christmas is glorious, free of worry and philisophical thinking.  Your job is to attempt to sleep on Christmas Eve, wait as long as you can before you creep downstairs in the morning to look at the haul under the tree.  Then it’s a flurry of paper and toys and wishes come true.

Christmas is so much more complicated as an adult.  Not only are there the to-do lists that seem endless, but I am faced with the responsibility to teach my kids what Christmas is actually about.  And it’s not “magic” or “togetherness” or “family” or “being kind to others” or “giving”.  Those things are all really nice and great things to teach kids, but Christmas is about the birth of Christ is it not?  Yes, it’s true that celebrating in December is not historically accurate and that “the church” changed the date in order to compete with the pagan rituals surrounding winter solstice.  That’s not what I’m interested in talking about.  Whatever the reason for Christmas being in December, it’s still a celebration of the birth of God’s son.  The Messiah.  Though Christ’s true purpose is not fulfilled until his 33rd year on earth (Easter, folks, the death and resurrection of Jesus – I know you know already, but just had to say it), that purpose wouldn’t have happened if he never arrived on earth.

Here’s the dilemma, I am not saying that I don’t want my kids to have all of those lovely things associated with Christmas.  I want them to experience that feeling of wonder and anticipation Christmas morning.  But because this is a day to remember my Savior’s birth, I don’t want them to wake up to a gigantic pile of presents.  I know for sure that the “magic” of Christmas can exist with just a few gifts – like, say, two or three.  I despise the insistence of some people to indulge their children with whatever they ask for.  In fact, the more gifts a kid gets, the more they expect.  And each year, they know they’re going to get a ton of stuff, and that knowledge turns to the expectation, the expectation to entitlement.  And frankly, THEN the “magic” dies.  Because Christmas is just about “time to open the stuff I asked for”.  There is no wonder, no curiosity of “What will show up from my list”?

I would go into the injustices of the world, and how this Christmas there will be people who are hungry, kids who have no tree much less anything underneath it, people dying and children who have no family at all to celebrate with.  I would go into it, but really, it’s a post for another time.

So I guess I just want us to think about how much we give and why.  Is the sweater that you know she’ll return worth it?  How about the toy she just as to have, but will be broken or forgotten about within a month?  Can’t we get back to simplicity and humility and “indulge” in the wonder and magic of that?  I can remember maybe five Christmas gifts from my childhood.  What I DO remember is the quiet of sitting beneath the Christmas tree when the only light is from the hundreds of lights on it, reveling in those moments of peace before everyone is awake and the gift opening begins.  I DO remember the the anticipation of spending an entire day with family, enjoying each other, playing games, watching movies, and sharing the day’s meals together.  So if the time  with family and the beauty of my surroundings is what I remember, why do people think that the “magic” lies in the stuff under the tree?

I want to teach my kids that this day is about Jesus’ birth, and how we should look to his entrance into the world as inspiration for what we give.  He arrived in the most humble of ways.  It’s a story of true “magic” and wonder and should inspire the deepest thankfulness in our hearts.  If I want my kids to really learn the beauty of that, why would I choose to buy buy buy stuff stuff stuff?  I am choosing to reject the commercialism and embrace humility and thankfulness.  Humility in the amount of gifts, and thankfulness by being sure that we spend time in gratitude for what we did give.