Facebook is bursting with claims regarding Christmas as being too commercial. You don't need presents - all you need is family and love. Jesus is the reason for the season. Give homemade gifts this year. Curse all those gluttonous fools spending money they don't have.
I think those quotes, pictures and posts are all true. Jesus is the reason, but in my family, we have another reason.
I grew up in a house that didn't have an excess amount of money, and I can't say it was always the most stable of environments. I longed to have the clothes and games my friends had. I started delivering newspapers when I was in fourth grade just so I could earn money to buy trax sneakers that were sold at Zayre. My parents said they were just too expensive.
Many of my memories revolved around money and never feeling like we had enough. Because of my dad's line of work, it was either feast or famine. But mainly it was famine. I was always afraid to be invited to birthday parties because then I'd have to figure out how to pay for a present. I'm sure I could have asked and my parents would have provided something, but I never wanted to be a burden.
Christmas was different. My mom scraped, took extra work, did without and simply sacrificed everything so she could give us things we couldn't even dream about in our everyday life. She starting saving and shopping seven months prior to the holiday. We made our dream wish lists and she did everything in her power to make sure she could get everything on there.
After feeling like I wasn't really good or wealthy enough most of the time, suddenly Christmas rolled around. We would wake up at the crack of dawn, run down the stairs and head right to our fake fireplace and get the stockings. As much as I adored Christmas, I could have done without the stockings filled with oranges, apples and walnuts. I'd love to see my kid's faces if they received nuts in their socks.
The next memory of Christmas erases any of the struggles we had all year long. As soon as the cracking of the gigantic walnuts concluded, we would burst into the other room with the tinsel-ladened live tree and all stop in our tracks as soon as we got a glimpse of the amazing pile of presents that went half-way up the tree. That one day of the year, I felt magic. Was it a Christmas miracle? Was it appreciating Christ? Was it the overwhelming feeling of family? Of course not. I was simply happy.
I didn't have to worry about anything. I just had joy wrapped up with a bow - I even think seeing the pile was a better memory than actually opening any of the gifts. But because my mom looked at my list and actually listened to what I said earlier in the year, I got presents that I never asked for, but only dreamed about owning. When you're a kid, you always think your parents don't hear you. This was the proof that I was being heard. Even the things I never mentioned but always hoped for, would show up. To a kid that meant someone knew I mattered. Someone was watching when it seemed like no one knew I was there.
Even to this day, my mom is on a very fixed income. I'm not even sure you could call what she has large enough to be considered an income. It's a struggle. A struggle every single day. But every day she struggles, she puts away a little money - even if it's coins, to save for Christmas.
We gather on Christmas Eve now and there are many more of us. Between my siblings and their families, she purchases for 17 people every year. Most years it's more, because extended family and lonely souls are always welcome. She purchases at least seven to eight presents per person. The tree is smaller, but the pile under it is enormous. I'm not sure if it's because her condo is compact and we're all squeezed in, but that huge stack of presents looks as magical as it did when I was a kid.
My mom works all year to look for deals, stretch her dollar and find the exact perfect items.
There are plenty of people out there that would say it's terrible to think about presents when I think about Christmas. It should be all about intangibles and worship. Love should be the focus, not presents.
If you read this story, and don't see the love devoted all year long and the sacrifice put into every single present, then I feel sorry for you. Yes, there are some that put too much emphasis on the commercialism of the holiday, but there are also those who put too much emphasis on the self-righteousness of the holiday. Loads of people say they're wholesome and Christian because they worshiped at church on Christmas Eve, but in the mean time, they're a complete asshole the rest of the year. Given the choice, I'll take the presents and the meaning behind them every time.
Although one year when I was in sixth grade, every single sock and piece of clothing I received was red, white and blue. I'm not exactly sure what that was all about, but that year we could have probably gone to church instead.