Christmas is often such a magical time of the year–the lights, the food, the gifts, the special feeling that comes with being with family and giving.
It would be regrettable to gloss over the fact that Christmas is not always the most magical time of the year for some.
I grew up in a family that was deep in poverty. I remember the box dinners that a kind church or another group dropped off.
The gifts that were never what I had asked Santa for.
However, they were something and were prized and treasured none the less. I knew that it was one of two times of the year that I would get new clothing.
There were some years that were better than others. When we lived with my grandmother, she always worked to make sure that my siblings and I got the full experience of Christmas, even on her limited budget.
As I grew up, Christmas became my favorite holiday.
Not because of what I received, but because of the spirit of joy and love that seemed to vibrate in the community. People were generally kinder, thinking of others before themselves. Families come together, near and far, to spend time catching up.
And I have always adored Christmas decorations. The lights and glitter, the bows, the trees. It was all my favorite.
Once I was an adult, my husband and I carefully began collecting decorations and starting traditions, like watching Love Actually every single year without fail.
Then my boys came along. It was then I suddenly found myself seriously questioning what Christmas would now look like in our home. The childhood of my children would not look like the one I had.
I could give my boys so much during the holidays, but I had to ask myself- did I want to?
I worried that if I went overboard with the gifts, was I trying to compensate for the years that I received so little? Then I realized, the gifts and the decorations were not what I wanted my sons learning about Christmas. Instead, I need to focus on what made me fall in love with Christmas to begin with: the joy of giving and the love of your family and others.
That is what I teach my sons about.
Because we are religious, we teach them Christmas is a time of the year that we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s also when we spread the love and joy He gives to us.
But we also teach them that Christmas is about giving; it’s about being kind. We do actually limit the amount of gifts that the boys receive, because we don’t want that to be what Christmas is all about. The gifts are a bonus, not the focus.
We take them to help pick out toys for Toys For Tots and for other community gift-giving organizations.
We take them to choose gifts for each other and to truly think about the other person instead of what they desire.
They are beginning to ask about why it’s important to give and why others may not have what they have. For kiddos that are only 6 and 3, that is what fills my heart with joy–the knowledge that they are understanding what Christmas should truly be about.
As they grow older, I can only hope that the joy of Christmas continues to grow in their hearts and also continues in their actions throughout the year.
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