11/24/2012

Confession: I Dread the Christmas Holiday

Yep, you read that right: I'm dreading the holiday season. I know that is un-American or un-Christian or un-human or just plain un-something.


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But I have my reasons.

Well thought-out, albeit neurotic, reasons.

The first being the sickening consumerism that has taken over our country. Let me just preface this by saying, I like to shop. I don't love it, but I like it. I like pretty things.

I like to have pretty things.

But I have too many pretty things. I don't need anything else. Nor do my children.

But we live in a society that tells us that we do. Every year, every new season, we're supposed to believe that we need the hottest new item - the updated phone, tablet, toy, trendy outfit du jour. This is some one's job - to think of ways to get people to spend money on things they do not need. To make them believe they need it.

It's worked on me many times.

And it's working on my children. Every time they watch t.v. or a movie. Every time a catalog comes in the mail. Every time they talk to a friend who has the latest thing. As parents, there is no time during the year that we hear, "I WANT" more than at Christmas time.

I look around at the overflowing abundance that we have and sometimes I feel sick. I feel sick like I've done something wrong, and I want to rewind and do it again. Do it better and more low-key.

Black Friday makes me sick. I understand getting good deals on things people need. Without the incredible deals, many parents might not be able to afford much, if anything, for their children at Christmas. What makes me sick is how much earlier and earlier it begins every year, pooling backward into Thursday.

I heard the term "Gray Thursday" on the news. Did you mean Thanksgiving Day? The day that we are supposed to be thankful for all we already have? The day we are supposed to celebrate overcoming adversity and working together with people who are seemingly unlike us, but really no different than us after all?

Because it's become a day that we have forgotten, and replaced with a day that we push and shove and trample and think it's okay to be rude and short with people just to save a few bucks.

This leads me to the second reason I dread the holidays: disappointing my children.

I'm a bad liar. Why does Santa not look the same? Why didn't Santa bring me all the things I asked for? How is Santa going to come down our Chimney? How is he going to get all around the world in one night?

I can't remember what I answered to all these questions from each of my children. And what are they hearing from friends? And reading in books and seeing on television? Too. Many. Lies. I can't keep them straight.
And they always seem to change their minds between Thanksgiving and Christmas about what they want. We cut things out of magazines last weekend and I thought 'We better hurry up and send these to Santa so they can't add anything else.'

But then I look at what they cut out and think again of the selfish consumerism. They are just things they saw and thought they needed to have.

Buying things just to have things.

And then I think of all the people - all the children - who have little to nothing, and I feel sick again.

Which leads me to reason number three: how to be generous during the holidays.

I am a generous person. I like to give to causes and donate a dollar here and a dollar there for St. Jude or Salvation Army. I love getting gifts for friends and family on birthdays or for new babies or weddings.

But I struggle with how to carry out that generosity during the holidays.

A few years ago, I got sucked into a radio campaign soliciting holiday gift donors for families. This campaign was different! You deliver the gifts to the family yourself! You get to see where your donation is going! You get to interact with the family!

It sounded like a great idea. I could take the boys and let them see how other people lived. People who had next to nothing. I excitedly shopped for the clothing that the mom had asked for herself and her three young children. They really must not have anything if she was asking for clothes.

When it came time to deliver the gifts, I looked up the address and realized it was in an area of our city known for gang activity. I was nervous to go, and didn't want to bring the boys after all.

And I'm glad I didn't. The mother, who merely called for Hubby and I to come in rather than opening the door for us, was sitting surrounded by her well-dressed children in front of a flat screen t.v. bigger than ours. A computer with a printer sat next to it. She ordered the children to take the gifts. They did and placed them under an ornately decorated tree bigger than ours and bursting with beautifully wrapped gifts.

I don't know this woman's situation. I never will. But the whole experience just left a bad taste in my mouth.

And reason number four, oh reason number four, might just be the reason for all of the other reasons.

Joey.

He's not here. He will never be here again. Of course it hurts every day, but it hurts so, so much right now. Right this moment.

Because he will always be five years old to me. He will always be exuberant and enthusiastic and creative and the only one not afraid of Santa. He will always be the one who loved Christmas songs and sang "Jingle Bells" to the whole family even when he was sick. He will always be the one who surprised me with his gift requests because they weren't simply things he saw in a catalog (well, maybe I can think of one or two things that were), but they were things that meant something to him. Things that were so original.


So Joey.

For the past two years, I have pulled out his ornaments - the ones made by his hands or the ones bearing his face or the ones that were purchased with him in mind - and I have cried. I have cried on a day that for nearly 40 years I have loved. The day we decorate the tree. That to me is Christmas.

Unwrapping each ornament, looking and remembering where it came from, who it came from, or how or why it was acquired. Oh sure, there have always been some ornaments that were purchased purely for decoration sake, but most of the ornaments on my mother's tree and on mine tell a story.

But Joey's story just stops. And it taints a day that should be happy. A holiday that should be joyous.

I feel a bit hopeless, like there's little of this I can change. Hubby knows I feel this way. I started to get sad last weekend when the boys wanted to decorate the house then, and Hubby wanted to play Christmas music. I was sad when he suggested we not put up our Christmas lights. They are done professionally and are quite expensive and like so many, we've been trying to save money.

As always, he makes me see reason and makes me feel better at the same time. He said, "We need to make the holiday special for the boys." That's true. It needs to be magical for them. They are only little for a short time.

And the lights went up on the house because he knows there needs to be a little magic for me, too.

And we've talked about ways we can help people we personally know who are having hard times.

And we've talked about Christmas experiences we can have with the boys.

And we took their list to Thanksgiving dinner and decided what the cousins and Godparents and grandparents would buy, leaving us and Santa with the right number of gifts.

So I'm hopeful this year.

I know I will still worry.

I know I will still get that sick feeling.

And I know I am going to cry.

But, as always, I'm going to remember why Christmas is my favorite holiday. It's not because of the gifts, but because of the joy and the beauty of the story about how a little baby boy was born a long time ago.

I think if I keep in mind that baby boy and my baby boys and teach them about the love and joy, I don't think I'll need to dread the holidays after all.




What about you - are you a lover of all things Christmas or are there things you dread or feel sad about, too?