Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Question That Changed Christmas For Me

About 5 years ago, my daughter asked me a question, and although I certainly didn't expect my answer to be that profound, it actually changed the way I  looked at gift giving from that point forward.

Let me first say that I love Christmas. It's always been my favorite time of the year. Although I was raised Catholic --the religious aspect was, and still is, only a small part of my Christmas spirit. Christmas has always been magical for me. There is a spirituality that extends beyond any one religion, and represents a time when we are reminded that there really should be peace on earth and good will toward humankind. And the eternal hope that there still can be.

I am the youngest of 7, and my mom always made Christmas special. Looking back, I recall there being way too many gift under the tree, but that isn't the memory I cling to. While I suppose I believed that Santa would bring gifts that could make everyone happy, for me it was never about the presents but the gifts. The gift of delicious food. The gift of watching my dad carve the turkey. Of my mom's apple pies. Of having my brothers and sisters around me. The gift of feeling loved.  In fact, as I got older and started my family, I tried to replicate the gift-giving part for my own family and  found the holidays becoming stressful for me. And then there was a realization that it must have been really stressful for my parents hit me once I had kids of my own.

So back to that question my daughter asked me: "Mom, do you remember any of the gifts you received last Christmas?" I had to think long and hard. And I was embarrassed that I could not. She then pointed out that every year we spend far too much money and time getting stressed about gifts, and that isn't what Christmas should be about. She said that as a new mom and living states away, the best gift was being home. And with airfare, getting him was the best gift. Plus, although she wanted  to make Christmas special for her son, she didn't want him focused on the consumerism that Christmas had turned into. I was proud that she, and my other daughter too, felt the best memories from childhood were laughing, cooking, eating, playing board games, and watching Christmas movies. So we all agreed we'd scale back on the gift buying, although we still spoiled my grand son--just a little!

Now we haven't completely stopped giving gifts--but the gifts we give now are mindful. We give gifts of time and experiences. Gifts that are practical. If you can't use it, wear it, eat it or do it--we won't buy it. No more impractical "stuff" to sit on a shelf and not get used. We've also incorporated giving gifts that have true meaning--gifts for the greater good. And one of those is making a donation to a worthy cause.

This year, there are so many who will  not be celebrating Christmas as they did last year because their home was destroyed by the devastation of a hurricane. Every night, in any given city, there is a home fire. As a board member for the Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties, I've seen first-hand the work the Red Cross does on a local and national level. This holiday season if you'd like to  give a gift that really means something, you can visit The Red Cross Store  and select a symbolic gift  for someone on your list. The gift is tax-deductible and will support Red Cross programs like Disaster Services, Service to the Armed Forces, Blood Services and International Services. 

A gift like this will make you feel just like Mr. Scrooge did  when he woke up --giddy on Christmas morning -knowing he was going to make so many people's lives better. And that's what the Christmas spirit is all about.

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