For many years, Christmas meant to me rushing around, trying to figure out what everyone would want to be given to make them happy. It was about spending all day cooking, tramping out in the yard to set up lights in the bitter cold, and feeling guilty about not doing enough.
I have realized I was trying to compensate for growing up poor, and never being able to tell stories on return from Christmas break about gifts spilling out from under the tree. My dad came from a family of 12, and also from a generation where gift giving wasn’t a big thing. They would get Christmas oranges for a gift, so for him it wasn’t something he really considered; and financially it was probably impossible anyways.
As I child I focused on what I didn’t have rather than what I did, and I think this is an all too common sentiment in our materialistic culture. I didn’t see how my single dad would summon whatever little cooking skills he had, and spend hours trying to make us that perfect turkey. I didn’t see how he got up every morning at 6 am to bang on the woodstove so that the house would be cozy when we got up; rather I would be irritated with the noise. I didn’t see how he would spend money on gas to take us to as many family gatherings as he could over the holidays. I didn’t see him bringing us to midnight mass, and teaching us the gift of faith as we lit our candles and wondered at the mystery of God.
But now I see. I have learned that our circumstances do not define us, and that growing up in poverty did not make me less worthy. The last few years especially, I have been practicing gratefulness rather than longing. Simplicity has replaced striving, and Christmas has become a time when my family does our favorite things, and not what popular culture tells us we should. Our Christmas tree is decorated with a mayhem of ornaments that were made by me and my children, and out front window is graced by a ridiculous lit up Bumble (see the pic, he is a character from a holiday cartoon from my childhood).
This year we celebrated our Christmas on the 24th. As a nurse, I work many holidays, and my family is gracious about working around that. So yesterday we slept in, and got together to exchange only a few simple gifts, then eat our favorite appetizers and watch the glorious die hard- Oh Bruce Willis, I don’t mind that you had to take your shirt off ;-).
Probably the best part is a game we play called love your neighbor, a tradition from my husband’s childhood. The day before, I had raided the dollar store and bought a variety of little items from useful to downright silly. These are wrapped and then used to play this game similar to a Chinese gifts exchange, and the uproarious fun we had yesterday has left me with abs that are still sore from laughing so much. A great reason to be sore.
As we stood in our Christmas eve service yesterday, I reflected on how much my perspective on life has changed, especially over the last decade. I have grown strong in my faith, learning gratefulness and surrender to the guidance of one stronger than myself. I have learned to have a childlike faith and wonder at the beauty of nature, and to be more compassionate to those around me. I have learned how to give of myself at work and at home without burning myself out. And most of all, I have learned that I have worth and I don’t need to hide, that I can show my true self and not be concerned about rejection.
Blessings to you on this beautiful Christmas Day, my friends. It is my wish for you that you have peace and contentment in your hearts today and every day, wherever you are in your life. I thank you for reading my words, and allowing me to share my heart with you. This writing journey I have begun has given me so much joy, and I pray that this year, you will have the courage to delve into something that you have always wanted to do. Have a merry, bright, and inspiring day, and I hope you return soon to visit my page.