For many people, Christmas is a joyous occasion. For others it’s last minute lists, balancing busy schedules and missing loved ones who are no longer with us. For me, it’s a mix of joy and sadness as I miss those I can’t celebrate with anymore.
As I reflect on my childhood, I know why it feels that way. You see, as one of 4 siblings (2 girls 2 boys) growing up on a family farm, my fondest memories are of us kids tobogganing in the freshly fallen snow. The laughter, the whooshing down the hill and trudging back up again was a regular activity.
I’ll never forget the Christmas we got a brand new wooden toboggan. It was faster, more thrilling and seated 2-3 of us at a time.
That Christmas morning we waited with anticipation for our parents to come in the house from doing the chores. All 4 of us were huddled around the coal burning heater in the living room as we tried to guess what the few gifts were under the tree.
That year my sister and I got a doll that we had to share which we didn’t mind at all, (even though most of our friends each got their own). My brothers got a toy tractor to share and the 3rd gift was a board game for us to play as a family.
We were considered rich in the land we owned, however, as for other things not really considered necessities, we were poor. Mom and Dad never had anything under the tree for themselves. They played Santa with the very little money they had and focused on us so we could be happy on this special day.
On the Christmas I’m remembering, we were playing with our new toys when to our surprise, my Dad walks in with a shiny brand new wooden toboggan. He said Santa left it outside. The 4 us jumped up with joy! We couldn’t wait to get outside and test it out on the new fresh snow.
Fast forward, to my first year of marriage. We both had great careers and were doing well financially. Our first Christmas my husband showers me with several gifts under the tree. I only had 2 for him. I opened his gifts with tears rolling down my cheeks.
I’m sure he assumed they were tears of joy. He had no idea what was really going on with me. He was trying to show his love by giving. How could he have anticipated that I would have had such a hard time receiving?
I was raised with very few gifts and gifts that had to be shared with my siblings. We didn’t have things that most people had growing up, like running water and indoor washrooms! It wasn’t until we built a new house when I was 13-years-old that we finally had all the so-called “luxuries” all the regular houses had.
Can you see why I had a hard time receiving all the gifts from Jeff that first Christmas?
Things have changed over the years. I’m much better at it now, but I’ll always be aware of how precious a single gift can be.
How do you give? How do you receive? How do you share?
Years later, with kids of our own now in the picture, you can imagine how our different viewpoints collided on how much to give with gifts under the tree. We finally came to an agreement on gift giving and made sure that our giving was meaningful. It had to be something they could really enjoy – some individual and some shared.
So many people overextend themselves at this time of year to give gifts. They get caught up in consumerism, the marketing hype and this crazy idea that we have to keep up with what everyone else is doing. The internet makes it way too easy to shop anytime and all the time. As credit cards are maxed and stress mounts, they lose the true meaning of giving.
Where do you stand on ‘how much is too much?’
I hope my experience of gift giving and sharing inspires you to be more present during the holidays and spend time on what matters most – laughter, love, joy, and time together. And if there is sadness because of lost loved ones, savour the good memories and honour them. This time of year is a beautiful time to reflect, rejoice and live your truth.
My wish for you is to live your life with passion and purpose so you can make a greater impact in the world.
I’d love to hear how you spent the holidays and some of your special moments.