I am ambivalent about Christmas. I'm not Jesus-religious, so the whole birth of Christ thing is not especially meaningful to me. I outright loathe the commercialism, and in general I'm not a gifter. John and I were on the same page in all regards here, so the few Christmases we had together were low-key affairs.
There is something, though, to this whole "Christmas through the eyes of a child" business, I have to concede that. And this year, as the fog of parenting babies and toddlers has turned into the (for me) more rewarding and enjoyable parenting of preschoolers, I've been much more in the Christmas spirit than in years past.
I come from a strong Christmasing tradition, in the most American sense. We rarely (never?) went to church on Christmas, and the Jesus part was but a blip on the radar (save my mom's loathing of the shorthand "Xmas"), but we did the secular aspect up right. We always got a huge tree right after Thanksgiving, there were lights on the outside of the house, the special Christmas glasses made an appearance, and there were gifts. Oh, there were gifts. My parents are the definition of gifters, and they really spoiled us even when times were tough. I enjoyed all of it as a kid and young adult: the fireplace, the music, the presents, the time together.
As an adult, I'm a bit shocked by my obliviousness around it all. I said "Merry Christmas!" to people with wild abandon, never stopping to think about the fact that some people weren't celebrating. I just listened to a Barenaked Ladies/Boston Pops rendition of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", that classic from 1984, and its earnestness astounds me. Do they know it's Christmas? Guess what? Many of "them" don't celebrate Christmas! Yet at the time, I remember being so moved by the gesture, so grateful for what I had, so empathetic for those who were missing out. Now the whole thing just seems so naïve, so well meaning if maladroit. Sending starving people food is a wonderful thing to do, but to condescendingly link it to their lack of awareness of Christmas? It feels so . . . well, I think I've made my point.
I overthink it all now. Do I feed into the Sana myth? How many gifts is too many gifts? How can they survive when all they've eaten for days is Christmas cookies and eggnog? How do I make them aware of other traditions and beliefs? Is "season's greetings" just a veiled "merry Christmas"? Should I just pretend it's not happening (as is my inclination)?
In the end, I'm letting Maddie and Riley be my guides. They wanted a tree, so we got one. Our guideline was that it be taller than the kids, but shorter than me. We put up lights and decorations. We've been singing our nightly songs by the light of the tree rather than in bed, and it's been charming and cozy. Maddie and Riley love the lights that are up around the neighborhood; Maddie in particular gives audible gasps of wonder at the most gaudy displays. For the first time ever, I've bought them gifts and I've enjoyed it. They have interests and desires now, clearly expressed, and it's fun to bring them the joy of satisfying those desires.
I still don't enjoy the overblown hoopla. Thanksgiving has always been my deal: family and food and time off, those are the things I enjoy. So it is with Christmas. I focus on the things that bring me joy, try not to let myself get sucked into the crazy, try to keep it simple and sweet and manageable. No malls. No last-minute shopping trips. I prefer more time by the fire and a second glass of wine.
We'll go spend the night with my mom on Christmas Eve, probably again on Christmas Day. We'll go to the Christmas Eve service at our church, for which we helped to decorate tonight. There will be football and too much sugar and too few vegetables. I might take M&R to their first movie in the theater, and perhaps we'll go bowling, as Riley has been hankering to do for months.
I love my life. Of the things that are in my power to change, I wouldn't change a thing. I am in a place of peace with most of the things I can't change. To the extent that Christmas is a time to reflect on such things, I could not ask for more.