Christmas

I know–too early to talk about Christmas. But, I could not hold my keyboard back any longer.

There is a link going around social media. The original post is well meaning and has an excellent graphic. It is the Four-Gift Christmas Challenge.

Basically, it encourages you to give your children only four gifts this Christmas (bolding in original article). It suggests categories for each of the four gifts.

The comments by the sharers and their friends have included
“This is a liberating idea,”
“I had some friends who only gave their children three gifts each, since that is how many gifts the Wise Men brought on the original Christmas…,”
“We decided to do this for birthdays and Christmas. We did it for the first time for [child’s] birthday this year. It was nice!,” and
“Our kids get 5 gifts from Santa: play, read, wear, create, move. And then their parents get them one more random thing.”

My post is not written in judgment. It is written in empathetic understanding and support of those who do not give their children only four gifts at Christmas–who give them fewer, even far fewer, but give them all the love in the world.

As a child, I don’t remember how many presents we each got from our parents. I do know that it was likely less than four each during many years if not most or all years. I never felt unloved.

As a mother, I gave one gift from me and one from Santa, and often neither was expensive to any degree. Sometimes, that was an amazing budgeting achievement, miracle, or both. Always, it was a conscious choice. This is still our tradition.

I know of one couple, now that their children are grown, who give each other only the gift of a donation to their chosen charity at Christmas. I do not know the parameters of their philosophy when their children were young.

My feelings about all of this were clarified for me last Christmas. I have always loved Christmas trees. For me, this love has been accentuated by my time living in Germany (off base/post) for three years (yes, I am a military child). I love the ornaments, the candles, my mother’s Austrian crystal icicles. Twice, I have bought a potted-but-almost-full-sized tree because I squirmed under the idea that I was killing a tree for my own enjoyment every year–and I do not like artificial trees. Ironically, I killed both of those trees.

Then, we lived in an apartment so small that there was simply no way to re-arrange furniture to accommodate a tree, even temporarily. I stressed endlessly over it. Then, it was noted to me how nice it was to not worry about the presents under the tree. My burden was instantly lifted, and I was free. One of the functions of a Christmas tree is to define the location for collecting presents–the supposed visual indications of someone’s love for us.

Our tradition of very few presents had worked for us. But, not-so-subconsciously, I had wondered what visitors thought of our sparse area under the Christmas tree. (Sometimes, we were also late wrappers!) Having no tree instantly eliminated that concern. There was nothing to automatically draw the eye to an area meant to display a dazzling array of gifts. We still decorated and celebrated, otherwise.

The responses of my friends to the original blog post are troubling to me because both the post and the responses are meant to address materialism, commercialism, the bad taste in our mouths around Christmastime, but instead, for me, they underscore it. I think I would have the same response regardless of local, national, and world economics, but this is a time of high unemployment and high personal debt. It is an unsettling juxtaposition with Toys for Tots, food pantry requests, ornaments on giving trees, and other similar movements that seek to provide something, anything for some families–sometimes food.

There was one comment on a share of the blog article that I appreciated as trying to get at the same idea I am trying to convey here. The person said, “The thing is, the kids get presents from far more that Santa (me and [spouse]). They get gifts from each other, from Oma, and from friends. It makes for a LOT of presents.”

I love presents. I will still give. I love Christmas trees. I may have one again in the future.

This post is not in judgment. I applaud the general idea behind the original Four-Gift post and the motivation of it’s sharers.

Rather, this is my heart-felt reaching out of understanding to the parents and children who give less and receive less, but love just as much. It is my validation of people who are thinking of possibly giving less than four gifts to each of their children this year.

Yes, it is okay.

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