I want to dedicate this posting to all of those that are feeling the stress of the Christmas season for one reason or another. Perhaps your job and your schedule is so demanding that you just don't seem to find enough hours in the day to get done everything that you think needs to be done before Christmas morning arrives. Perhaps You find yourself in a different life situation then what you were on past Christmas mornings and through no fault of your own you find yourself a single parent due to divorce or the death of a spouse, your youngest child has left the nest, you lost your job and the money just isn't there like it always was before. I pray that what I am about to say will help ease the stress that you may be feeling.
This doesn't come from a mother or a friend that just wants to help lift your spirits. Even though I very much want to do that. It comes from the memories of a woman that has spent 58 Christmas mornings on this earth. Not only childhood memories, but memories as a mother of two small children and memories of a mother experiencing the empty nest.
As I was growing up both of my parents worked to make ends meet. This was a rare situation in the 50's. Christmas as a child bring back memories for me of Grandma Crace's Apple Stack Cake and trips to Aunts and Uncles houses for Christmas dinner. Memories of Christmas plays at church. As for presents under the tree I remember 1 gift that if I close my eyes I can still visualize what it looked like. It was a ballerina doll. She wore a black sparkly tutu and ballerina slippers. Poor things feet had to have gotten cramps in them as she wasn't a jointed doll and her feet were always pointed in the ballet position. I also remember she wasn't your typical doll because her hair was dark brown like mine and not blond.
By the time I had reached the 6th grade, my dad had gone into business for himself and we had moved to Florida. That was the leanest Christmas I can recall. There wasn't enough money for a tree that year, but somehow my mother had scrimped together enough money to buy my brother and me something for Christmas morning. Our mother was a master at scrimping. I had two gifts that Christmas. One was a baton, the other was the book, "Little Women". That Christmas I will always carry in my heart. I will always remember that in some way my mother had to have sacrificed in some way to be able to buy those gifts for us. I wish to this day that I still had that book, but I don't. I actually wore it out over the years from reading it and rereading it. I know there were Chistmas mornings when there were lots of gifts under the tree, but it was the times when there were just a few that brings warmth to my heart.
Then as a parent there was our first Christmas in California when my children were 4 and 9. Being a military family, money was seldom in abundance. I always started Christmas shopping in August and either put things in lay away or bought a little at a time and hid them. Every year by December first I had Christmas taken care of and all that was left was the baking and decorating. Not quite the case that Christmas. When we arrived in California there was no base housing available. They were starting to pull the troops out of Viet Nam and there was a pretty long waiting list. Civilian housing was at a premium as well. We did manage to find a small Apartment in Newport Beach that was temporary. It was located pool side and they didn't allow children in those apartments, but rented it too us until after the new year as a gesture of kindness. I had Christmas bought, but it was in a moving van someplace between North Carolina and California.
We furnished that little apartment with lawn chairs and a folding table and our beds were sleeping bags. Now what will we do about Christmas? I found a three foot tree at a variety store and a few ornaments to decorate it with. We only decorated the side of the tree we could see. I sat it on top of a big empty square box I found at the grocery store and used a towel for a tree skirt. I think that Christmas my children each received two gifts. I remember buying Chris a guitar that year. I remember this only because he played it non stop. I remember stressing out over that Christmas and the concern I had that my children were going to be disappointed. They weren't though. It was like a Charley Brown Christmas that year.
There were also the Christmas' that we played Santa for families that were in need. What a wonderful feeling it was to tip toe up to someones house after dark and leave a surprise gift or two at their door. Not to forget the Christmas Eves spent visiting nursing homes with the church. The joy on those dear faces as the children sang Christmas songs and passed out cards and hugs to the senior citizens. There was just as much joy on the faces of those that came to visit, as those that lived there.
My experience with the empty nest was when my Tersie left home. True she was only 70 some miles away going to school at OSU, but she was gone. It was the Christmas season and my Tersie was gone. Never mind the fact that she would be home over Christmas break. I forced myself to do Christmas shopping that year, yet just couldn't seem to get any baking done. That was something that we did together and she just wasn't there. Cookies and home made bread was always on my to do list for Christmas. I just didn't have the Christmas spirit. Needless to say, when Tersie did come home she didn't hesitate to let me know her disappointment that I had not done any baking.
So to make an already very long posting to an end, I will give you the bottom line.
It isn't going to matter how many presents there are under the tree on Christmas morning. It will be that one special gift that will be remembered any way. It will be the love and warmth of family and home that will be remembered. It will be those special traditions that you build with your children that will be remembered and repeated when they have families of their own. Children are really more in tune to the world around them then we think. If there are financial hardships, trust me they are aware and they really won't be expecting a truckload of gifts under the tree any way. They understand and they still love their family unconditionally. It is the perfect time to put the focus of the true meaning of Christmas back where it should be.
Merry Christmas and may God shower you with his love and blessings!