Christmas Eve will be a flurry of work, last minute shopping, rushing home to change (The choir tends to dress in similar colors for special services. It actually looks pretty good from the audience!) before the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at church, then rushing home to wrap the newly purchased last minute gifts followed by outlasting the kids so I can wrap their gifts while they sleep. If I am lucky, I'll get to bed by 2:00am. Although Christmas Day starts later (my children are not voluntary early risers under ANY circumstances) it's still an all day run of food, family, gifts, and two long-ish sits on the 405 freeway getting to and from my mother's house in the San Fernando Valley. The day goes by fast, and is pretty enjoyable. I do like spending time with my family, but when The Day is done, I am only too happy to come home and make the acquaintance of my bed.
Since I've been a parent, Christmas has become a different experience for me. For the last 21 years, I have always sought to make sure that my kids have great Christmas memories. I will never forget the year I woke my son up Christmas morning by playing the CD he asked for on the boombox radio he asked for. The look on his face was priceless, as he wondered aloud how I had managed to both sneak it past him, and hide it in the house. A couple of years ago, I realized that my daughter had developed a love of the Hello Kitty character. So for Christmas, I bought her a Hello Kitty outfit, Hello Kitty hat, and a few other related items, and put them all in a Hello Kitty gift bag. She squealed from the minute she saw the bag until she had pulled out the very last item.
To that end, I have also expressed to my family that I don't really want or need anything for Christmas. Adults are difficult to buy for, and rather than have anyone racking their brains trying to figure out what to get me, I always tell them that I just want to make sure that the kids have a nice Christmas. This has come in handy when Christmas morning was comprised of gifts given by others because I had no money to purchase anything for anyone. And there were quite a few of those.
It was those years of having nothing that made me appreciate The Day for more than just the exchange of gifts. What is it about The Day, other than the gifts, that people wait all year for? The anticipation of food, family and fellowship (religious or otherwise), that people may not receive during the year, will always be evident, somewhere, on The Day. My family all lead very busy lives, what with work, school, travel and so on, and we don't always see each other much during the year. A holiday here, or a hurried visit there, maybe a phone call or two. But for at least one day each year, we all slow down, sit and share a meal and talk, just for a day.
Even now, while I am in a slightly (VERY slightly) better financial place, I still enjoy The Day more for the feelings of peace and happiness. I am wiser now, and gifts are small, and usually have some meaning to the recipient. I enjoy seeing the smiles on faces when they receive some small item that was just what they wanted or needed.
The laughter, conversation and smiles are what I look forward to on The Day. They are the only things I want or need. I get them in abundance. I am satisfied with The Day.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.