Christmas Eve: Remembering Christmases Past

I have what I consider to be an exceptional memory, but I don’t really remember Christmas trees and lots of presents under the tree as I grew up. I suppose that is because there was no tree and perhaps one or two presents. One year a baby doll, another year a toy piano. We didn’t have a great deal of money. I remember the litany when you were asked what you wanted for Christmas. The list wasn’t very long and always ended with “fruits and nuts and candy.”

Even when my own children were growing up, we didn’t have a great deal of money, but my husband and I bought gifts for each of them as the budget would allow. But then I was presented with five grandchildren. My fortunes had changed a little and I tried hard to make up for the past. On my oldest granddaughter’s first Christmas there were so many toys and clothes under the tree that she didn’t know where to look first. As the clan grew, so did the number of gifts under the tree. I took delight in stacking them high. And I also took delight in decorating each gift with holiday scenes or lovely ribbons and bows.

But last year, my youngest daughter presented a different idea. The four of us, my three daughters and I, would not exchange gifts among ourselves but would donate to a charity of our choice. We did. The grandchildren, who are no longer children, but adults, got presents from their lists. But then I realized that even the lists they submitted were shorter than they ever had been. So it’s time to rethink what we do about this special holiday. I am grateful that my daughters agreed to stop giving for the sake of giving—that is giving gifts that had no real meaning except to accumulate “things.” I am not a Scrooge, far from it, but I feel really relieved not to have to come up with a list of gifts I would like to get from my family. It’s an unnecessary expense. I have every material thing I need. And what I need most gathers at my house on Christmas Eve for a seafood dinner—ten of us and open our gifts to each other. It is a delightful evening. Christmas morning my eldest daughter, who is home for the holiday, my youngest daughter and her family, and I have breakfast at my house after they open their gifts at home. My middle daughter and her family enjoy Christmas morning at their home. So our Christmas has evolved. I am happy for the evolution!

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