For people who love Christmas and long for the days when they can wear fuzzy striped socks, drink peppermint lattes, and watch Christmas movies on ABC Family, the days surrounding Christmas may truly seem like the most wonderful time of the year.
However, for others, Christmas has evolved into something that doesn’t seem warm and inviting like a fireplace; as other people happily munch on sugar cookies, some people’s Christmas traditions only seem to go up in flames.
It’s hard to walk into any store without being bombarded by people. Regardless of whether those people are searching for a fabulous scarf or the popular toy scribbled on a Christmas wishlist with crayon, they’re trying to craft the same thing: a perfect Christmas.
To me, “perfect” has never been about money. “Perfect” has never been a dollar amount. And more importantly, “perfect” has never been possible, especially when it’s desperately strived for with check marks on a never-ending list. Shopping during the holiday season not only stresses me out, but also makes me question what Christmas has become. I’d rather spend my time making memories than buying gifts. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to value time over money, and moments and memories over material items. Don’t get me wrong; I love buying cute little gifts for my friends, decorating sparkly greeting cards, and buying peppermint lattes on a fairly regular basis.
But I’ve also learned that the kind of Christmas I want will never be achieved by gifts under the tree. For the past few years, I’ve been stressed during the holiday season. I’ve made wishlists and pointed out items in glossy ads when none of those things could ever express what I truly wanted.
Because what I truly wanted was not a bow to tie up a gift, but rather, a few wonderful weeks to tie up the year.
What I truly wanted was not a pile of gifts, but rather, a pile of snow beneath a field of snowmen.
What I truly wanted was not money or sweaters or electronics, but rather, a sense of generosity and appreciation.
To me, giving is not about gifts, per se. It’s about being there for people, there with people, beside the fireplace with people, out in the snow with people. It’s about appreciating the people who surround you and give you so much every day when you don’t even realize it: inspiration, motivation, confidence, happiness.
If I could give only one thing on Christmas this year, I would give inspiration, and ask for the same thing. I would take it all in. Because when we’re caught up in the commercial world of Christmas, we can easily forget about the gifts people provide us with every single day. I don’t want happiness or inspiration to be things I wrap in a cardboard box and toss in my closet; I want to keep them for as long as I can. And if I’m too worried about whether the sweater I got fits me right, I won’t be able to. I won’t be able to hold onto the magic of the holidays; the uncertainty and spontaneity and remaining familiarity of a shaking snow globe. I won’t be able to feel the warmth of the fireplace or hear the holiday cheer within the songs or see the hope that comes to life when the town lights up at night.
The greatest gift my family and friends have ever given me is their support. I hope I give them just as much. I plan to buy gifts for these people, but I do not want the entire holiday season to be centered on that. I don’t want my family members or friends spending the whole time stressing out about what to buy me when they already give me so much. I want to spend time with the people I love. I want to build snowmen and watch movies and drink lattes and bake cookies. I want to inspire people and be inspired. I want to give people something that lasts. I want to be there for them as much as they’ve been here for me.
I don’t want the mall to make me forget that I have a home. I don’t want commercials to make me forget all that I already have. I don’t want to forget that Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect, and that perfection won’t be achieved if I constantly try to achieve it. I don’t want to forget that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, only if I let it be.
Despite the gifts under my tree, which I appreciate greatly, I don’t want to forget the gifts that surround me always, like the flicker of a red-nosed reindeer guiding me home in the midst of a snowstorm.