Everyone does Christmas differently.
At our house, the kids go to bed Christmas Eve without a single present under the tree. Then, when they wake up at an ungodly hour, they come barreling down the stairs to see that Santa has come and brought everyone gifts, all wrapped. There are one or two from Mom and Dad – whatever their “big gift” is, and some socks and underwear, stuff like that – but the majority of presents are addressed to each respective MacDonald “Love Santa.”
This is how we’ve done Christmas together since before we were even married. I’m not sure how or why we chose this structure, but there it is. And while everyone is free to treat Christmas in whichever way they choose with no judgements from me, I saw something on-line a few years ago that bothered me, and because it surfaces annually, I decided to mention it here.
It all started a few years ago, when I posted a picture of our Christmas tree on Facebook. I was living in Port Hawkesbury at the time, and we had just completed some cosmetic renovations to our dated living room, of which I was very proud. Late into the night of December 24, after the presents were out and the clutter was put away, I posted a picture of the room in all its cozy, glow-of-the-Christmas-tree goodness.
Though I did see a few comments about the tree, the majority of commentary was negative, passive-aggressive condescension about how there were too many presents. I felt people’s judgement, and felt almost like I had to defend myself. I ended up taking the picture down, as I was embarrassed at all the fuss.
It had never occurred to me that posting a picture of my festive little Christmas scene would be regarded as bragging about how much stuff we had. (Probably because the suggestion was laughable. We were a single-income family living in a 1971 mobile home, not millionaires. We weren’t even thousandaires.)
It didn’t matter that every new shirt was wrapped individually, giving the illusion of much more quantity than there actually was, and many large boxes bulking up the pile – it was decided by several people that there was just too much. As the years have passed, I have become very conscious of this perception. And because I was made to feel shame somehow, I have not, in recent years, posted pictures of the kids with all their gifts on Christmas morning.
It came as no surprise when a Facebook meme started making the rounds to dictate to people how they should handle the gift-giving situation at their house. The statement, shared among dozens of my friends alone, said something to the effect of: there are some kids who don’t get a lot for Christmas, so it’s not fair for you to buy a lot of stuff for your kids when it might make others feel bad for not getting as much. And if you do buy them something nice, address it from their parents, because Santa shouldn’t be bringing big gifts to some kids since not every Santa is able to.
Let me be clear: there is no debate as to whether every kid should be taught lessons at home about compassion, appreciation, materialism, humility, and the value of money. Those are things that I try to impress upon my kids throughout the year, not just at Christmas. And it is because they seem to have grasped the big picture quite well that I can now say what fear of judgement prevented me from saying before.
I will buy my kids whatever I want, thank you very much. And if everyone is doing their job as parents, my family’s bounty shouldn’t affect yours, and vice versa.
The way I see it, I work hard, as does my husband. We get paid for our time, time we have to spend away from our kids, so if we want to use that money to buy them things, that’s a right we’ve earned, as far as I’m concerned. We don’t drink, smoke, gamble, go on expensive vacations, or buy fancy jewelry, nor do we each drive a new Lexus or live in a mansion, instead we like to give our kids a big Christmas, and I will no longer apologize for that.
If you give your kids each a pair of mittens and a candy cane from Santa, that’s great. If they have to ascend Mount Gift to find a brand new iPad at the top, that’s great too! Regardless of religion or social status, we all want happy, smiling faces filling our house on Christmas morning, and whichever method your family uses to accomplish that is okay with me.
Wishing everyone a peaceful, happy holiday.