Christmas is a magical time. The stories, the lights, the excitement. The wonder and awe. I fondly recall my childhood holidays and that’s what I remember: the magic. Recently, in the midst of the “making Christmas” chaos, I remembered that this doesn’t go away once you grow up.
I’ve always tried to stress the “giving” part of the holiday to my kids. They are blessed to have a beautiful holiday every year (and I am blessed to be able to do this for them), and I want them to know that it’s not all about elves, pretty wrapping paper and sweet treats. I think they are hearing me, but they are still so young; I figure that if they all get there by the time they are 10 years old, then I can consider it a success.
Since I was a teenager, I have made it a point to donate toys during the holidays so that everyone can have a chance to partake in the magic. Beginning in high school (when I had my own money, from babysitting or my job), I would buy toys and take them to the fire station. I always wished I could do more, but I did what I could, then would hope that the toys would bring smiles to someone, somewhere.
I still make an effort to continue this tradition, and now I get to involve my kids. It’s a little tricky, navigating around the Santa tale, and I have to be careful in my responses to their questions. “Why doesn’t Santa just bring gifts?” They aren’t being sassy; they are just trying to wrap their little heads around it. As briefly as possible, I explain to them that not all families can give gifts, like theirs can, so we’re being Santa’s helpers. They are ok with that response, for now at least, and they also enjoy shopping for others. They were excited to help me wrap the gift we purchased to donate, and they couldn’t wait to place it under the tree at our church. After dropping off our gift, Addie (my sweet seven year old) noticed several other tags hanging on the tree. Each tag represents a Christmas wish; after careful consideration (you can just see the wheels turning in their little heads!), she began pulling the tags off the tree. I quickly realized her intent, and had to gently tell her that we’d have to wait and see how many more gifts we could bring (I’m a bargain shopper, but unfortunately not that good!). She was disappointed, but she understood, as she is learning about money and spending/saving. The wheels were then spinning in my head, too, trying to figure out how I could reallocate what I’d already planned so we could pick up a few more wish items.
A few days later, as we were riding in the car, she asked if she could share her Christmas wish. I fully expected to hear, again, about the iPod Touch she wants, or the American girl dolls (yes, plural!) she has an eye on, or one of the other items on her list. She is just seven, after all, and fully believes in Santa, but she does understand that Santa doesn’t bring everything on her list. I never imagined that her response would be this:
“My Christmas wish is for everyone to have something to open on Christmas morning.”
Whoa. No mention of anything for herself, no creative arguments about why a second grader needs an iPod Touch. She was still thinking about those tags left hanging on the tree at church, about our conversation from a few days back. I was stunned. And so very, very proud. She gets it.
The next day, I was telling my mom about what Addie had done and said, just in casual conversation. I was surprised to later get a call from my mom, telling me that she and my dad wanted to help honor Ad’s Christmas wish by purchasing more gifts to donate (so, so awesome!!). Just a couple days later, my dad and I dropped off two big bags of cheerfully wrapped gifts. I wish I’d had a camera hidden to record Addie’s reaction when I told her of all of this. She was so excited, and happy, to know how many kiddos would have something to open. Again, there was no mention of her own list, or the things she wants. Just pure excitement, knowing that others would get to experience a happier holiday. Her Christmas wish was coming true, right before her eyes.
I was reminded that the Christmas magic doesn’t end when you stop believing in Santa. The magic of the holiday comes when you open your heart and care about others. Her holiday will be even more special because she learned the importance of giving. In all my hustling and bustling over the next few days, I can stop and quietly reflect on this magic; knowing that at least one of my kids is really listening to all the “wisdom” I try to impart on their little minds, to shape them into the “good” souls that I envision, is the best gift, ever.
Merry Christmas to all! May the magic of the holidays touch your lives, as well.