Little choices and big choices surround the traditions and the little rituals that most family enjoys. Everybody wants to be in the Christmas Spirit, but what if you are not feeling so jolly? Many of us are pinched for money, or pinched for time. Is the Scrooge in you coming to the surface?
We don’t want to disappoint anyone, especially ourselves. Maybe you need to choose what to give the kids for Christmas, and how much to spend. There is the choice of whether to have the holidays at home, and who to invite. Should we have everyone at Christmas or on Christmas Eve? What did we do last year? How do we balance the time with in-laws and outlaws, and which Christmas parties do we fit in to a crowded holiday calendar? Are we going to evening candlelight services or waiting for morning services? Choices and decisions can be fun but they can create stress. I ponder every year
“what is that very special thing that I can do to reassure the important people in my life that I really care?”
So many choices! Every year about this time, I make a resolution that I am going to downplay the gift giving. But, it seems every year I fail. I do not shop on Black Friday, mostly because I detest crowds. But, for some of my friends, it is a time they look forward to fondly each year and they create great memories.
It seems that no matter my good intentions, at Christmas the tree is overflowing with gifts, and everyone has overdone it. Now we will have bills that will pinch the budget for the next several months. I pledge that I am going to make a budget this year and stick to it! I wonder
“Why do we make the choices that we do?”
Maybe, it is because fond memories encourage us to try topping whatever we did before. We want to do something bigger and better. Mostly I think we want to show how much we care. But the wrapped up gifts are rarely what I remember most after the holidays are over. Foremost, I remember the time spent with those important family and close friends.
My Dad was creative and frugal. He had to be with four kids and little income. He would get someone to drive him over to Rosemont College and pick out the best tree discarded by college students who were gone for the holiday break. Laughing and decorating a scrawny fresh-cut tree – wow! The aroma of pine filled our tiny living room. But, it took the patience of Job to find and fix the one light in the series that threw out all the tree lights.
Six people in a crowded dining room can be a little tricky too when you are wrapping presents. My sister, Mary and I had the privilege to wrap what Mom had squirreled away for the boys. Dad would provide festive music with his violin, playing Christmas carols such as O Holy Night, followed by some Celtic music such as Danny Boy. And fasting before Christmas Mass made sharing a traditional turkey dinner taste all the better.
I enjoy reading letters of love that fill my heart and this became a family tradition over time. Mom made a tradition of placing a special long distance telephone call to our cousins, the Shepstone’s in California on New Year’s Eve. We kids gathered round the phone as Dad was paying for every minute of this precious time. Relationships are very important, gifts are nice, and memories are priceless.
The warm memories that come back to us of those who are not here with us this year, can add more stress to the season and leave us teetering on depression. But, we have choices to make here too. We can choose to dwell in the darkness and the sense of loss of what has gone before. Or we can choose to be grateful, to be thankful that we had the time and shared the warmth of their love. We can say “Thank you, God.” And have hope that we will see them again, if not here, in the hereafter. We can focus on the people who are here now in our lives today.
So, perhaps it is fitting that Thanksgiving launches off the holiday season. When I make the choice to be grateful to God for what He has given me and go into the holidays with a thankful heart, I feel less like Scrooge. Instead, I feel closer to the love and peace of new life — the life of the Christ Child. I choose to move away from darkness into the light of His love. May His birth light up your life. And may the choices you make this holiday season give you joy.