When I look as far back as I can remember my memories of Christmas are filled with a house fully decorated with lights, a living room accented with poinsettias, and the gathering of family looking forward to delicious delicacies that only came around once a year. I can even remember the sounds of Christmas carols blaring in the background as the house filled with chatter and laughter. Very little of my memory had to do with gifts.
Up until the age of 10, I was raised by my Seventh Day Adventist grandparents, who for a long time didn't celebrate Christmas. That all changed once my siblings and I started school. In efforts to make sure we weren't missing out on anything our peers experienced, our grandparents began to adapt a few common Christmas traditions. Christmas decorations around the house became more elaborate each year. We attended holiday parties as a family. Later, the giving of gifts became a common tradition.
Eventually, my grandparents picked up on the whole idea of buying presents. I remember thinking my grandparents missed the entire concept of Christmas. On Christmas Eve my grandparents would take us to the toy store to choose ONE gift of choice. The gifts were brought home, wrapped, and placed under the Christmas tree while we were sleeping. My sister and I had to wake up on Christmas, and pretend to be surprised when we opened our gifts.
With all these wonderful memories, somehow as I got older Christmas began to feel less like Christmas. It gradually took on a whole new meaning. The feelings of joy and gratefulness I once associated with the holidays became replaced with stress and depression. It became more about impressing and pleasing others than about the spirit of giving and spending quality time with loved ones. There was no room left for me to get into the spirit of the season as I became overwhelmed with trying to impress my family by showering them with gifts.
After years of going through the usual holiday stress. I. Became. Tired. Tired of the hustle to get everyone what they wanted for Christmas. Tired of breaking the bank. Tired of watching the Spirit of Christmas dwindle away the moment the gifts were opened. So finally I told myself, "Nope, I'm not doing it". I started with setting boundaries. I began by making a round of calls to each member of my family, letting them know not to expect the usual showering of gifts from me this year. After all, my family's needs are well taken care of. They already know they don't have to wait to tell me they have a need (0r want in the case of the little ones). There is no need to wait all the way until Christmas to express it.
Often times we say with our words, "Christmas isn't about receiving gifts". Meanwhile, our actions are saying another as we shower our family with presents. This experience forced me to think of what I want for my family in the future. What traditions will I set when I have my own children? How do I want to celebrate Christmas with them? What do I want them to learn about the materialism of Christmas? I don't want my future children to be raised with a sense of entitlement. I prefer the holiday season to be better spent by spending quality time with family. So now I am beginning to rethink Christmas traditions by:
Setting New Traditions. My boyfriend and I have discussed what types of traditions we want to set with our future children. One thing we both agreed on is, the holidays should focus on quality time with loved ones and not things. We both agreed that we do not want our children to be raised with a sense of entitlement or with materialistic values. We decided the Christmas season is a great time to teach our future children lessons of generosity by having them donate one of their a toys to a child in need.
Setting Boundaries. Just as I have done with my family I have begun to set boundaries. Politely, letting them know I planned to change up the tradition of gift giving. I told them upfront what to expect from me this year. Which is to scale back on the amount a gifts I typically gave.
Setting A Budget. Instead of trying to buy everything on their wish list this year I will set a budget. This way I don't have to stress out about how much holiday shopping will effect my finances. This way I can have the energy to devote to enjoying the experience of the season and spending quality stress-free time with family.
Practicing Generosity. There are many ways to be generous around the holidays. That homeless man I see every day begging for food maybe one day I'll treat him to a meal. I can give a little more than just a few cents to that person begging for money. There are also many charitable organizations looking for a helping hand around this time of the year. Maybe I'll look one up and see what I can do to contribute. I can donate to my favorite organization or cause that is close to my heart. These are things I typically do but I can begin to do more often.
Learning It's Ok To be Selfish. I no longer feel guilty for needing to set boundaries or taking time for myself during the holidays. Yes it's the season of giving but self-care is important too. Here are great tips and advice on how to take care of yourself and reduce stress during the holiday:
How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you have any unique traditions? What traditions do you want to change?
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