On Christmas morning, when I was a boy, if my memory is accurate, my three brothers and I would wait for permission to burst from our rooms and rush to the Christmas tree and rip open our presents all at once. Pretty soon there’d be a mess of gifts (four boys with a few gifts each) spread around the living room, some candy, some toys, some books, some clothes. Then we’d pick the one we liked best and play with it, sometimes together, sometimes alone. It was a pretty high energy hectic time.
I also remember that strange Christmas feeling of disappointment. Probably too much hope was placed in the potential of the gifts to bring us happiness, so while we usually liked them they couldn’t deliver. Isn’t that life?
But I think another reason we, or at least I, often felt that disappointment was, to speak metaphorically, because we ate them too fast. We do it differentlywith our children.
Since David was born in 1986, we have drawn out our Christmas celebrations a lot more. Especially on Christmas morning. The night before Karen and I fill the kids stockings with an orange, a magazine, and a bunch of candy and maybe a little toy or something like that. They can dig into that as soon as they wake up.
Then we all gather for a big Christmas breakfast, with cinammon buns, grapefruits, eggs (I like mine soft-boiled), maybe some cereal, bacon, and a spot of tea and fruit juice. After breakfast, we read the Christmas story together. THEN we go to the tree and open our gifts. Like this:
Andrew, the youngest, goes to the tree and picks up a gift more or less randomly. He gives it to Karen, who is seated in her majesty on a high and lofty throne, which usually will be a dining room chair brought into the living room. She reads the name on the gift and that person receives it from her. We haven’t successfully introduced the tradition of grovelling before her, but it’s an appealing idea.
That person opens his gift, we all ooh and aah and he passes it around. Then it is placed in his pile and Andrew picks up another one.
As you can imagine, this takes rather a while, sometimes filling the whole morning. But it tastes so good. Everything is savored and appreciated. Everything is noticed and attended to. Instead of a mad passionate dash, it is more of a savored rational pleasure – the kind that can be sustained and truly enjoyed.
I, of course, still put too much weight on gifts, expecting each of them to usher in a new world order and complete satisfaction in my soul. So Christmas still depresses me. But that’s just my problem. At least I haven’t passed that problem on to my kids!
I’d love to hear from you about how you do Christmas gifts. Who is the center of attention? How do you distribute them? Any cool little quirks? Share the joy!