Doesn’t it seem as though Christmas comes sooner every year? Back in the day, Christmas came after Thanksgiving. Now it comes after Labor Day. There were Halloween things mixed with Christmas goodies in numerous stores around town this year. It’s all so rushed.
Anticipation is a good thing, and I think it is better served one savored bite at a time. If I wait until December to begin preparations I find I am much more focused and able to appreciate the feast. One month is plenty of time. I think about my husband’s aunt who had ten children. She did 95% of her Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, went to midnight Mass, wrapped everything, and was up at the crack of dawn to hyped up children excited over what Santa had brought. She did all this with peace in her heart and a smile on her face. Then she prepared dinner for her brood and any others she knew of who should not be alone on such a momentous occasion.
An exception to the one month thing is for homemade gifts. You might need more than a month for a handmade quilt or sweater.
The truth is it’s way more about relationships than things. My grandparents had no money. They were poor, but my happiest memories involve Christmas Eve at their house stringing popcorn for the tree while eating more than I pushed onto the needle. The tree was always one grandpa had cut somewhere and the whole room was filled with the scent of pine. To this day the scents of pine and popcorn return me to that time and place. We sang songs, told stories, and loved each other. I don’t recall the gifts – because there weren’t any packages, and it did not matter one iota. The gifts given and received were intangible and priceless.
Ok, so I don’t need the ghost of Christmas past to make me a visit. I get it. The best gift I can give is the most valuable thing I have and that is my time. I’m going to make a list and plan some fun activity with each of my children – even if its something very simple. A visit, a lunch, a movie, a campfire with S’Mores. I’m giving time this year, and just for old times sake a card with some cash.
The best advice I can give you is to always, always, remember the reason for the season. St. Nicholas was a bishop of the church and spread love and joy to many, but before Nicholas there was Mary and Joseph who said, “Yes,” and Jesus, God Incarnate, who came here to save us. A mere thank you seems inadequate.