Friday, December 26, 2008

the challenge of Christmas

Christmas morning was incredible in the Daniels' living room. Not surprisingly, the kids required no second call to get out of bed. I flipped gingerbread pancakes [from one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Kerby Lane Cafe] and we gathered around our Duraflame log to read the Christmas story. To keep our conversation lively, I posed several questions from Luke 1-2:

1. How many angelic appearances are listed?
2. How many "songs" are sung?
3. What was the significance of Zechariah's occupation?
4. What was Zechariah made mute?

Then, we proceeded to open our gifts to one another. Tiffany and I both came from backgrounds (me especially) where Christmas was the "grand haul." Kids could expect 10-15 presents on Christmas morning. Parents could make up for any failure of the year at Christmastime. All was forgiven with stacks of presents that took multiple trips to carry to our bedroom. So, for years, we showered our kids with similar extravagance.

Then, not long ago, we made a family decision. We explained that we would purchase 3 gifts: a "large," meaningful, very personal gift; a medium gift; and a small gift. We've made it three years, but it hasn't been easy, I promise you. While, I know that volumes of gifts don't make Christmas any more "christmassy" and I'm sure that my kids don't estimate our love for them by whether they have 3 gifts vs. 12 gifts under the tree, it's still strangely difficult. There's a cultural battle that Tiffany and I fight each Christmas. It's a war against expectations [truly loving parents don't put a price tag on gift giving, do they?] and against comparisons [the kid across the street also got an XBox, but it was gold-plated...and plugged into the rear seat headrest of his new BMW]. More than that, it's really a war against security: Do we really trust that our kids [and other kids] know how much we treasure them apart from any gift we give?

As I wrestle with this, I conclude that greater confidence will come from the way we lead our children and love them throughout the year. And then, whatever gifts we give them along the way won't become substitutes, but symbols of our affection for our kids.

OK...if this doesn't make sense to you, it may be because it is still trying to make sense to me. Post your comment and let's encourage one another.


da momma said...

im thinking we need to do the 3 gift thing bc not only us, but Santa and each family member on both sides thinks they need to get our kids 10-15 gifts each and my house is CRAZY right now! It makes me happy to know the kids are so loved, but so sad...that we have so much! Its embarrassing! I dont like it and dont want my kids to expect it. Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing :)

Bonnie said...

I completely agree with you. As a family we make a valiant effort not to be derailed by the gift giving. We don't even really ask the kids what they want or to make a list; we try to pay attention to what they like and keep it brief, yet meaningful. I think as the years pass, the kids will never remember the quantity, but will draw on the memories of the comforting traditions that were established. Making a "Jesus Gingerbread House", making Birthday cards to read as a family to set our focus Christmas morning, gathering around the table for a special breakfast (like you mentioned). We must encourage each other so we don't lose our way by living in the horizontal! Merry Christmas and thank your for your honest thoughts!

R said...

i come from a similar background. in my family, we don't show affection and don't say "i love you". i came to realize as an adult that my family expresses love in money and gifts.

so at Christmas, i always gave Santa an obnoxiously long list, and every year without fail i was given everything on it, save for one of two things. my parents would ask me on Christmas morning what santa didn't bring me, and of course i knew instantly and could tell them. and magically, it appeared the next day because the 26th is my birthday! it was a "game" we played every year.

fast forward to being married and having our own family. john and i do NOT do the same thing with our children. he came from the opposite background--a few gifts each Christmas. and he and his family are very outwardly loving to one another. so it's been fun to learn from them and to make sure my family dynamic background doesn't carry over to my own children. i like where we're headed!!

of course, the BIG difference in my mind is that john comes from a believing family and i do not. :0) i'm having so much fun building a believing legacy in my own little family unit and creating for them the childhood i always yearned for but didn't have.

thanks for giving us this outlet to hash these things out! i do have my own blog, but i'd never communicate these things on it since my family reads it. :0)

i really like what you said--"greater confidence will come from the way we lead our children and love them throughout the year". i may have to print this out and keep it in my journal on my "new year's resolution" page! :0) it'll give me direction as our children get older and begin to understand all the trappings of the holidays. it'll get more challenging each year to teach them that they don't need piles of presents!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I made a conscious decision several years ago to give the boys--and each other--3 gifts apiece, in recognition of the 3 gifts the Magi gave Jesus.

If it's good enough for the Lord of the universe, it's good enough for us. :-)

(Not to mention, a neat way to redirect the focus back to Christ. "Why do we give our kids only 3 gifts? I'm so glad you asked....")

Julianna said...

No, I get it. Our boys are still little, and we've already started something similar. One present from "Santa" (large), one from the family (medium), and their stocking (small). It's a freeing struggle--if that makes sense. Free from the world and struggling to not be competetive with the world. I encourage you, brother!

Donny said...

So why just 3 gifts? Are you patterning that thought after the gifts the wise men gave to the Christ? What may each of those gifts symbolize in today's world??

**A new parent struggling through these questions, too. :)

Leilanni said...

Great post and comments! We consciously cut in half this year what we would normally spend. Every year we've had to coax our little girl into opening more gifts - she was satisfied after one or two. Oh the lessons the little ones teach us! So this year we only got her two plus her stocking and she was happy as could be :-)

Last night hubby and I watched "What Would Jesus Buy?" Seen it? Interesting little documentary on the commercialism of Christmas. (The director is the same guy who did SuperSize Me if anyone saw that.) You have to take "Reverend Billy" with a grain of salt but the overall message is compelling.

Thanks for sharing!