Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Christmas, especially when so many are feeling extreme financial restraints, can be very difficult. Seasonal depression affects many – some from the holidays themselves and some from the weather this time of year. I always try to bring myself out of the holiday funk by decorating and listening to lots of holiday music. I work hard to find something special as my gift to my loved ones – something that is particular to them and reflects their value to me. This year, my “gifts” will have all of the same intent behind it, but it will not have any price tag associated with it. Like many, I simply cannot afford Christmas.
Now, I could let this get me down, sink into a deep, dark pit, and slink my way through the holidays. But I refuse. As I write I am currently arguing with my youngest daughter via text about Christmas decorations. If it were left up to her, they would not go up. I say we need a joyful sight when we come home in the evenings. We argued over the weekend about holiday music. I have been humming carols – traditional and nontraditional – for a week. I cannot get them out of my head. They make me feel better.
I am writing letters and/or poetry for my family, letting them know how much they mean to me. I am recounting meaningful moments in our lives where they impressed me or where their presence was very important to me. I am making sure they know that THEY are one of the gifts that I do not want to do without. I know that it is not much, but it is something I can do that will hopefully let them know how much I value them.
I realize that most of my readers have small children and that these options just don’t work with little minds that are anticipating Santa. Decorations are still a great start. Use what you already have because while they may be “worn out” to you, they still hold lots of wonder to your children. Get your children involved in making construction paper snowflakes and Christmas trees to hang in their rooms or from the dining room ceiling.
Get them in the kitchen with you to make holiday treats. Rice Krispie treats are surprisingly economical and easy to make. While baking cookies can require lots of time and often expensive ingredients, all of the grocery stores will have refrigerated cookie dough on sale. Save time that you can spend eating cookies with your children and buy a couple of rolls. Your children will like them just as much and they will like it even better when you sit down with them to enjoy them. Read or tell them Christmas stories. Most of us know The Night Before Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by heart. There are so many different Christmas classics on television that are worth seeing year after year. Enjoy these moments with them so that they will know that Christmas isn’t really about Christmas morning, but about the feeling of love and joy that we share with each other throughout the holidays – and hopefully the year.
If you need help with Christmas presents for your children, put aside any feelings of pride or degradation. Your children are worth more than either. I listen to the television station in my area talk about needing more families and companies to “adopt a family” because the need this year is greater than ever. We are not in that boat alone! There is no shame in asking for help when you have done all you can to help yourself. The Salvation Army, many area churches, television and radio stations, local food banks, Social Services – all of these places have programs in place to help families provide a Christmas for their children. Allow other people to help you put a smile on your children’s faces. One of the best Christmases I ever had was one where I had some extra money and was able to take my daughters shopping for presents for a family that we did not know. We had so much fun buying and wrapping presents for this family we would never meet. On Christmas morning, we talked about how they might be reacting to their gifts and it made us smile. If you are in a position where you cannot provide Christmas for your family this year, give someone else the opportunity to feel that type of Christmas cheer for giving to those in need is one of the great blessings that exists.
I remember stories that my mother told me about very lean Christmases in her childhood. They were excited to open the living room closet and find a bunch of bananas hanging there, with apples, oranges, and nuts in a box on the floor. Too much emphasis has been placed on gifts as a priority in our modern Christmas traditions. Perhaps our current economic state is to serve as a reminder that gifts are not the purpose of the Christmas season. My mother will tell you that she had a happy childhood. I believe her. She had far less than I did growing up and I tend to believe that she was much better off for it. Certainly, children today feel they “need” more than I did at their age. This does not mean that they are right.
Maybe Christmas won’t have all the boxes, bows, and expensive gifts that it has in the past, but all the better for it. Take away the presents and you have a need to depend upon the love and friendship of others to make the holidays bright. I hope that your holidays will be the brightest ever!!