Last year my bloggy BFF Anju and I exchanged Christmas guest posts on our blogs (you can read hers here and mine by following this link.) Out of that, I had the idea to expand on this series for the coming year and I asked a couple of other blog friends to write about Christmas from their perspectives for me. So (hopefully) for the next three weeks leading up to christmas, you will see a twice weekly guest post pop up additionally to your regularly scheduled programming. My friend Tim form That Tiny Website will kick this little series off.
Christmas. It’s the reason for the season. Or so that’s what I was always told.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane for a moment. It’s the late fall of 1998. Thanksgiving and my 11th birthday have just passed, winter’s first snowflakes have fallen on our yard, and all of the kids in my grade were very excited to get Christmas presents. I was certainly no exception to this phenomenon, and all I wanted that year was a Game Boy and Pokemon Blue.
1998 was also the first year since I was born where my dad wasn’t working for one company. He had spent the previous 15ish years working for a factory that made thermostats, working his way up to a mid-level supervisor. As my parents’ divorce drug on year after year (custody battles are particularly tedious when neither party is financially stable), my dad begin to miss more and more work. While he’s always told me he quit the factory at the end of 1997 to get a job closer to home, everyone else I’ve asked about it says that he was fired for missing so much work between the divorce and other financial-related legal proceedings.
While my dad held other jobs throughout the course of 1998, I don’t recall any of them being particularly consistent. The adult version of me realizes that asking for a $200 gaming system and a $40 game (remember when brand new video games were $40?) was not something my dad could afford. Couple that with his then-girlfriend/very-soon-to-be-wife moving in with us, along with her two unemployed, adult children, and money certainly wasn’t easy to come by.
I didn’t get the Game Boy that Christmas, nor is it the point to this story. I wasn’t expecting to get the Game Boy. I knew my dad’s financial problems were bad, though the gas company shutting off our heat five days prior to Christmas sealed that image in my mind. My younger brother and I woke up on Christmas morning, went downstairs to a breakfast of discount cereal and questionable milk, then sat in front of the tree to open presents.
I got a pair of jeans, a gray sweatshirt, and a pack each of socks and underwear. My brother got the same, although his sweatshirt was a different color (blue?) to help us differentiate since we were about the same size. Shortly after my future stepmom and her kids woke up, the six of us were readying ourselves to go to my grandmother’s for Christmas lunch when a cop car pulled into our driveway.
Seeing a cop car in the driveway wasn’t a terribly odd occurrence at my house. My dad went to high school with two of the officers on our small town police force, while the police chief regularly hired my grandpa to do his HVAC work. Later in life, both of the adult stepbrothers would run into issues with the law, and my mother would repeatedly and falsely accuse my dad of child abuse. I got tired of waking up to the flashing lights of a police cruiser.
On this day, it was a bit different. A few minutes after the cop car arrived, a pair of policemen brought in armloads of presents for me and my brother. The presents certainly weren’t extravagant – a got a single-shot nerf gun and some targets, 4-5 Hot Wheels cars (one was a Corvette, which was very exciting to me), a couple of books, and some more clothes…my brother’s gifts were similar – but they were presents nonetheless. It was a legitimately happy day.
Unlike many people, I don’t view Christmas as a religious holiday. While I understand the roots of the Christmas holiday (both from a Christian and pagan standpoint), the modern holiday of Christmas is far more cultural than it is religious. It’s a celebration of family, prosperity, and the act of faking that giving gifts is more important than receiving them. That last point is exactly why stores open on Thanksgiving Day to start Christmas shopping, why roads clog up to a standstill on Christmas Eve, and why alcohol really does make the holiday season brighter.
It doesn’t have to be like that though.
Every person has the opportunity to use the Christmas season to improve both their lives and the lives of those around them. Do you know what I’ve asked for this year? People to pay money towards my student loans. If you’re getting me a present at all, why not contribute to helping me defeat the single most soul and money sucking entity in my life?
Better yet though, give your money, your time, and/or your resources to those who really need it. Have extra clothes that you never wear (I promise you do)? Donate them to a local homeless shelter or thrift store. Have a canned food supply that could outlast most wars? There are hungry people who’d love to have a meal, and you can help them by donating your surplus. Hell, just give a gift to someone you know who’s having a hard time financially, physically, or emotionally.
The holiday of Christmas isn’t the reason for the season. The holiday is a perverse attempt to make what you get more important than what you give (or worse, to force your religion on others in some cases). No, the real reason for the season is charity. Give to someone who has less than you do. That’s the true Christmas spirit.
Thanks a LOT for sharing this, Tim. Donating clothes and outcast toys is a good idea, especially since there are so many people in need and you could make a child’s Christmas at least a little bit brighter. I think we do lose count over what’s important and what this holiday is about way too easily. And sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reflect on what is important and what isn’t. I’ll leave you with that. Be sure to check out Tim’s site if you haven’t already because he is a great writer and I also can’t wait to get my hands on his very first book (whenever that will be released).