With unusually warm temperatures in Philadelphia this December, it has hardly felt like Christmas was coming, but sure enough it is almost here and the crowds at Target this weekend confirmed it for me. I usually only buy my kids one or two gifts, knowing that they will be blessed by many others from grandparents and friends, and wanting to strive for quality over quantity. Each year though my son changes his request to Santa at the last minute, so I intentionally procrastinate my shopping and wait for his final decision.
When meeting Santa a few weeks ago, my son brought a picture that he drew of his gift request since he stated that he couldn’t write it yet. He sat on Santa’s lap and proudly showed his drawing, then thanked Santa for the things he had already received in his Advent calendar, which were mostly M&M’s, stickers, and Legos. While his 2-year-old sister looked on hesitantly at this jolly stranger, he sat there proudly holding his drawing and studying Santa’s reaction. I was proud that he made gratitude a part of his meeting with Santa and that instead of rattling off a long list of toys, he simply asked if Santa could help find him one: a duck.
So there I was at Target, the Saturday before Christmas, searching for a duck, only to find ransacked shelves with animals of every sort other than avian. As I saw other parents frantically filling their carts, I was grateful that my shopping list was short, even if an unusual one. I have listened to parents in my office stressing for weeks about how to fill the space beneath their tree, and whenever possible our office has stepped in to help them. However good it feels to hand out toys though, I always wish that I could help support these families in removing the stress from the holidays and focus on creating joyful memories. As my kids get older, we strive to develop our own family Christmas traditions that we can look forward to each year, but I know that the peacefulness we enjoy is a privilege that not all share. Finding ways to teach my children how to be grateful, to give to others, and not put themselves first is a challenge in the face of the commercialization of Christmas, but one that I continue to tackle. More and more, I seek to make this season one of togetherness, gratitude, and worship. Of course there are gifts along the way, but when we reflect on our Christmas memories, I know that it will be the things we did together and for others that we all will remember most.