Well, Merry Christmas yo! It has been a while since my last post as I took advantage of the time off work to enjoy my family over the holidays. And I know this post might feel a bit late, but I really want to share this with you because it might be helpful for you for the Christmases to come. We all celebrate Christmas in different ways, and I wanted to share with you some thoughts on that with the hopes you will have a more meaningful Christmas if you don’t already do.
First, I would like to share that as a Catholic raised in a third world country, there is no Santa Claus. You can receive presents if your parents can afford it but they actually come from baby Jesus if you receive them on Christmas Day. If we want to stick to the religious side then you get them from the Magic Kings on January 6th because after all it was the Wise Men who brought presents to baby Jesus and they can too bring you presents if you are good. Now presents aside, there is one other thing that seems to be important to many people, in Guatemala at least, and that is “el estreno” (new clothes to wear). Why do I say that it’s important? Well, for starters because this tradition of wearing new clothes for Christmas Eve, when the party actually gets started, is for all not just kids. Adults especially feel the need to wear your best (new if possible) clothes for the feast. If you are religious you will be going to church on Christmas Eve night and wait until midnight when the sky is decorated with fireworks (big and small), hug your family and friends, open presents (if any) and have Christmas dinner (yup, after midnight). If you are a party person you will continue to drink and dance until the morning. If you are not religious, you might do all of these except no visit to the church.
Second, I would like to share my experience here in the US for Christmas. It seems like presents here are THE thing. Whether you are a child or an adult, you expect presents to open under the Christmas tree on Christmas day. If you are religious, you will attend mass or service at the Church, go home, bake cookies for Santa Claus, and go to bed. After the little ones are sleeping, Santa Claus will come to town (wink, wink), and the next morning you will all wake up to open presents. I’ve heard from some people who have a special Christmas meal for breakfast (more so like brunch) and others who will have a special meal for dinner. Now if we go through social media looking at all the posts from Christmas Eve or Day, you will see a big load of presents. It feels like the more presents, the merrier. Everyone expects presents, even if it’s just chocolate: your mailman, the kids’ teachers, your college professors, your nail lady, coworkers, everyone. Now, sure is nice receiving presents but I am afraid people get too caught up in it, hence my post.
Now, before I go into sharing my cozy thoughts (see that, getting you into the mood here), I would like to clarify one more thing. The Christmas experiences described above are NOT the same for everyone in my beloved Guatemala or here in the US. This is simply what I have experienced over the years in both countries. I am also not saying that if you fit into one of these categories, there is something good or wrong with you. You celebrate as you see fit and there is nothing wrong with that. I would still very much like to share some cozy thoughts that might help you in the future if I may:
- About Santa Claus. I get is part of tradition, but why give credit to a sneaky man and his elves when is us parents that have to work hard for presents? When our oldest son was just a baby, my husband and I jumped through hoops to get all the presents we could under the tree. We wanted him to feel especial in the form of an overwhelming number of presents. We got as many as we could. A couple were expensive and we added a bunch of simple things just to make it an overall bunch because that was all we could afford at that time. But as I was talking to a friend just recently, it came to my mind that there was no need to do all of that. See, my friend is a single mother of two. She works two jobs and she has to work very hard for every present her kids receive. She pointed out: “why give credit to the man on the red suit when it should be extra credit for me?” A good point! I am sure her kids will appreciate her effort when they get older but why wait until then. Maybe we need to enforce thankful behaviors much sooner. I’ve also heard that some kids get pretty upset when they found out who Santa Claus really is because their parents have been lying to them. Shouldn’t we foster any opportunity we have of trust with our children?
- The actual presents. As they have gotten older my kids’ wishlist has been completely influenced by commercials. I find it surprising that they will even use the product’s tagline when I ask them why they want these things they have never really seen other than through the TV. Of course everyone is playing it with “it” and so my kids need it to too, but usually this obsession plays out the same way for us, hang tight to learn it, which has made triple consider every present to make sure it will be truly meaningful for them.
- They open present from Santa Claus and is the no. 1 thing on the Christmas list, yay!
- They play with it for two days, maybe up to a week.
- Presents is kept “safe” somewhere say storage room.
- We found present during the summer when we are cleaning storage for things to donate to goodwill.
- We tell them present will go on the goodwill bag since they haven’t played with it since Christmas.
- Kids insists is their favorite toy and play with it again for say a few more weeks.
- Present makes it to the “safe” zone again and the whole shebang repeats until they admit they truly don’t want to play with it and add it to the goodwill bag.
- The ideal presents. So my kids get over toys real fast. What they really want are video games, computer games or an iPhone 8 so they can download apps to play (please picture my outraged face here would ya!). However, we are very much against the overwhelming amount kids spend in front of a screen (whether it’s a TV, computer, tablet) which these days is more by the second given school homework is done online these days (please picture and even more outraged face!). So for the past two years we have been looking into presents that get him outdoors and provide them physical activity. But of course their scooters are still in good shape and there’s no need to have a second one so this year we got scrappy and I think it was one of the best presents yet. I refuse to spend a lot of money in something my kids will only play with once or twice, and I refuse to promote screen time. Now I am not embarrassed to say that we use outings to brag our kids sometimes like: if you guys eat all your veggies, we will go out for frozen yogurt tonight (for instance). So this year we came up with the idea of gift certificates!! Yes!! OMG, I am so excited about sharing this one with ya! I made gift certificates to the places they are always asking us to take them like Rockin’Jump, mini golf, arcades and I mixed it with some of the treats they always ask for like ice cream or pizza and ta-dah: perfect gift! I have a picture of some of them for you to get an idea. They were so happy and we have already talked of when will they redeem their first one.
- Family Time. The most important thing on Christmas is the birth of baby Jesus. He becomes part of a family in the most humble possible way. Why change that? Christmas is about family not presents. It’s about unity and not how much you spend on presents. It’s about giving back and not asking for more. It’s about being thankful for what we have and not what we didn’t received. If you have little ones, make the most of it because they will grow fast and their innocence will soon be gone. If you are an adult, treasure your parents, siblings, cousins, la abuela, everyone for you don’t know how much longer you will have them. Of course you can prepare a lovely meal and share, that’s actually encouraged! But try your best to focus on the things that matter: the time with your loved ones.
I have been calling myself the Grinch these days. Actually, I am not sure that I should given that I haven’t read the book or watched the movie. But I’ve always had this idea that the Grinch is trying to steal Christmas but then when I was looking for quotes on Pinterest I ran into this one which made me think, I too should be a Grinch. Christmas it is not about presents, it’s about something more. It’s about love, family, sharing, caring. Let’s try to bring back the real spirit, shall we?