Next week is Thanksgiving and also the official start of the Christmas season. For most people it is a time of year to dread. It is a time of crowded shopping malls and long lines at the stores. A time that is supposed to be filled with joy is instead filled with disappointments and failed expectations. I may be an odd ball, but, it is non of that for me. I get excited over Christmas, more than birthdays,(that deserves it own post). The forty days leading up to it is spent fasting,(according to the tradition of my faith). So when Christmas arrives the fast is broken and it is a joyus feast.
I grew up in a bigger family with a father who was a seasonal worker. Needless to say that the winter months were leaner. No matter what though Christmas ALWAYS happened. It may not have been at the scale that other kids were accustom to but that NEVER mattered to me. I think in the long run that helped me more than my folks will ever realize.
You might be thinking, what the gifts are the best part. My friend you are missing out on so much if you think that the gifts, perfect meals and Pintrest worthy crafts as the best part of the season. Now you are worried about your kids only focusing on the gifts then set the example and they will follow. I think that us parents underestimate the power that we have to influence our children's moods more often then we realize.
In our country there is also a negative association with not having things. If you don't have X then you won't really be happy. The reality is that having your basic needs met is a luxury that most of the worlds population doesn't have. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes. True joy and contentment is priceless and not directly tied to things. In my life I have met people who literally glowed with an inner light. They had joy and peace beyond anything that I have ever seen. These were people who had very little. When I was younger I spend a large percent of my energy on trying to be skinny. This went on until I had an epiphany. That was that no matter what I looked like, what I wore, what I drove or where I lived true joy can only come from inside of me. It is independent from outward forces.
Since I became a parent I started from the get go, no matter how broke we were, to teach the kids to give to those who had less. I also realized that I wanted Christmas to be centered on giving, kindness, and love. Being religious we put focus on the Nativity of Christ. But, I also use it as a time to set a wonderful example of how to respect those of different faiths and those who aren't religious. My husband and I also agreed to have a lower spending cap. I have always said that when they are very little if you set the bar too high by the time they are teens you are done for.
Christmas is the one time a year that everyone believes in miracles, giving to others, (not necessarily material gifts), and being joyful. It is a time of year where hope is spread. Halloween even though it is fun is not about light it is about darkness and fear. As a stark contrast during Christmas time there are few places you can go that isn't full of lights. And just in case you miss all of this,(the love, joy, peace and lights thing),there is music about it.
My hope is that when my kids are old and grey the things that they will remember won't be the toys they got. Hopefully, it will be the memories of love. As you prepare to get launched into this next holiday season please take a second and pause. Think about the thing that you remember about this season that gives you joy. Look for ways to share that joy with others. Small, random acts of kindness can completely change someone's day. And perhaps without you knowing it will change you too. May the remainder of this year, for you, be blessed with peace, love, joy, kindness and goodness. May your dark winter days be filled with light.