MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS PAST
Christmas was a simpler, more joyous time that most people looked forward to with great excitement. We loved the annual traditions; making cookies and fudge, going to see the lights, chatting while wrapping presents, playing card games, and watching Christmas specials, while eating buttery popcorn. We enjoyed fun and laughter, for hours at a time.
The older adults, having lived through the Depression, were just glad to have a good meal, while those who had been in the military were grateful and appreciative to be with family. People were thankful to have a job, so they worked hard and saved what they could for a better life.
Our parents did whatever they could to make Christmas a special and fun time, even if they didn’t have much. Holidays were less focused on “material things” or outdoing neighbors/friends and more on the TRUE meaning of the season. Very little was spent on gifts, but Christmas was so much more than just getting gifts. We never felt that we were missing out on anything or wanted more. Expecting nothing, when we did receive something, it was truly appreciated and we took care of it.
Before her death, the wife of a wealthy doctor requested that her family include in her obituary that her happiest and most fun times were when they had very little money and had to “make do”. Wrapped presents could never replace the feeling of those wonderfully warm and pleasant memories of time spent with family and friends.
Treasured holiday memories were simple things done together; decorating the tree, setting up the nativity, listening to Christmas music, dressing up, eating favorite foods off of the good china, taking photos. There was so much love and they felt very blessed
The now grown children of a single mom, who struggled financially to raise them, were surprised when she asked if they ever resented receiving very few gifts. They assured her they have many lovely memories of the doing things together as a family. They were aware that much of what they received was a sacrifice for her and what they received meant that much more to them. Knowing what it was like to have once been poor and how they always appreciated all that they received today,every single one of them are
thoughtful to help others in need.
Happiness lies in the imagination, not the act. Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.”
― Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY
Huge piles of toys that can’t all fit into the toy boxes, cell phones, video games, the latest high tech electronics…and more. There are no exciting surprises awaiting kids who have everything. Mom and Dad take their children shopping at the mall, whipping out credit cards as the kids point to items they don’t, yet have. Grandkids rip through wrapping paper promptly throwing it on the floor, in order to get on to the next gift, while asking,”Is that it?”
Nowadays, kids get FAR too much and Christmas gifts aren’t appreciated. Ever wonder where the idea that giving to kids should be so excessive?
Many of us parents were determined that our children have it even better than we did…just as our parents wanted for us. As we became financially more secure, there was money for more and more expensive gifts. When the kids didn’t seem to appreciate our gifts we tried to top the previous year’s presents by spending more and buying more, until the giving got out of hand. Our kids had everything but now value nothing and seem to expect everything to be handed to them.
Receiving so much, it seems to be less appreciated, like it is by those who receive very little at Christmas. Many children don’t say “thank you”, because their parents, whom we raised, may themselves not realize the importance of those two little words since they were so… ummm…. “gifted”, themselves.
A person who feels “entitled” doesn’t have the same appreciation and rarely sees the
importance of saying thank you and thus, tend to leave a lot of hurt feelings in their wake.
When everything is supplied for them without “earning it” why would they feel the need to
show gratitude? Sadly, kids who get things much more often (like mine did) feel even more “entitled”. Now, they have told us to just mail them a check for Christmas and there is no exchange of gifts or any thanks forthcoming.
We grew up to expect nothing out of life, except what we put into it. When we worked
hard and excelled we felt really good about ourselves. Yet, today we are constantly told that kids must never be allowed to feel bad about themselves. We are told that it is important for kids delicate self esteem that they must continually be praised for their work and given a hug and award no matter how mediocre, because we don’t want them to feel bad.
One mom requested pictures be published in the newspaper of her child’s third place ski contest medal….yet, there were only three kids in the event. Embarrassed, the young child felt compelled to explain to everyone, yet felt torn as it was revealing his mom’s dishonesty. Handing kids everything , without any effort required on the child’s part, teaches them, among other things, that they are entitled and don’t have to work to get something.
Why should anyone bother to do their school work if the student who doesn’t study is given a gold star anyway, same as the best student who actually studied his lesson? Where is the incentive to excel and do great things in life? What kind of employee or spouse will this child grow up to be?
A child’s mind is empty and the way they learn is by soaking up what the people around
them teach them! If we parents and grandparents are honest we will admit that we
bear much of the responsibility for having raised them to feel entitled.
One lady who had “everything” and was in and out of the car, going to and from dance
classes, gymnastics, music lessons, sports, and “this and that” from early in the morning
until late at night shared that her childhood was a blur. She can’t remember anything
she received in gifts nor did she she appreciate what she received because there was
just so much that she got. She admits to being a “spoiled rotten BRAT” (her words) who was always mad that it was never enough, never what she wanted, even if they got her exactly what was on her list including a new car as a teenager. She is ashamed that she made her now deceased parent’s Christmas horrible for them each year.
Our family has donated gifts each year to help a needy family or two. The recipient
children are told only that the gifts are “from Santa”. Every year it seems the gifts under the recipient’s trees are more and more gifts, due to the generosity of so many people and organizations. Our kids have questioned if we are a poor family since they get much less under the tree than the needy kids.
Is it a good thing to be given so much that one comes to expect it without working for it?
To spoil a child rotten, give him everything he wants and then some. Same for adults. If we want our children and grandchildren to have better life skills we should have higher expectations for them and not shelter them from everything. Life isn’t easy and it is our responsibility to prepare them for when the day comes that we are gone and
there is no one to take care of them. It takes a personal and determined commitment
to their well-being, as is explained so simply here:
What the butterfly can teach us
Today is tomorrow’s yesterday. Wonderful memories that family and friends will look
back at nostalgically and cherish for the rest of their life can be made this Christmas
by keeping it simple and focusing on the TRUE gift that we have been given. The times
spent together will make memories that long outlast any toy or electronic.
Simple really does make beautiful memories!
Please take the time to read this: Creative Deprivation Helps Us Appreciate the Small Things