Take time to enjoy togetherness at Christmas

By KRIS SHEARER Columnist Published:

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas." -- Peg Bracken.

"Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under a tree."-- Charlotte Carpenter.

The Christmas season is upon us again. As I get older, the season seems to come faster and faster each year. It seems like just last week that I was preparing for the Shearer Christmas Eve Game Fest, and now here it is again.

My mother never seemed to really enjoy Christmas much when I was a child. Part of this, of course, was because her mother died on Christmas Eve in 1968. But, even before that happened, I remember her being stressed out and high strung during the season. Much of this is because she couldn't really enjoy it. Everything had to be just perfect, exact, precise. She was so worried about "spending" the same on each of us (her four children), that she went so far as to tape coins to packages. I'd go to crumple wrapping paper, and she'd say, "Don't throw that away, there's a nickel and a penny on there." As if we were tallying, in our minds, the amount spent rather than enjoying our Christmas treasures.

I've always tried to treat my kids equally as possible, but I never have and never will count pennies and tape coins to packages! In fact, I believe doing so teaches children to be greedy and doesn't teach them that "fair" isn't always "equal." Nor does it teach the true meaning of what giving is.

My husband and I haven't bought each other Christmas gifts for as long as I can remember. When our children were small, we barely had enough money for them. And, truly, our joy came from seeing the delight and wonder in the eyes of our children. When we moved in 2003, we decided that buying a home we loved, but couldn't really afford, was Christmas to us the rest of our lives. So, our joy is daily, not seasonal.

Yet I am looking toward the holiday with anticipation and joy. I giggle to think how my son and I are already haggling over who will win the Battle of Wits that always ensues when we are together. (I will; I always do!) My heart lurches with eager bliss thinking how many relentless battles will ensue over the single spoon left on the table while we play the boisterous card game. My smiling cheeks ache with delight for the first snort of Pepsi out someone's nose as we jibe each other over our horrid acting skills at Guesstures.

It is these things, these family traditions of togetherness and shared jollity that make the holiday. Whether I spent equal amounts on everyone, or if I even chose right for everyone, is not the point of the night. Being able to laugh until your cheeks hurt, until you laugh so hard the tears run down your leg, that is the true joy of the season.

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