On a random shopping trip I happened upon a store. It seemed to be a home decoration store, something I am always interested in visiting. It was early in the fall - well before Halloween. As I started into the store, I realized it felt familiar to me. It was filled with decorations, not of Halloween or even Thanksgiving, but of Christmas. As I walked among the faux trees, the colored balls and shiny wrapping paper; although months before the actual season, I began to anticipate the many facets of the upcoming Christmas holiday. The magical, wondrous smells; the cozy, furry warm clothing and family get-togethers began to come to mind.
As my mind wondered I began thinking of individual family members, friends and coworkers. I could picture each one and began to contemplate how I would express my love and friendship in a unique and creative way this season. Would I wonder aimlessly in various stores, catalogs or internet sites and stumble on just the perfect gift? Or would something come to me at a random moment and I would just know the perfect thing that would express my love in a unique way?
I have been a gift giver from the time I was very small. I remember vividly at a very young age anticipating with great enthusiasm the arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. The catalog was for our family, a lifeline to civilization. We lived far from shopping malls and big box stores. For a young child the stuffed animal and toy section was filled with choices for my Christmas shopping. I was the big sister to a brother and sister at the time, my youngest sister was yet to be born. I can still remember the stuffed animals I picked for each, a painstaking task of choosing and then changing my mind again and again until I just knew it was the perfect fit.
The gift I labored over the most was always the one for my mother. It had to be perfect! I would labor endlessly. It wasn’t that I loved my mother more than the others; I believe it was her gracious mystery that challenged me. I knew she would “love” anything I gave her. That was not enough; it needed to convey just the right sentiment of admiration and love. To this day I find myself often commenting “oh my other gave that to me”, as she often finds jus the perfect gift for me.
The process of giving at Christmas started immediately after Christmas each year. Not only have I always been a giver but a “saver,” as well. I would begin to save my allowance and plan ways to make extra money. I wanted my treasure trove filled by next December. It is something I do to this day, my Christmas fund firmly embedded in my budgeting process.
For me the planning, the saving and the giving are a process that has led to traditions I am quite fond of. For example, my son-in-law; I am a lover of books and politics. As a new son-in-law, intelligent and well educated I assumed he would be also. For his first Christmas with our family I gave him a book from one of my favorite political writers, only to find he hated reading. The book sits on a shelf gathering dust. Incorporating another of our traditions, humor; in addition to his “real” gift, I continue to give him a book every year, in spite of himself.
Another tradition I enjoy is the planning and execution of the gift opening. Marking each present with a number indicating the order in which they are to be opened. The order is determined by importance building to a climax of sorts. It is always a challenge and fun to keep everyone guessing. For example although important and traditional we usually begin the opening of presents with an ornament. Which when the children were small, was not usually the favorite gift. This was also another way my husband and I incorporated humor as we teased the children with anticipation.
A tradition I was introduced to by my mother was the joy of Christmas wrapping. I remember coming home from school each day in the weeks before Christmas break to new and more beautiful packages each day. When my son, newly graduated from Pharmacy School and making real money for the first time, gave me a bottle of Channel for Christmas, I was of course overjoyed. But it was the small box immaculately wrapped in a beautiful foil wrap and ribbon with a tiny matching bow that filled me with emotion. He had learned to wrap from me as I had from my mother. But more importantly he made the special effort to make sure it was wrapped just perfectly, knowing what it meant to me. It was an example of thoughtfulness; that is the spirit of Christmas! So on that note…. however you may celebrate, whatever your traditions may be, may your gifts of love be the center of your holiday, Merry Christmas to all.
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC