Every first Wednesday in December the Connections group I’m a part of at my church offers 2.5hrs of childcare for mothers to go do whatever they would like. Two and one half hours of sacred alone time. I know a lot of women usually go Christmas shopping; however I usually don’t. One year I scrap booked. One year I made 5lbs of potato salad for a get-together. I probably cleaned part of the house another year, etc, etc. But now that my kids are getting to the age when a pair of shoes and a board book from CVS no longer cut it as Christmas gifts, I had to take advantage of that 2.5hrs and use it for shopping purposes.
Now you’ll all think I live under a rock when I say that I honestly haven’t done much physical shopping recently (other than grocery shopping) – especially at Christmas time. Most of my Christmas purchases occur online. So I was truly overwhelmed when I drove into Toysrus at 9:30 last Wednesday morning and the parking lot was PACKED! I went into the store, knowing exactly what I wanted; however a one-day-sale was going on that day on the very item I wanted and apparently everyone else in the county knew this bit of information except me because the merchandise was well picked over, leaving me to wonder around the store looking for an alternative. Nothing else caught my interest, but what I did notice as I meandered about were the shopping carts. Shopping carts filled to the brim, overflowing(!) with toys, games, puzzles, bikes, you-name-it. I wondered how many children would receive gifts from one cartload – 4 or 5? 3…2…1? I also took in the conversations around me. I listened to a man proudly tell a salesclerk that he had visited 3 different states searching for an item. I also heard a clerk telling another clerk that she bought every single item on her daughter’s Christmas list… expensive items, putting financial strain on the mother.
I (and my husband) am no saint either. I entered Toyrus thinking of something very specific to finish out shopping for my daughter and ended the morning with that item bought at another store plus some additional small finds. Daniel and I drove 1.5hrs roundtrip looking for a specific item for my son and spent an evening looking at toy tractors – trying to reign in our purchasing power while knowing full well how much he would LOVE the 1/16 scale John Deere everything. And even though I never had them growing up, I have added stockings to our family tradition as a way slip in a few extra fun things.
I remember thinking after Christmas was over last year that this year was going to be different. We were not going to spend as much and bring as much stuff into our house this coming Christmas. Also, I desperately wanted to bring back the focus to the real Reason for the Season, which Daniel and I both believe isn’t presents. And while it seems we may (cross your fingers) end up accomplishing some of those goals this year (Thank you small group for throwing a birthday party for Jesus!!), here I sit with my shopping finished but no energy to make Christmas cookies to give away like I was hoping to do, put up a tree to sit by and relax, or engage my children in some other meaningful Christmas related interaction. I wonder… where has the joy of Christmas gone? Maybe I forgot to pick it up at the store.
A few weeks ago, I heard a story about a plain mennonite girl who received 2 things for Christmas as a child – some candy in a large kettle that the entire family would share, and one present from a school gift exchange. The decorations in her house consisted of a cheap-plastic, Christmas-themed music box. That was it – a few pieces of candy, 1 small gift and 1 decoration. But Christmas was still one of the most special days of the year because of the traditions and time spent with family and friends. Now there is real Joy.
And while Christmas of 2011 will consist of more than 1gift, some candy and 1 decoration for my children, I remain interested in ways to find the joy of the season as well as bestowing life-giving gifts to others. I will continue in my quest to make Christmas more meaningful and less material. Do you have any traditions along this line of thinking?