My archives might be a little outdated especially the older blogs. My links above are all new and current.

I have only positive things to say about Permission to Mother, an autobiographical account of a thoughtful mother and clinician who courageously writes from her heart, soul, brain, and personal experience; who is open to change in her views and opinions and is not guided by the safety of rules of any group or the status quo; she is guided by love and openness to the experiences life brings her and her family. Her process benefits her and those around her and those who read her words. And to add to that, the writing style and story telling ability here make it a very enjoyable read speckled with both the humor and seriousness of life. ~Laura Keegan RN FNP, author of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy

Readers enjoy your feedback and Reviews (82!) on amazon. Kindle Version Available!

Please Join me on Facebook at Punger Family Medicine.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Do We Do Gifts for Christmas or Hanukkah?

I tried not to post about the holidays, but I am caving in...

I grew up with a secular Christmas. Santa always brought tons of presents for me. In fact, I got tons of presents through the college years and even the first few years of marriage with kids. I was trying to think back to my fondest memories of Christmas growing up and why we put so much importance on this one day. The one that stands out to me the most is when we were with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins and Grandma and we savoured opening up presents and the "fun" of opening presents lasted all day. That was the only year quite like that--all together. The more mature and philosophical I got, the commercial side of all this really bothered me.

Having my own kids, I thought I owed them the anticipation of Santa coming and the memory and some tradition. In the early years we did it. We stayed in our home, opened presents in the morning, blah, blah, blah.

I remain disturbed by the entire holiday season. I asked my kids a few days ago which Christmas was their favorite. They told me the one when Uncle Ed and Grandma and everyone came to our house. (I don't remember which one that was... maybe that was Thanksgiving?) I asked them what was their all time favorite Christmas present. They didn't know. But I had another reason for asking about their Christmas memories.

You see, I am not good at making the perfect holiday, especially Christmas. Christmas seems to demand everything I am not. I don't like entertaining or hosting. I don't like meeting deadlines (like the December 25th deadline). What's wrong with being thoughtful year round? I am not good at presentation and gift wrap. I am not crafty. I can't seem to find that perfect gift and create a feeling of miracles and magic as every Christmas book and movie can. I don't like crowds. I can't seem to hide the gifts. I can't seem to hide the fact that I am wrapping gifts. I don't like my kids thinking Christmas is the only day of the year worth a damn. Everyday is special in its own way. I AM Jewish.

I have one child who has trouble with his emotions and anticipation and then the aftermath of "is that all." It's just a diatribe. I can't give him a miracle on 45th street. Why do they anticipate it so. We talked about coping with his feelings this year. I got rid of as many Christmas books and movies so we don't keep reminding ourselves of the specialist (not) day of the year. He loves that we are going visiting and loves the gift he knows he is getting, but he yet he can't cope with the range of feelings of surprises and expectations (I know this because he went to bed with tonight with his tears that I have come to recognize from previou holidays.) . For the most part he is like me; the holiday is too much. He is too young to have this insight. At least I can recognize what bothers me about the holiday. Anyway, I thought I could simplify a bit... if I knew what was important to them, I could focus on that.

We tried the Hanukkah gift giving thing over the years. Hanukkah isn't even a gift giving holiday. It's commercialized, too. For the most part it seems our kids get gifts all month long (Nannies, Grannies, etc... they are really loved.). This year I thought it would be a good idea to spread the gifts over 8 days. But for one, we got the boys fitted for bikes and helmets. This wasn't the kind of thing I could just surprise them with. They are properly equipped to ride long distance with me. Scott's bike is home already and William's bike will be in soon. Does it matter what holiday the bikes are given for? The most important thing is we are going to do something together with those bikes.

We have a few little odds and end gifts to give them. We are going to be going out of town. It's hard enough packing all our gifts for family, let alone take our own kids gifts wrapped up. There is not enough room in our car to waste space like that. Wrapping and bags often looks damaged after having traveled in and out of families homes.

I think tomorrow morning will be the day we open any gifts. I'll clear the table now (we haven't done a tree in a few years) so they have their things tomorrow. Then we can try to finish packing. Heck, it's like there isn't even time to savour the gift opening. Maybe I should just tote the packages along until a quieter day? I hate to say it, but the quiet day will be Christmas when everything is closed. One achievment over the years-- the two oldest know who Santa is. I am not sure that my youngest distinguishes Frosty from Santa from Rudolph. Goes to show the de-emphasis on all this we have achieved.

As an adult, one of my favorite Christmas memories is going to Christmas Eve service with my friend (my kids and John and her kids and her John). Then we went to another church for the outdoor nativity. It was really interesting to learn about her Eve festivities and see her house simply decked out with her homemade ornaments. I see that my best memories (and the kid's) are the times surrounded by lots of people. The gifts have nothing to do with the long term memory. But boy, do we place so much focus on them....

7 comments:

Lauren said...

Right there with you, Denise.

Christy ~ Munch75 said...

I've told my family since before Thanksgiving we wouldn't be doing many gifts ... I just want to spend time together, hang out, visit and relax. I am doing picture books of Alex's 1st year for the grandparents and such, but that's about it.

In early December, my parents sent us all money & a card, explaining they didn't want anything for Christmas this year, just snapshots of our families. I will do just that. :) Besides, anything they really want, they buy themselves, they don't wait for a holiday.

Mama K said...

My worst Christmases have been those with pressure and expectations. There were the concerts ( I have a very musical husband, he's been director and accompanist to various church and community groups over the years), visits with his family, visits with my family, and church programs, till there was barely time for us to celebrate as a family by ourselves. One year when I had three young boys, our own gift sharing time kept getting postponed as we had to stop in the middle of celebrating and go someplace time and again. That was the year I said, "No more". It didn't fix it right away, but it started me on a quest to find ways to prioritize our nuclear family Christmas time together. I feel for you. It can be hard.

My best Christmases have been the more recent ones, with my grown children coming here and all of us together. I love hearing them all laughing together. Hopefully as your boys grow, they will help with the necessary preparations and you will be able to chuck a lot of the unnecessary ones. Then it does get more fun.

I think to simplify we need to go back to what we are actually celebrating and focus on the main things. Let Martha do it her way. Us mere mortals can do it our way. (-: We can wrap in newspaper or leave it in the bags, and if it is given in love our children will be fine with it, especially when they are young. This year we have had to curtail our gift giving for financial reasons, and I have had more fun shopping because there is not the "more and more" mindset dogging me! Who knew! Less really IS more! Happy Hanukkah to you and yours. And wishes for a peaceful celebration, sane, and joy filled.

The Cooking Lady said...

Since we follow no religion...OK, we are atheists, you could easily do away with Christmas.

I dislike greatly the cramming into one day what should be spread out all through the year. Why wait for one day to show someone you care. And why do you have to max out your credit cards?

We no longer have credit cards and so we bake goods and make homemade granola and things of that nature. You don't have to be a Food Network queen to give something from the heart. And even those who are not crafty, there is something out there for everyone.

Take your time and find what tells people, this is you.

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

hmmmm. For us it is the ritual I guess, and that is what the kids tend to love. We have always done a secret Santa kind of thing. Each year they pull from a hat who they will bestow their gift on. It is not so much the gift, but how it is wrapped, and wrapped and wrapped then ducktapped and put in a box with a brick. They put a lot of thought into tricking their sib!

We always share a Looooong breakfast together, usually with family and a friend or two. And then a festive dinner.

I happen to LOVE Christmas...we were married on Christmas eve (20 years today!)Love the feel of the season.It is certainly not about stuff (and I pride myself on shopping and even THINKING about gifts the last two days before Christmas...never fails me, and don't have expectations or lists)

What I also love is how each family can make it THEIR own...what works best for them...find their own ritual.

To you and yours... a slice or two of peace and joy this week!

Mama to Monkeys said...

Wow. I could have written this. I am continually appalled by the amount of "stuff" it takes to create magic on one certain day. I watched my Monkey open gift after gift this year, and it meant nothing to her after the second or third.

I'm hoping that next year can be different because I really don't want to raise my children that way.

Mama to Monkeys said...

Oh, and I should mention...As an adult I've never liked Halloween through Easter. There was always this pressure on us as kids to have the "perfect" day and when someone (ie, me) would mess it up, we would be accused of "ruining the holiday". Oh, yes, my father used to actually say that. I still shake my head about it, even with years of therapy under my belt.

I've always said, why just one day? Why not every day? Just like New Year's resolutions are bogus, so is the excuse of one particular day to give a million gifts that end up regifted, in a closet, broken or unappreciated. If you want to give a gift, give it! If you want to make a change, make it!

Whew! That felt good. :)

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin
There was an error in this gadget