As I was watching a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton recently, it struck me how simple Christmas was back in the 1800s as depicted by Charles Dickens. The children squealed in delight at the mere mention of having a goose for dinner. The idea of enjoying figgy pudding on Christmas day was enough to make them dance around and giggle!
I would love to keep the holidays simple, but I’ve already raised the bar of expectation too high, and I fear it’s too late to lower it. Each year in my house the gifts under the tree get more spectacular because I can’t control my own excitement, but how nice would it be to return to the days where a taste of sugar and meat on Christmas was all our children needed to be ecstatic?
How glorious it would be for me to pull out my fiddle and sing Christmas carols with my family while the figgy pudding cooled, their little hearts aflutter with anticipation! There would be no talk of Nintendos or hover boards — just a house full of kiddos merrily wondering if Santa might have brought one peppermint stick for them!
I don’t have the nerve to bring that simple world to fruition out of fear of disappointing them. Instead, I work myself into a frenzy, wondering how I’ll be able to afford the gifts on my children’s ever-growing lists. I instill lessons in them 364 days a year about living simply, giving to others and working hard. On Christmas, that all goes out the window, and our household turns into a palace of gluttony because I’ve allowed it.
Why is that? Why would I — a person who so longs for the simplicity of the holidays — allow Christmas to be such a time of over-indulgence? It’s because I’m in love with the sparkle of belief that lights up my children’s faces, and I want to fuel it maybe a bit too much. I want to wow them with the feeling of magic, joy and love so much so that I am guilty of going overboard.
I have childhood memories of tiptoeing down the stairs, wondering what Santa brought, and I see the same thing happening in my children. I want their eyes to widen with excitement and to have a mystery brewing in their hearts, but I also don’t want them to be self-absorbed stinkers who think all they have to do is eat their vegetables and put their dishes in the sink to be showered with shallow gifts.
As much as I preach to my kids about how Christmas isn’t about the gifts, the truth is it’s all about the gifts for them now, just as it is for nearly every small child. When they’re adults looking cross-eyed at their own children’s Christmas wish lists, I hope their memories will turn to knowing nods of appreciation. They’ll understand that although this season is wrapped in magic and joy, the adults are behind the curtain, working feverishly to make said magic and joy seem effortless.
In this sense, perhaps I put on such a production out of fear of being forgotten by them one day.
Although I don’t have the self-restraint to cut back on the gifts, I will start incorporating simple traditions that will help us tap back into the true spirit of Christmas. I don’t have a fiddle, and I’d rather be playing with my kids than making figgy pudding, so we’ll have to find something that works for us in the present day. Although they’re never going to sing and dance over the thought of a goose and figgy pudding, I have a feeling if they’re anything like their mama, it will be the little things they’re going to remember most one day anyway.
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Rebecca Rine is a writer living in Kettering with her family. Her work can be found on jaggedjourney.com.