Wednesday, December 3, 2008

When Christmas Comes To Town

Christmastime is crazy. Since Jaysen and I got married we have made sure to share the holiday with both of our families. Every other year we are with his family and vice versa. On the years that it is my families turn, we go to my Grandma's house. Ever since I can remember my family has gone to her house for Christmas Eve. She has always made it such a huge event and takes no shortcuts when it comes to making sure it is a fabulous evening for everyone. In fact, as the family has gotten larger and larger {her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids} the family room was made bigger in order to accomodate everyone.

Santa Claus comes every year so that the kids can get in their last minute requests. We eat until we are so full we can't move. We sing carols. We play the bells. We learn about the true meaning of Christmas. It has been this way forever. Traditions are a part of what make the holiday so great.

About eight years ago a few of the traditions were changed as the families grew. Instead of going to my Grandma's house again on Christmas morning to open presents, we open them on Christmas Eve. This is done at the end of the evening. My grandparents pass out gifts to EVERYONE. {That's a lot of gifts!} They love to give these gifts and give them from their hearts. I appreciate them and all they do for their family. There's a lot of us and I know it takes months of work for them to cross everyone off of their list.

This year we are spending the holiday with my husbands family. I am new to their traditions but have found that no matter what activities take place, all that matters is that we are able to spend the holiday with family. This mean that this year we will be eating pizza from the favorite local pizza place. We read the Christmas story. We play fun games. We exchange ornaments and the kids open up their pajamas from Grandma and Grandpa. The opening of the pajama boxes is almost like an unveiling ceremony. The kids get so excited to see what their new jammies will look like each year. And every year as we put up our Christmas tree we get to reflect on the ornaments of Christmas' past that we have received from Jaysen's siblings. I have come to love and appreciate these traditions of his family and look forward to them every year.

The past few years I have struggled with the overwhelming amount of gifts that my kids receive every year. Not only do they get presents from me and Santa, but from cousins and grandparents too. My daughter receives presents from four sets of grandparents. My His birthday is this month as well so he is in present heaven. To top off that...he has two sets of parents and six sets of grandparents that give him presents {that I know of}. Yeah....I don't know if he even knows what he gets every year because there is so much. Now, I'm not saying that grandparents and cousins can't give gifts to my kids. In fact, my kids give gifts to their grandparents and their cousins themselves. It is just disheartening to see my kids simply looking for the next gift to unwrap. What is interesting though, is that the gifts that have had a lasting effect on my kids have never been the toys. Even so.....

I worry that my kids don't grasp the true meaning of Christmas.

I worry that the commercialism of the holiday is all they remember.

I worry that they will grow up and the only traditions they can look back on are opening presents.

I have been struggling with this for a few years now. There are so many other kids that receive little or nothing for Christmas. If you have seen the movie, The Polar Express, you will remember the adorable little boy who doesn't believe in Santa because he's never gotten a present from him. His family was too poor. And then there's my kids who have never wanted for anything. Am I the only one struggling with this? I worry that I have enabled my children to have this cushioned view of life.

I have tried to reign things in this year. After seeing the piles of presents that my kids opened, I told myself that was it. I wasn't going to do it again this year. Their presents are bought and I am done. I wanted to focus this year on teaching my kids the true meaning of Christmas. I want to take them caroling to the nursing home. I want to have them take presents to those who would otherwise go without. I want them to learn about the reason we give gifts in the first place.

I told them yesterday that we were going to be giving presents to baby Jesus this year because it is his birth we celebrate. Trying to keep things on my toddler's level I told them that we were going to have a birthday party for Jesus. The Wise Men took him presents to celebrate his birth and we have been told to give to others to honor His life. Not necessarily materialistic things, but of ourselves as well.

If any of you have other ideas that would help me to continue to keep the true meaning of Christmas as a theme for my family this year I would love to hear them. One aspect of Christmas that is identical no matter where we go to spend the holiday is that the story of the birth of Jesus is told. I grew up playing characters from this story as me and my cousins acted out the scenes. I am so grateful that my grandmother has kept this tradition alive. I love her so much for all of the time she puts into every Christmas Eve. She is 76 years old this year and I worry there won't be too many more years of her Christmas programs.

Sorry for the ramblings here....I've been frustrated over a few aspects of Christmas this year and needed to ramble on a bit. :0) Thanks for listening.


Alicia said...

Great pictures and a really good post. I too agree Christmas sometimes loses its true meaning, but I think kids, although they love the presents and Santa and talk more about that than the other, probably get it more than we do sometimes, at least I sleep better at night telling myself this.

Fonda said...

I love your post it really brings things to light. I admire your ambition and drive to have the emphasis on the true meaning of Christmas. I know this is something that concerns many of us. I hope I can incorporate it into my children Christmas season as well.

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Tess said...

I am feeling the same way! Our kids are not getting much this year and we are giving back to a family in need. The fact is , they don't NEED things. Just want. Even though they're little I think they can learn this.

sweetleslie said...

Great post! I agree that it has to much commercializm and sometimes the reason for the season is lost;however, its only lost if the parents don't make an effort to help their kids remember the Savior and why we celebrate his birth and Ashlee I think that you are a great mom and an amzing woman! Two suggestions though,if you haven't already thought of them already,one: donate coats to coats for kids and patipate in giving a gift through a store or do some research in your ward and help a family that needs help with Christmas. Merry Christmas!

AmyJ said...

Have you seen the binders that have a christmas story or poem to read each day of the month? I don't have one, but I've seen them and would like one. Just a simple way to remind us daily.