I was struck today that counting today and Christmas day that this is the first of 12 days of Christmas. I know the original song denotes the 12 days starting with Christmas. But in our modern tradition, Christmas is the culmination, not the beginning.
There is much debate and speculation about the origin and meaning of the song the 12 days of Christmas. I’ll let others spend time with all of that. For me, my favorite version of the song is below.
In these next twelve days there will be parties, events, lots of shopping, much food, traveling, gifts exchanged, and time with family and friends. Unfortunately, there will also be bickering, bad attitudes, sadness, regret, selfishness, mass consumerism, avarice, materialism, and stress.
All of this is a matter of choice. We choose what this season will be for each of us and those around us. We decide if the Christmas season will leave behind debt, regrets, hard feelings, and pain for our families or if it will have great meaning full of wonderful memories. It all depends on what we focus on.
Several years ago, one Christmas morning my wife and I sat on the floor of our den almost buried in wrapping paper and boxes and toys. Our almost two year old daughter was running from toy to toy completely overwhelmed by it all. We looked at each other with an emptiness of the aftermath. After cleaning up the mess and realizing that we would be paying off this Christmas for months, as would family members, and thinking about our second child who we just found out was on the way we sat down for a conversation about our future. We made a very clear decision that day, Christmas was not going to be about gifts ever again. We let things settle down from the Holidays and had straight conversations with our families regarding our future expectations of Christmas.
We put limits on spending for us and for others. We decided that our children would each get three main gifts from us on Christmas. Period. Yes we would fill stockings with small things and candy, but there would only be three presents under the tree for each one. We decided that we would set limits on what we spent on each other and strive for meaning over quantity. We told family that we would be spending less on them focusing on time spent and asked them respect our decision regarding our children and started instructing them what to get each year.
Truth is, it has enhanced our Christmases since. Each gift bears more meaning. We use more creativity in choosing gifts. The meal and time spent together is more significant than the gifts.
We have added other traditions in the years since and each one has a special place in our hearts.
There is nothing wrong at all with presents and decorations and the other aspects of modern Christmas. The wrong happens when those things take over. The stress comes from keeping up with the twelve days of Christmas, each one having to outdo the one before it.
For us, we don’t worry about one gift outdoing another. In fact, this year will be a little more subdued on that front than some recent ones. But, we will make grand memories. We will follow our family traditions that are not based on presents. We will have a wonderful Christmas.
May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas as you focus on the relationships and joy of family friends. Make memories. Laugh. Touch each others soul. These are the things that will be remembered long after the present is worn out, lost, and forgotten.
Enjoy the video below.