Christmas is a week from today. Now, it's been a long time since I was a kid, waiting for Santa, but I remember what the week before Christmas was like. Once the count dropped into single digits, man, you could just forget about any sort of cohesive thought or complex motor skills until the 26th (or, more likely given the sugar consumption on the 25th, the 27th before I stopped buzzing like a hummingbird). Christmas was the magic confluence of getting presents and having time off from school. It was, just like the song said, the most wonderful time of the year. Two weeks off, *and* I get presents and a metric ton of chocolate?
Then, things started to change. You had to start getting presents for people. Christmas started to become less about kicking back and enjoying and more about stress. What does Grandma want? Do I really have to get presents for my cousins? What the bloody hell do I get my father, who buys anything he wants the instant he sees it? How far into my circle of friends does the gift-giving extend? Christmas, while still fun, was getting more and more stressful.
And then I became a parent. The magic came back into Christmas. I got to see the same unbridled joy in my son's face as he started to understand that this was a day when he got presents and was allowed to eat lots of chocolate. This was the greatest day of the year! Then the joy doubled as my daughter joined us and became aware of the magic of Christmas, and for many years Christmas reclaimed its hold on our wonder and delight.
The spirit of giving is never as clear as when you watch your child open a gift that they really, honestly and truly want. Sure, there's a lot of stuff that they're conditioned to want by TV, friends, and schoolmates; most often the items that they are asking for only because they think they want them can quickly be distinguished from the items they really do want. Even better are the rare times when you find something that they didn't ask for that becomes a big hit - nothing like knowing your child and being right!
Sadly, all good things come to an end. The kids learned the truth about Santa, and a great deal of the magic has escaped with that knowledge. We know they can't stay children forever; we all hope they'll just get one more year out of it before finding out. It's a lot of work to make sure that Christmas doesn't just become a "gimme" holiday; that they understand what the season is about, that they learn about the joy you can receive through giving, as well as receiving.
I do have to admit, though, that I much better understand my parents now and why they love spoiling their grandchildren on Christmas...
That is all.