This is my column that appeared in the Hattiesburg American earlier this week.
I don’t know how my mother managed to make Christmas the special time it always was. We never had enough money when I was growing up, and my parents had six children to feed and clothe. We always all had several gifts each under the tree on Christmas morning, though, and they weren’t just socks and earmuffs. We had toys. We had things we wanted, things that reflected each child’s interests and personality.
My mother’s children tried going cynical on her as adults. The family grew so large that keeping up with gift-giving seemed an impossibility. We wanted to quit exchanging gifts with each other, but my mother kept right on. To this day, every child, every grandchild, and every great-grandchild has a gift under her tree. The year she was in the hospital with a broken hip and the house was gutted out thanks to Katrina, everyone had a gift under her tree. I know because one of the first things she did after the anesthesia wore off was to give me a list of what she still needed to buy. Some days I have trouble remembering everyone’s name, but she remembered who was getting what down to the last grandson-in-law.
This isn’t about stuff. It’s about making sure everyone knows she cares, that she wants to do something special for each and every one. It doesn’t matter how cynical the rest of us become, we can’t take that from her.
I hear lots of complaints about the commercialization of Christmas this time of year. It’s true that the hype is overwhelming, and we are all in danger of getting lost in the chaos. I don’t think the problem is the commercialization of Christmas itself, however. I think what we’ve done to Christmas is just a symptom of the overarching problem of excessive commercialization in our lives. If Christmas were still one of the few times of a year when we did get a treat for ourselves, we would still remember what’s so special about giving and receiving gifts.
It isn’t Christmas hype that has us so jaded. It’s year-round hyper-consumerism. Becoming grouches about Christmas doesn’t solve that problem.
I, for one, have a goal to enjoy Christmas but to reduce my spending year-round. Christmas isn’t about stuff, but stuff only detracts from Christmas when we forget what gifts represent – that someone cares about each and every one of us.