T’was the week before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a present was wrapped, not even a blouse.
The stockings weren’t hung, the tree looked bare,
There was only a hope that presents soon would be there.
Once again I find myself far behind where I had planned to be in my Christmas preparations. There is always so much I would like to do but with only so many hours in the day I always find myself rushing around in a tiz at the last minute. I have decorated the tree and even the house; I have attended school and nursery winter parties; I have made and gathered costumes and food for said parties; I have taken photos in santa hats and designed Christmas cards, prepared a crafty Christmas countdown and wrapped up a box of 12 days of Christmas books; I have hosted a Christmas play date, sent out secret santa allocations for our Christmas Day festivities and bought a secret santa gift for my work party.
What I have not done is my Christmas shopping. I have bought a few things for the munchkins for their Christmas presents but I have not bought any presents for other family members, adult family members in particular. This is the part I struggle with every year and not just because I’m a rubbish gift buyer (according to Mr that is).
It just seems like every year I am racking my brain trying to decide what to get for a lot of people who already have everything they really need or want. Half the time I feel like we are all just buying something for the sake of having something to wrap and hand over at Christmas. This is also complicated by the fact that, as expats, we do not live in the same country as most of our family and we only get to see them properly once or twice a year. So not only do we have to deal with the logistics of getting presents to people abroad in time but, as we don’t get to see them day-to-day, we have no idea what they already have and so either have to take a risk and just hope that they don’t already have something similar or spoil any possibility of a surprise to ask what they already have.
On top of that, this year I’m feeling particularly aware of how much we already have, our many blessings and how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, food on our table and our family in our arms. This year more than previous years, I am painfully aware that not everyone around us is so blessed. That there are so many people, near and far, who have much less than us and are in far greater need of basics than we are of luxuries. From our lovely nanny who will be spending Christmas thousands of miles away from her own two little children so she can earn enough to support them to the desperate condition of the Syrian refugees we see on the TV. From the poor labourers building this city to the millions of homeless and destitute around the world, not to mention those suffering from entirely preventable and curable diseases if only they had the resources for medicenes.
Thankfully I am not alone in my thinking. Having already decided I didn’t need any material gifts this year, it was with some relief that I read a message from my Brother-in-law in the UK suggesting that instead of buying each other gifts this year, we instead think of the less fortunate and donate what we would have spent on presents to charity. Of course I immediately said yes and suggested we make this an annual tradition amongst the adults which everyone agrees with. Once we had everyone’s buy-in the whole process was very easy to set up, much easier than trying to co-ordinate many internet gift purchases from Dubai! A simple online donation page was set up in respect of the charity of our choice (we used a Just Giving page but there are lots of options out there) and everyone is now logging on from wherever they are in the world to make their donation via credit card.
“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”
― Ben Carson
Not only has this saved me much brain-wracking, shop trawling and panic buying in trying to get suitable presents for everyone, but I feel so much better knowing that I am not just buying for the sake of buying and that instead, in our own small way, we can make a difference in the lives of people who need it more. That we can practice the true meaning of Christmas.
The kids can still have their presents of course; Santa and a pile of Christmas presents is part of the magic of Christmas that I want them to experience and enjoy. But for me Christmas is no longer about what I will get on the day, it is about being grateful for what I already have and praying for the continued blessings of health and happiness for the coming year and about thinking of the less fortunate. If each of us can do something in our own small way to give something back this Christmas we will truly be giving in the spirit of Christmas.
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
― Francis of Assisi
What does Christmas mean to you? Has this changed since having kids? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!