"Are you ready for Christmas?"
I get asked this question often. I ask it, too. Around the holidays, it seems to be a run-of-the-mill inquiry, like "What's goin' on?" or "How are you?"
Christmas seems to be something we "do." We are busy "doers."
When I ask people how they're doing, a very common response is, "Good. Real busy." Rushing from one event to the other. Getting kids to their sports and activities. Squeezing in as much as you can—as if busyness is the mark of a full life.
I feel sometimes we pack so much stuff in, we don't leave time to really experience things. Rush, rush, take a picture, take a selfie; live life through your iPhone or Android camera lens.
Post it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever. Check your phone. Again. And again. And again. Dopamine rush.
What example are we setting for our kids? I don't want them to feel like we need a screen to be entertained.
I want my kids to be bored. To listen to a clock tick.To watch a blood-red sunrise burn off a misty fog. To make snow angels in the back yard and play outside until it's time for supper.
As a child, my family didn't really "do" Christmas. When we were younger, Dad put up a tree and we got one or two small gifts. We didn't have extended family close by. I had never heard of a stocking. Sometimes we had a turkey. Sometimes not.
My parents weren't religious when we were small. One day, I remember my father filling out a light-green information card that asked for statistical information. Was it a census form, or perhaps it was something for my school? Anyways, one box asked for religious affiliation. My dad had marked "N/A."
My earliest memory of Christmas is when I was maybe 5 years old. I remember our family room bathed in a dim, incandescent light. Shag carpet, 70s style. I had woken up early with my brothers to see what bounty "Santa" had brought. I don't remember as a child if I even believed in Santa.
I think my parents celebrated the secular aspects of the holiday to join the festivities like "regular" Canadians.
The artificial Christmas tree loomed high above. Everything looked so big when I was a small kid. I remember opening my gift that year—I don't think it was even wrapped. "The Amazing Spider-Man Web Spinning Action Game" with a yellow, hexagonal board. Spidey and his cast of enemies snapped onto the board, and when Spidey moved he would leave a "web," actually a piece of thread that could surround Green Goblin, Rhino and the Lizard.
I remember as a child walking into toy stores or looking through the Consumers Distributing catalogue, thinking holy cow, there's so much stuff. To this day, I shake my head at all this plastic "junk" available at Toys "R" Us, Dollarama, everywhere. And all that stuff ends up sitting on shelves, in bins, in people's homes, played with maybe a few times and left to gather dust.
When we got older, if we wanted the tree put up, that was my brothers' and my responsibility. Sometimes we did gifts. Sometimes we just got cash. Christmas was never really a big deal. But we were always excited to see that red envelope with cash money inside.
Christmas for my wife's family, when she was small, was a bigger thing. She grew up in the Ottawa Valley and has a big extended family there. Lots of visiting, get togethers, decorations, baking, turkey, the whole nine yards.
Christmas was something special for her. It still is today.
So I partake in many of her traditions. I put up lights outside. We finally got a real tree. My wife and the kids decorate. They like it. I can see how it can create nice memories. Our home does look pretty. We do stockings. We send cards. (My list is significantly smaller than hers.) The kids get gifts, although we try not to overdo it.
There is always a big family gathering on her side of the family. It is nice to see everyone.
We get together with my parents, who live in the same city as us.
Through it all, the time spent together is the most important thing to me. I could do away with the gift giving. There comes a point where you don't really need anything. I would love to stop feeding the consumerist orgy.
Maybe next year I'll propose giving to charity the money we'd otherwise spend on gifts. Not sure if the kids would go for that.
When I see malls decorated with Christmas stuff right after Halloween, it's too much. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day—shop 'til you drop.
Recently, I've been thinking about what's important. Inspired by author and speaker, Simon Sinek, I've been figuring out the "why" to my life. Why do I get up every morning? Here's my "why":
To love fully so we can become the best versions of ourselves, and inspire others to make the world a better place.
I'm still figuring out the "how."
I'll leave you with a quote from the book Man's Search for Meaning.
Those who have a "why" to live, can bear with almost any "how." – Viktor E. Frankl
Over the holidays, I encourage you to carve out a quiet moment to come up with your "why."
And I wish you a very merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy New Year!