A friend and I were talking about how Christmas time is so very different now that we are adults. She told me about how work is as stressful as ever, and the amount of work just to go on a vacation almost isn’t worth the vacation. And I told her about how hard it is trying to wrap Christmas presents with two little ones under foot. And how I’ve run out of hiding places as my oldest still seems to find them. Our conversation opened my eyes to two things. The first, was just how very magical and wonderful Christmas is to children. How wonderful that they can only see the excitement surrounding Christmas and not see the stress of buying presents, or wrapping them, hiding them, sending out Christmas cards, forgetting to get their teacher a present etc. The second, was how much I took for granted regarding how my parents made Christmas special. I guess the two go hand in hand, really.
I can distinctly remember trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, but I was always SO excited for Christmas the next day that I would wake myself up all over again. For my family, Christmas Eve meant going to Christmas Eve mass and arriving to the church literally 45 minutes before the mass started, because everyone seems to flock to church during the holidays. My cousins and I would catch up, complain about being at church so early that our bottoms would be numb from the wooden pews by the time mass started. We’d point out cute boys and adorable babies to each other. Once mass was over we’d all go to a restaurant for dinner and laugh and tell stories. Then Christmas morning would come and every year I’d wake up to Christmas carols softly playing. To the Christmas tree lights on. To a warm mug of tea or hot chocolate with the tiny marshmallows waiting for me. My parents and I would exchange stockings and presents. And it honestly never crossed my mind how long it must have taken my mom to wrap our presents. Or how early my dad must have gotten up to make the ham. In my adolescent mind, this was just normal. Seamless. Tradition.
Now that I am a wife and mother of two very small children, it is all SO very different. And not in a bad way, but in a realistic way. I now can see the time it took to find the Christmas gifts for everyone. The time to wrap all the gifts. To make the shopping lists. To get all the groceries. To look up recipes, and plan days, and schedule when to cook what, and when we had to leave to be at places on time etc. I’m not saying the Christmas magic is gone, because I don’t even think that’s what Christmas is about. I think Christmas is about family and Jesus and love. Is Christmas different as an adult? Yes, very much so. But it’s still incredibly beautiful. Because this is life.
My life right now isn’t about waking up to a warm mug of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. It’s about hearing my 3 year old squeal with pure joy when she sees a house beautifully lit in Christmas lights, hearing “Wook Mommy! Wook at all the Christmas!”; now THAT is the best Christmas gift I could ask for. Or seeing my baby’s face light up with the world’s biggest, proudest smile as he stands for all of two seconds by himself; THAT is the best Christmas gift I could ask for. Because really, I don’t want jewelry or clothes or books or whatever else I used to want when I was younger. All I really want for Christmas is for my family to be happy and healthy.
If we are happy and healthy, that’s all we really need. There are so many other heartbreaking sad things happening across the world. It makes me realize that everything else is just a bonus. I am just grateful that we have each other. So while I wake up for the 6th time on Christmas Eve to breastfeed my son back to sleep, or to convince my 3 year old that it’s not morning yet, I will aim to do it all with a smile on my face, because this is all so fleeting. And when something happens like a burnt ham, or forgetting to get gas when we’re already running late; I will remind myself that that is not what my children will remember. Instead, I hope they will remember singing their hearts out in church during Christmas Eve mass. I hope they will remember watching Christmas movies under a blanket as a family of four. I hope they remember love and joy and peace. And I hope they remember what Christmas is all about. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and happy holidays this year.