I'm Pretty Sure I Love My Kid Even If I Didn't Put Up a Christmas Tree
Apparently you should never tell someone that you don't really do anything special to celebrate Christmas. If you tell someone that you did not put up a tree, decorate the house, or get many gifts, you will get this question:
“Don’t you love your son enough to decorate anyway and do what’s right? How can you take away the magic of Christmas?”
My first thought was: “Really, a tree and a gift once a year show him I love? Next time he is sick, I will just remind him I decorated a tree and gave him a pair of shoes on Dec. 25th, so, he's on his own.”
My second thought, as a Unitarian Universalist minster (and former Catholic) was: "I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't think that only rich people who can afford trees and gifts love their kids. I think he wanted us to love each other and show our love through kindness and care."
So, I asked my son what he thought because, 1. he's smarter than me, 2. what if that lady was right and I was totally messing up my kid, and 3. if he really does want more Christmas stuff, then we can make that happen.
I asked him if he felt sad or upset that we didn't have a tree and we don't really do anything for Christmas. Did he feel that I had taken away all the magic and like we didn't care about him? He said; “Why can you only have magic at a holiday? Shouldn’t there be magic in everyday life? That's really sad if they only feel magic at Christmas. I would not like it if we only cared about each other and spent time together on a holiday. That’s messed up.”
See, my kid is smarter than me.
Holidays are a construct. A construct created in order to celebrate and remember a religious and/or cultural event. What most holidays have in common is spending time with people and living out a value of that religion or culture. Holidays serve as a special reminder of what is important to us, not as a way to compete with others or prove how much someone cares about you or you care about them.
In reality, we should feel the magic of spending time with those we love, helping our community, and living out our values in the world on a daily basis. And, why are glitter and twinkle lights only for Christmas?? I am a firm believer in sparkle and shine all year long! We can amp it up a bit over holidays if we want, but we don’t actually have to. And it does not make you a bad person or parent if you don’t.
I would rather my child see sparks of magic each week, than trying to fabricate magic a few times a year. I would rather he know that I will be there for him on a random Wednesday and that I love him whether I am near or far, than teach him that all he can truly rely on is that I will see him on a holiday and if I can’t be with him on certain days of the year that I don’t love him. That will only teach him that love and care is conditional, transactional, and proximal. (If he moves across the world, I hope he always knows I love him, whether we are in the same room or not and whether I see him every day or once every few years.)
If you like celebrating holidays in a big way, go for it! For some people that is a spiritual and joyful practice for them. As long as it is something you want to do and not something you feel is the only way to prove your love and care for others or for others to prove their love and care for you. (Side note: If someone is pressuring you to host the holidays or do something specific for the holidays or you do not love them, don’t buy it. That’s dysfunctional.)
I do not think there is a “right” way to celebrate a holiday. The only thing I am sure a holiday should never be about is trying to prove who cares about who, especially based on how many gifts you give or get, who’s house you go to and for how long, how many parties you throw or are invited to, and how much you decorate and cook.
Try to find magic every day, and your holiday has more of a chance to actually be magical.