Spoiler: The following post uses the f-word (fun) a loooot.
What a lovely little song, and this is the version that’s in my head more than the recent Michael Bublé version.
Something most of us adults recognize is that the older we get, the less and less Christmas feels like … Christmas. It’s inevitable in a way. However, I’ve long been a proponent of fighting against the inevitability of letting our inner child die. So, I still get excited for Christmas even though a lot of it is geared around children, obviously, much like how I still get excited for Halloween, even though a lot of it is also geared around children.
But if there’s a year where Christmas most decidedly does not feel like Christmas, it’s 2020. Christmas is a week from today! Seriously, I asked Siri and double-checked the calendar. It’s seven days from now, next Friday! What the heck?! For one, I feel like “Thanksgiving” just happened, and I put scare quotes around Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving wasn’t normal, either. Where did the last month go?
Christmas also doesn’t feel like Christmas this year because my usual antics aren’t applicable. Let me explain.
My Christmas tradition through my early teens before I had a job of my own was that my grandmother from Florida would send me and my siblings a $50 Walmart gift card. That $50 was what I would use to buy my parents, grandparents, siblings and such (depending on how much things were) Christmas gifts. That inversion around 11 or 12 years old was pivotal to my worldview. I don’t know how that happened. I don’t know how we all thought, “You know what, what if we used this gift card to buy Christmas gifts for others instead of using it on ourselves?” actually happened. I don’t have a memory of it. But that’s been my attitude ever since.
Once I got my own job at 15, obviously, I used my own money to keep that same sort of tradition going. Getting gifts for others was always the most exciting part about Christmas. It’s fun to shop. It’s fun to buy for others. It’s fun to get creative and try to figure out what they want that’s different than something someone else will give them, but that they would still like. It’s fun to wrap presents. It’s fun to watch them open the presents (with a little bit of trepidation about whether they’ll like it or not). Getting gifts after a certain age isn’t fun anymore because I don’t like attention on myself and any amount of performative reactions.
The next evolution in my tradition was to narrow my circle of gift-giving to my folks, siblings, and a few others, and instead, re-direct a lot of that gift-giving to random acts of kindness. For example, one year, I would order pizzas and give the delivery driver a $50 tip or leave a $50 tip at a restaurant or when I got my haircut, whatever the case.
And now, the final evolution in my late 20s has been to re-direct the gift-giving into more purposeful endeavors rather than random acts of kindness. For example, two years ago, I sponsored a child at the local county foster care system. The system gives you their name, age, gender, and a list of what they want for Christmas. That was a lot of fun! I’m not much of a kid person, but being able to shop for kids is fun.
I brought that tradition back this year by sponsoring a kid again, although, he made it rather difficult on me. He was a 17-year-old, who wanted joggers, sweatshirts, Nike shoes, and a Visa gift card. The only specification on the clothes was the size. Buying clothes for people you know intimately is a scary exercise that I often avoid, much less for strangers. What color?! Anything on the sweatshirt?! Snug fit or loose? And my goodness, Nike makes all kinds of shoes, what kind specifically? Still, I was originally geared up to sweep the slate of items he’d asked for, and I also like to toss in something that they didn’t specifically ask for just to take a chance and do something fun.
Another evolution in my gift-giving aside from that tradition is that now that I’ve been at an office for almost four years, we exchange gifts among ourselves, and it’s nice to give a little appreciation to those in the office who work hard throughout the year.
Unfortunately, for reasons I don’t want to explain yet, I had to pull back the reins on my Christmas-giving this year across the board. No gifts to family. No gifts to coworkers. And the sweep for the foster kid can’t happen. I gave him an outfit (joggers and a sweatshirt), but unfortunately, I had to pull back on the rest of the offerings.
That’s a long way of saying, along with 2020 being 2020, i.e., the pandemic year, Christmas feels a lot less like Christmas this year because I’m not doing my usual Christmas shopping, gift-wrapping and gift-giving. That bums me out. I should be clear, the reason I had to pull back the reins is an overall positive reason, but it still bums me out.
Also, I could do a whole blog post on this, but as an aside, doing good, random acts of kindness, and charity are an interesting pickle, aren’t they? That is, you do good things because they are good things. Period. That’s it. End of story. Not for social credit. Not to tell the world, “Hey, look what I did!” But. At the same time, telling the world you did X, Y and Z could encourage other people to step up, and for example, sponsor a foster kid who wouldn’t otherwise be getting gifts on Christmas. Walking that line between appearing like you’re just trying to get social credit and trying to hopefully inspire someone else to also do good is a difficult one. Anyhow, that’s my aside musing.
Does Christmas feel like Christmas to you this year? What are your Christmas traditions? What does your slate of gift-giving typically look like? Has it changed this year?