Let me get up on my soap box for a moment and ask you a few questions...
What does Christmas mean to you now?
What DID Christmas mean to you as a child?
Has that definition changed?
I will not be all inclusive in this, but I feel as a society MANY people have fallen into the very commercial aspect of Christmas. The season has been lost to Elmo, and the Wii et al.
I have spoken to so many people who are so consumed with WHAT DO WE GET THE KIDS?! A Wii, a XBox, video games, DVDs an iPod, bigger is better. I too have fallen into this mind set in the past. I became so consumed with not letting my kids down that I realized that, THAT is EXACTLY what I was doing. They don't NEED Santa, or a Christmas tree or 8 million dollars worth of toy box fotter that is going to break and be discarded, or forgotten by the 26th. I was letting them down, in the sense that the example I was setting for them was one of material things, not the focus of WHY we celebrate Christmas.
A few years ago I adopted the tradition from my Sister-friend Alessan, of baking a birthday cake for Jesus. My dear friend Heidi said something to me the other day that rang so true. She told her kids "It's Jesus birthday, not yours, why should you get all the presents?" :)
Now I'm not saying there is no place for Santa or presents, I think a token of love, friendship, caring, in the form of a gift to our friends and family is a fabulous thing. I just think that keeping myself in check, and focused on what is important is VITAL.
My kids each get one "main" gift, we have a couple little stocking stuffers. They also get a trip to see their grandparents, a vacation to the snow, time with cousins, love, hope, the knowledge that Jesus came to this earth to save us all from ourselves. The biggest gift of all!
Many years from now when my kids look back on Christmases will they remember the gifts they got? I know I don't. I could probably name a few things, maybe, but that's it. I can tell you what I DO remember. I remember going to midnight mass with my grandparents, and wearing the shawl my grandma Louchart made me. I remember Christmas at Uncle Paul's when all the family came. I remember Liz's cat getting stuck under our house, I remember walking in the forest with my grandmother looking for birds. I remember playing trivia, and ping pong, and being surrounded by the people I love the most. THESE are my most treasured memories. I hope they will be my children's too. The "stuff" is forgotten, the lessons, the love, the place you put Christ in their lives, THAT my friends is for a life time.