With Christmas officially less than a week way, lots of folks are doing last minute shopping for their loved ones -- especially kids. A few years ago I would have been one of those people too. I've opted not to purchase any Christmas gifts this year. Are you clutching your pearls? Well stop. I do plan to give my nieces and godchildren savings bonds next month when all of the hustle and bustle is over and I resolve a couple of personal financial matters. But the Christmas of 2005 forever changed the way I view buying Christmas presents, especially for the children in my life.
My nieces came up to NY to visit me for the Christmas of 2005 and I was beyond excited. For the first time since losing my father in 1990, I wanted to decorate and really get into what I thought was the holiday spirit. See my dad made Christmas decorating a production in our household. My brother had to hang lights on our terrace (he hated doing it), we hung our cards all over the apartment, a train set and the gingerbread house my father purchased for me annually were arranged on the dining table, we decorated our tree to the nines, all four of us wrote and exchanged wish lists, Christmas carols were played constantly -- basically our home became a mini-Christmas village. But after my father passed, most of this stopped and for years I didn't feel the same about any of it. But knowing that my nieces were spending the holiday with me caused a serious change of heart. I went overboard with their gifts, I bought them stockings, I purchased ingredients for us to bake Christmas cookies (we never did), I tried to anticipate their every desire and within my budget (and probably over my budget) I met it.
Well, fast forward to Christmas day. First of all, they slept until about 10am. My brother and I always woke up ridiculously early on Christmas morning to open our gifts (go figure). Once their gifts were all open, I soon realized I was a lot more excited about what I had purchased for them than they were. And then the next evening, I had a true A-HA moment.
My Little Bsquareds, December 2005. This picture stays on my fridge to help me keep life in perspective.
My brother (their dad), had them get dressed for bed and like most kids, they were fighting it as much as possible. While avoiding going to bed, they discovered my old hoola hoop. Well they got such a kick out of that thing! Seriously, no Wii, Dora doll or Limited Too gear could have come close. They loved it so much that I let them take it back home. For the rest of their stay, they played with that darn hoola hoop more than any other toy they received that year. And they received quite a bit.
So yet again, my nieces (at the time they were only 2 and 5) taught me something that I don't think any adult could. Sure they were fascinated by the hoola hoop but they were a lot more excited to have something that belonged to their Auntie B. Not only did I get a valuable reminder on what is most important about this holiday in the first place, but it made me realize why I had enjoyed those Christmases with my father so many years ago. It was never about the "stuff" - truthfully I don't even like gingerbread - but it was about the time we spent together. The laughs we shared, hearing my dad yell at my brother for the lights being crooked, counting who broke the most ornaments; the bonding is what I cherished the most.
I might not physically purchase gifts this year but I hope to spread lots of love and definitely want to soak some love up.
Think about what you already have to give before you spend money on another gift. You just might have an orange hoola hoop of your own.