It’s fitting that my last Bargain Beth column comes in December – the last month of the year and one of my favorite holidays, Christmas.
Although I will continue to write for Memphis Parent, it’s become difficult to adequately research and pen a monthly column now that I am a full-time elementary school teacher. I regularly work 12-hour days and weekends so when I’m done, I want to rest and spend time with family and friends.
But let’s talk about the holiday season. No matter which holiday you celebrate: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the focus should be on relationships and giving, not getting. This year, instead of asking children what they are getting for Christmas, I’m asking what they are giving. The teaching assistant in my room asked my children one day and it was funny to hear the children’s reactions. I honestly don’t think anyone had ever asked them that before.
They giggled and struggled for an answer until one child piped up, “I’m going to give love and laughter.” What a priceless gift! Isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?
Our family celebrates Christmas but the current state of the holiday leaves me feeling sad sometimes. As our society becomes more materialistic, the real meaning of Christmas is diminished. Often parents feel they must give their children many gifts because they don’t want them to feel deprived. Or perhaps it is guilt from working too much or wanting to keep up with the family next door. But solely focusing on material goods will never fulfill children or adults for that matter. What children really want and really need is our love.
If the holidays are losing their meaning for you, try these ideas to help make the holidays more meaning and memorable.
Do for others, especially those who are lonely this time of year. Consider those people who have lost a loved one, who are new to town, or whose children have moved away. Invite them over for a home-cooked meal; bake some cookies or candy. Send cards and take the time to write a personalized note Stress the importance of giving during the holidays to your children. Don’t focus so much on receiving. “Adopt” a child for the holidays. The Salvation Army and other worthy charities sponsor “Angel Trees” with names of underprivileged children and their wish lists. Without these programs, needy children would likely not receive Christmas gifts. If it’s too expensive to shoulder alone, ask friends to join you in purchasing gifts .
Don’t worry about having your house perfectly decorated or having an opulently ornamented Christmas tree. Handmade decorations — especially those made by your children — have the most meaning.
Set a budget for Christmas buying and stick to it. At our house, we give three gifts to each child because the Christ child received three gifts from the wise men.
Finally, slow down. You do not have to attend every holiday event you’re invited to. If you feel overwhelmed with invitations and obligations, pick the most meaningful ones to attend and politely decline the rest.
Remember the focus of the holidays should be on loving and giving to others. You can have all the glitz and glamour around you, but have loss and a sense of loneliness unless you feel the warmth of love from family and friends. If you focus on these most important things during this season, you will indeed enjoy a happier holidays.
I’ve so enjoyed writing this column and I’m sad to give it up, but I look forward to writing future articles for Memphis Parent. Happy Holidays