It’s easier to navigate the madness of holiday traffic, run the gauntlet of crazed Christmas shoppers and deck the bloody halls with gaudy baubles and sticky candy canes when you know that your reward for all that garbage is the pure, unadulterated wonder in the eyes of your offspring.
One of the truly beautiful things about having children is the opportunity to relive events through their optimistic, unjaded eyes. Once you are taller than your Christmas tree, that new perspective is what allows you to blinker yourself once more to the horrors of all that Christmas entails .. and believe again. Yes, that glass of milk and saucer of cookies really will help Santa to complete his epic global journey on Christmas Eve and yes, those scuffles on the roof surely must be Rudolph and crew coming in for landing. Everything is miraculous and wonderful again, and we see the hope and promise of our youth once more, reflected in the shining eyes of a child.
When your children inevitably stop caring about how Santa gets into the house when you obviously don’t have a chimney, and that withered old Tannenbaum with the broken plastic limbs wrapped in tired strings of tinsel and festooned with decaying decorations finally gives up the ghost, the joy of Christmas evaporates once again. Your children now tower over the tree, and they know the contents of each brightly wrapped parcel underneath it because they picked it out. Now you are left with only the threadbare reality of the commercialized birthday celebrations of a man who you never really believed in in the first place. Basically it’s now just a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of cleaning up.
No matter how many bells you jingle or how many singing angels you hark, you can never recapture it. As Christmas passes from being the most anticipated and exciting event in our young lives to merely an annoying parade of television commercials and battles over whose family to eat lunch with, it gets more and more difficult to dig up any scrap of Christmas cheer at all. Harried and mostly meaningless gift buying, hours of cooking and the requisite stuffing down of far too much food, and decorations that will stay up until April because you just can’t be bothered getting the ladder to pull them down have replaced that simple wonder we all felt once upon a Christmas morning.
This year I have not enjoyed the process. I have purchased gifts for those I love but not because I saw something and thought, “Oh, Person A would LOVE that, I must get it for them.”. No, I purchased gifts because someone somewhere told me that the 25th of December is the day that I must give said gifts to my nearest and dearest. My son knows everything that is wrapped and waiting for him, and there will be no cookies and no milk for the jolly fat man this year. I will not be grateful for the hazardous travelling, the sullen arguments nor the copious amounts of cleaning up. What I am grateful for is my family, and I do not need some arbitrary date or some ill-conceived gift to show them how important they are to me.
So, for all the lucky ones out there who still get to enjoy Christmas through the eyes of their children – enjoy the hell out of it. It doesn’t last forever and one day you will be as cynical as me. Terrifying thought, isn’t it?