I recently read a letter, written by a teacher, telling parents what kids talk about most upon returning from Christmas vacation. It was one of those, hit you in the heart, make you tearful, count your blessings, types of posts. It had me thinking back to all of my holiday memories as a kid. The letter was simple but spot on: time is more valuable than things.
I can’t think of one time where a present over-shined an experience. The things I remember most from Christmas, the things that I miss, the things that I’m most grateful for, are the fun moments and traditions with my family.
I remember waking up with a red lip print on my cheek to make us think Santa had kissed us while we were sleeping. Sure, thinking about that now makes my sister and I chuckle. It doesn’t make sense for Santa to be wearing bright red lipstick, but as kids this was magical. My mom gets creativity points for this one.
I remember the way my mom would sign the tags “Love, Santa”. Even as a grown adult in my 30’s I would still have gifts from “Santa” under the tree.
I remember the way my dad would ALWAYS have one surprise gift. We’d spend the morning opening presents. Just when we’d think we were done, Dad would pull out one more present, usually a doozy, and make things even more exciting. I don’t remember what all of those extra gifts were, but I remember the anticipation for the “surprise gift” was unforgettable.
I remember the parties where we would be running around for hours playing games we had made up, while our parents played card games in the other room. I remember laughing and having not one care in the world.
I remember staying up late and banging pots and pans from my grandparents cabinets. I can still remember exactly which cabinet had the best and biggest pots for banging.
I remember drinking “coffee”, playing card games, and enjoying endless amounts of sweets that were made by those I love.
I remember the how magical our house looked. The way the tree lit up the entire room and how it looked from the top of the staircase.
I remember the “first look” of all the presents under the tree. I remember being mesmerized by the perfection of it all.
I remember Children’s Mass and how my mom would always tear up at “Joy to the World” because it was my Memere’s favorite. I remember how beautiful the church looked, lit only by candlelight, and smelling of incense.
I remember decorating the tree with all of the ornaments my sister and I had made throughout the years. I remember how particular my mother was about where the tinsel was placed and how many strands could be on each branch.
I remember all the traditions we had. Though most have changed through the years, I remember loving all the things that made the holiday’s so special and unique for our family.
This teacher was right. I remember the moments and the traditions more than any gift that was under that tree. So why does this matter? It matters because now I will worry less about what is under our tree and start making the moments that are happening around it the center focus of my holiday. I will strive to create moments of joy with my children instead of stressing about the presents that need purchased, the gifts that need wrapped, the desserts that need baked, or the meals that need prepared. I will be mindful of my focus and my priorities. I will smile more and worry less. I will hug my children more instead of hurrying off to the next thing on the to-do list. I will be present.
I will remind myself daily that everything that matters most is sitting right next to me. When the presents lose their shine, when the toys lose their newness, when the sugar is all eaten up, the thing we are all left with is each other, and that’s the best gift of all.
Call it cheesy, friends, but it’s true, “IT’S NOT WHAT’S UNDER THE TREE THAT MATTERS, IT’S WHOSE AROUND IT.”
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.