***Update on December 23, 2021. It’s been seven years since I wrote this blog post! And we’ve had debt-free Christmases every single year since. But this blog post still rings true and I re-read it every year because I need this reminder of what truly matters. And maybe you do too? – Jessi
Believe it or not, today, Christmas Eve is more special to me than Christmas Day. I have always enjoyed the anticipation and magic of Christmas and never want it to be over. Growing up, my family had a Christmas Eve tradition of going out to eat and arriving home to find that Santa had come early to drop off our Christmas gifts from our relatives in Ohio. My brother and I would unwrap our gifts and exclaim with excitement over how Santa came early. I would always go for the same present first, year after year. It was always shaped the same way so I would know immediately what was inside – my Nani and Papa’s homemade candies.
After opening presents, we would get ready to head out to Midnight Mass. Midnight Mass has always been a favorite of mine, the way the church is lit up, the Christmas trees, the candles, the songs, and just the atmosphere in general as we wait in the joyful hope of our savior’s birth.
Fast forward about twelve years and Christmas Eve looks very different. My hubs and I were just married and we now found ourselves struggling to make it to four Christmases celebrated miles apart from the other. I can still remember crying to my hubs about how spending so much time running from this house to this house was not just exhausting it was destroying the magic of Christmas. My hubs who has never really liked Christmas did not understand why I was so upset. He could not understand that I still look at Christmas with the wonder of a child.
Fast forward another five years and seven Christmases later, my hubs finally “gets” it. It took having our boys for him to finally see the magic of Christmas that I have always loved. However, even with the magic and wonder of Christmas back in our lives, it is still easy to become disappointed. We have expectations of how others will react to our gifts, how our holiday parties will go, and sometimes even what gifts we will receive. It is very easy to lose sight of the true meaning and magic of Christmas.
The past two Christmases in our family have been debt-free Christmases. As such, our Christmas tree ends up looking pretty bare. Last year, on Christmas Day I was so disappointed in our Christmas gift-giving after seeing my friend’s Instagram photos of their trees. Their trees had presents piled up almost as tall as the tree itself.
It brought me back to a dark place, one that I had not been to since pulling myself out of financial trouble all those years ago. I was letting the Joneses take hold of me and tell me how my children’s Christmas was supposed to look instead of finding joy and peace knowing that we were not going to suffer a financial hangover in January when the credit card bills came due.
As I sat there watching my two-year old pretend to be an airplane with his Dusty plane, I remembered those candies that I would look forward to every year. To be completely honest, I cannot remember a single Christmas present that I received growing up other than those candies – the candies that my Nani and Papa would make and send out to all eighteen grandchildren and to all five of their children every year. Those candies probably cost my grandparents pennies on the dollar to make but they were the most memorable gift I ever received on Christmas.
Sitting next to my almost thirty-year-old Christmas tree watching my boys with their very small Christmas haul, I realized I was spending way too much time and energy being sad and disappointed because our Christmas did not look like everyone else’s. Who says that our Christmases and Christmas traditions are supposed to be the same? We are all unique families with different backgrounds, traditions, financial goals, and different ways of bringing joy to our holidays. Your Christmas will look different from mine and mine will look different from my neighbors, and that is okay.
In a society that teaches us “more is better” and in order to be happy you must have this or that, it can be difficult to find contentment and peace during a season of spending. How should your Christmas look? Whatever you want it to look like. If you want to spend it on the floor Christmas morning feeling sorry for yourself like I did last year, so be it. However, if you are wrestling with avoiding disappointment, force yourself to choose joy and happiness. Your family will remember your attitude on Christmas morning more than they will remember what they received.
I truly wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Have you ever dealt with disappointment on Christmas?
Below is a recent photo from our visit with Santa in 2021 (look how big my kiddos are now!). That little two-year-old from this blog post is now about to be ten!
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